But You Wouldn’t Want to Live There

The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud

Reading Challenge: A book and its prequel (part two)

As I noticed when I read the first book of the Bartimaeus trilogy, Jonathan Stroud’s world of Bartimaeus is very dark. It’s grim and gory and most of the magicians are nasty, nasty people. The few non-magicians we meet are powerless and come across as passive or just furiously helpless. The world is well-done, but I doubt there are kids out there wishing they actually inhabited it, the way an earlier set of readers waited for their Hogwarts letters.

The Ring of Solomon finds Bartimaeus back in Israel in the days of King Solomon (who has a powerful ring, natch). His human captors are jostling for power, and he’s trying just as hard to circumvent them as ever. The strength of The Ring of Solomon is in its narrator, just as it was in The Amulet of Samarkand. Bartimaeus is hugely entertaining, inventive, never dull, and uses footnotes to great advantage. The weakness, as was also the case with book one, was that there were chapters in the third person rather than from Bartimaeus’ perspective. They suffered in comparison. Granted, Asmira was less wildly unlikable than the sulky Nathaniel of The Amulet of Samarkand, but I found her boring and her character arc predictable. And again, she wasn’t Bartimaeus.

There lies the reason I’m not going to read the other two books in the series. If they had the same sparkling narration throughout I would be able to put up with the nastiness of the world and most of the human characters, but because they don’t, it’s just not for me. Well-constructed world, though, and they’re not bad books. Just not for me. They might be for you, though. Especially if you’re the kind of person who will laugh aloud reading a footnote about flatulent unicorns.

Recommended pairing: I’m going to stick with the shandies, which I recommended for The Amulet of Samarkand. This time around I’m going to suggest you have a Leinenkugel. The grapefruit one is quite good.

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