Monday, December 9, 2013

The Amulet of Samarkand

Bartimaeus Trilogy: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud. Published 2003 by Miramax

While I was traveling over the summer I met a young man from Brazil that shared with me that the Bartimaeus Trilogy had been one of his all-time favorite books as a child. The covers had always attracted my attention in our stacks so I assumed it was about time for me to explore this title. What's interesting about this series is that you are not quite sure who to sympathize with at first.
To begin with, the story opens from the perspective of a demon, or djinni, who tells you himself that he is not to be trusted and will exact revenge on whomever awakes him to his/her call. You begin to think that the small, sweaty boy who is summoning him is the protagonist but he begins to show signs of excessive pride and vengeance, he's not at all a likeable character....but neither is anyone else. You soon realize that these are our protagonists by the sheer fact that everyone else is much, much worse.
Now this is not to say that I didn't enjoy the story.
The language is rich and descriptive. The world is built well and the properties of how magic works in this world intrigue me. There is a lot of fast-paced action and high stakes for the characters. The characters have growth and there is humor in the way Bartimaeus relates the story. It's just that our narrator is a bit untrustworthy and we really have to work to decide how we feel about these characters and their actions. Which is not a problem! Why shouldn't we have to work a little as a reader? Why not keep us on our reading toes? Overall, I was pleased with this tale and look forward to reading the others in the series.

Intended audience: Grades 5-8
Genre: Fantasy

Question to the Readers: Do you think that summoning a demon is worth the effort? Why or why not?

Read-alikes: Artemis Fowl series,  Alchemyst series

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde. Published by Harcourt 2012.

Have you grown up on Harry Potter and wondered what happened to witches and wizards once they enter the working world? Perhaps you're ready for another wizard apprentice book but you want something a bit more cheeky full of strange monsters that eat tuna cans whole for breakfast. Maybe you've always wondered what happened to dragons and what you would do if you came across the last dragon in the world and you were placed in the position to slay it based on a prophecy. If all this is true, then you should be reading The Last Dragonslayer. Perhaps it's been prophesied that this is the exact book you are meant to read and you are meant to start it today.

This book follows Jennifer Strange as she runs one of the failing wizard businesses left in a world of dwindling magic. Her current tasks would be hard enough but she soon finds out that she is the last dragonslayer and she is meant to kill Maltcassion, the last dragon, on Sunday at noon. While the position brings fame and money, she is wrought with worry over whether her prophesy is meant to be followed or if she should trust her instincts and leave a dragon in this world.

Interest level: Grades 5-8
Genre: fantasy, humor
First in a series

Question to Readers: How would you feel if you were placed in Jennifer's shoes? Who would you or wouldn't you have helped? Why? What form do you think Big Magic will take in the world once it's released.

Read-alike: The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, Harry Potter, Bartimaeus Trilogy