The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud

84830777Lynn: Talk about an early holiday gift!  One of my favorite literary characters, Bartimaeus, is back!  Bartimaeus –   snarky, egotistical, irreverent, utterly disrespectful of authority and just as utterly unable to control his smart mouth, king of the footnotes, djinn of the Fourth level – is back.  Hurray!  In The Ring of Solomon (Hyperion 2010) we finally learn some of Bartimaeus’s backstory as we peek in at Stroud’s version of the Jerusalem of 950 BCE and King Solomon’s court.  It seems that King Solomon rules by invoking the awesome power of a magical ring.  Bartimaeus – having just freed himself from a particularly irksome enslavement to one of King Solomon’s 17 great magicians – “with a burp and a smile” – is only free for 24 hours before he finds himself back in Solomon’s court, summoned, enslaved and punished.  Really – it was hardly fair at all!  Just because he’d devoured one annoying magician, here he was toiling along on a series of degrading missions.  Add the rebellious Queen of Sheba, a dedicated assassin and we’re off on another spellbinding adventure.

Stroud’s glorious storytelling is in full gallop here so don’t plan to do anything else for a while.  Just sit back and savor the fun!

Cindy:  This is one of the books I most looked forward to getting in my hands this year, and it did not disappoint. Thank you, Mr. Stroud. Bartimaeus ranks as one of my favorite voices in literature and to get a whole book focusing on him is a gift indeed. For those of you who missed The Amulet of Samarkand and its sequels the first time around, what are you doing? Get reading. You are now four books behind, but what fun awaits. There is much to talk about with these books, but perhaps my favorite element is the footnotes that Bartimaeus adds…don’t skip them. Here’s an example from a passage explaining the power of King Solomon’s ring–and even this footnote has a footnote!:

As well as all this, the Ring was said to protect Solomon from magical attack, give him extraordinary personal allure (which possibly explained all those wives cluttering up the place), and allow him to understand the language of birds and animals. Not bad, in short, though the last one isn’t half as useful as you might expect, since when all’s said and done the language of the beasts tends to revolve around: (a) the endless hunt for food, (b) finding a warm bush to sleep in of an evening, and (c) the sporadic satisfaction of certain glands.* Elements such as nobility, humor, and poetry of the soul are conspicuously lacking. You have to come to middle-ranking djinn for them.

*Many would argue that the language of humankind boils down to this too.

I hope that this installment indicates that Stroud has found a way to continue to regale us with future stories of Bartimaeus’ adventures throughout history. I will follow old Barty to any time and place.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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