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The Golem's Eye
Jonathan Stroud
Miramax Books, 2004 / Doubleday, 2004

The Golem's Eye is the second book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy; the first was The Amulet of Samarkand, and this series should be read in order -- so go read that first.

While The Amulet of Samarkand was easily recommended as a children's novel or a young adult novel, The Golem's Eye has firmly crossed over into the realm of young adult fiction, although it is still 'officially' recommended for ages 10 and up. While there is no content that is inappropriate for children, it is a denser, slower-moving book with tougher vocabulary and less action. I predict that few 10-year-olds will have the temperament to plow through this book, although if they want to try they certainly should be given the opportunity.

The story picks up a few years after The Amulet ends, with Nathaniel living with his new master, none less than the Minister of Security, Jessica Whitwell. Along with a high-level master, he has been given a high-level position in the Minister of Internal Affairs. He has taken to his new status whole-heartedly, and even at the young age of 14 he is already a bit of a toff. And that's the nice way of putting it. He has been put in charge of hunting down the Resistance, a group of commoners who steal magical items from magicians and try to raise the rabble against the magical upper class.

The Resistance has started some serious vandalism, and worse, have been using some new type of magic to do it. Out of desperation Nathaniel summons the most effective and competent djinn he knows... which, against all odds, happens to be Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus is, of course, quite angry to be called up, particularly since he and Nathaniel had an agreement that this wasn't going to happen. But Nathaniel blackmails him into service (for this book, Nathaniel is a bit of an anti-hero... as is Bartimaeus), and the pair quickly fall into a new set of adventures.

There is a new important character introduced in this book, Kitty Jones, who is a leader (of sorts) in the Resistance movement. We met her briefly in The Amulet, and now we learn her backstory and see her at work in the Resistance. She is a central character, and we spend as much time following her and the Resistance as we do Bartimaeus and Nathaniel. Kitty is the most likable and relatable character to appear in the series thus far, and plays well against the other characters.

Golem's eye is an excellent addition to the series, but be warned, it begins with an expansive collection of backstories -- we see Bartimaeus fighting against the English in Prague 150 years ago, read about Kitty's reasons for hating magicians, get caught up on the current politics that are forcing Nathaniel's actions... all of which are quite interesting, but to some extent it reads more like a collection of short stories rather than the the intro to an exciting novel of magical adventure. Things do pick up, but throughout the book the adventure and magical battles are well buffered by description, expository lumps, careful plotting, and calm foreshadowing.

The addition of Kitty is an excellent development, as she is a likable character who quickly takes on a lot of the depth and personal development that we would like to see happen in the other characters. The Resistance as a whole are also an interesting new addition to the story, as are some other groups that were previously glossed over. Golem's Eye very much reads as a prologue, setting the series up for great things to come -- although it also has its own plot and would still be well worth reading even if there wasn't a third (and fourth) book to follow.

Speaking of which, the next book in the series is Ptolemy's Gate.

ISBN-10: 0786836547
ISBN-13: 978-0786836543

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