Of Sequels and Trilogies: Bartimaeus and the Empire Strikes Back Syndrome

Golem\'s EyeI’m starting to notice a trend, and was wondering if you’ve noticed it too. The more I see and read, the more I think that the 2nd installment in a trilogy is one of the best. Empire Strikes Back is a dark horse favorite for a lot of people, me included, in the trilogy, and there are quite a few recent movies and books I’ve watched or read, and have noticed the same thing. For example, in the Twilight Book Series by Stephenie Meyer, New Moon (Book 2), has got to be the best–the anxiety, the emotion, the despair and recovery Meyer builds in that book far outweighs any book she has written. Shrek 2 was the best movie in that trilogy (especially better than the pathetic third installment). And the same rings true for the Bartimaeus Trilogy…

I just finished book two The Bartimaeus Trilogy: The Golem’s Eye. Simply incredible book.

First, as I was going through The Golem’s Eye, I came to the realization that Stroud’s original hero (Nathaniel) is a bit of a tragic character. In fact, rooting for him is like rooting for Draco Malfoy in the Potter series. Nathaniel is every bit as power hungry and brainwashed as was Draco. In book two, Stroud introduces a new hero…or heroine, Kitty Jones.

Second, the story was much more involved and fast paced than book one. It took a good few hundred pages before things started getting interesting in The Amulet of Samarkand. The story was good, but was fairly straightforward, without many plot divergences or multiple story lines. In Book two, there are at least 3 to 4 legitimate story lines…it’s like reading a Choose Your Own Adventure Book…only you get to choose who you’re rooting for.

Finally, the depth added to the real hero–Bartimaeus–brings you into the story and is quite engaging. So, in short, Book 2 is a great read*…I highly recommend it.

*Ok, I should say, great “listen”…since I’ve been listening to the books on CD. I have to put a plug in here, because the reader for this series is amazing. Simon Jones, a Broadway regular, really makes this series worthwhile. His voices and especially his interpretation of Bartimaeus, have kept me listening, even when I get urges to turn it off and listen to the new Death Cab…

Bartimaeus

So, I’m a doctoral student, so I don’t get much time to read (at least, anything outside of the very dense academic stuff…), but I thought I’d try this out. Frankly, being a recovering Potter fanatic, I wasn’t so sure I really wanted to do yet ANOTHER wizardry/magic book, especially not one about an orphan boy, who has powers and training beyond his years who seeks to right the magical world. (sound familiar?)

But don’t let the pretense of this book fool you. It’s darkly alluring. For one, it’s written fantastically. Taken from the perspective of a couple thousand year old Genie (I know, the book calls them Djin or Djinnies, but come on Stroud, who are you fooling?) named Bartimaeus. He’s a sardonic yet insightful character whos quick-witted quips and sarcastic tone make the book incredibly enjoyable. The “orphan boy” character in this one is actually un-likable, in my opinion. I’d call him a stubborn little git, and I’m not too fond of him, but Bartimaeus makes the book series worthwhile…if you can take the length….page counts put the great Jo Rowling to shame.