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The Bartimaeus Trilogy is a fantasy series by Jonathan Stroud and was published as a series of three novels between 2003 and 2005.

The three novels are:



The title character, Bartimaeus, is a five-thousand year old djinni, a spirit of approximately mid-level power. There are five basic levels of spirits most commonly summoned, in order of increasing power they are: imps, foliots, djinni, afrits and marids. There also exists a variety of subclasses in each level. Above these levels exist even more powerful entities, who are rarely summoned. Two of these entities are Ramuthra and Nouda. Many creatures weaker than imps also exist such as mites.

The story is told through the viewpoint of three characters, the magician Nathaniel (or John Mandrake), the djinni Bartimaeus, and the commoner Kitty Jones. There is also one short chapter featuring the viewpoint of a foliot called Simpkin.

Setting

The three novels are set in an alternate history to our own, though many countries, cities, events, and people are from actual history (such as Praguemarker, Solomon, the Roman Empire, William Gladstone, Benjamin Disraeli, the American Revolution, etc.). The books presume the idea that magic, magicians, and demons have been active throughout history, thus radically altering it. In particular these changes are reflected in various contrasts between modern aspects (such as electricity and cars) and older ones (colonial-era weapons including muskets). The current time is never directly given. The books incorporate references to various world mythologies and folklore, such as the Arabian Nights and Homer.

In the alternate history existing in the story, a type of feudal society exists, where the people are mainly of two classes. The British monarchy is mentioned in passing, but is said to have been overthrown long before the events of the book.

The magicians are the governing class who hold all important posts in the government, in a ministry with resemblances to the parliamentary portion of the British Government in that it features a Prime Minister and assorted other ministers beneath him. They mainly perform their magic indirectly by summoning, binding, and controlling various types of spirits, and by creating magical artifacts to do the same. The magicians are normal humans, who know how to summon demons and bend them to their will.

The commoners are those who are ignorant of magic and who make up the rest of the society. They are kept in line by the governing class through the use of fear and ignorance. It should be noted that some commoners are born with a resistance to magic, or a sensitivity to its presence. Unlike the Muggles of the Harry Potter universe, who do not believe in magic, the commoners are fully aware of the magical world,and know of the magicians' dominance, though most cannot see the various spirits the magicians employ.

The books blend twentieth-century England with past epochs. The London in the trilogy still has the Crystal Palacemarker, where the climax occurs. Because it is stated that the trilogy occurs over a hundred years after the death of William Gladstone in 1898, it is clearly past 1936, when the real Crystal Palace was destroyed by a fire. Airplanes and e-mail are mentioned, so it can be assumed to be set in more modern times. The Tower of Londonmarker is still used as a prison. A chandelier in the first book is said to be made of "crystal taken from the ruins of Versailles", and it is implied that France, Germany, and Italy belong to Britain. Britain's main rival is the Czech Empire (inheritor to the Habsburgs), which has been greatly weakened but still resents Britain.

In the third book, the war against the "American colonies" is a main cause of the commoners' dissent. Apparently, Britain still retains its dominion in North America and is sending troops there to suppress discontent. It is also implied that only the New England colonies have large cities, the rest of North America being still under the control of Native Americans.

The Other Place

The Other Place is the world of demons, where time supposedly does not exist and where demons have no distinct identities, but are merely a single consciousness. There is no order in this world, because there is no matter; only infinite swirling colours and flashes of memories which are shared by all spirits in the Other Place, due to their lack of identity. In the Other Place, the essence of the demons can heal and replenish. The only known (non-demon) visitors to The Other Place are Ptolemy (using a focusing reversal while summoning) and Kitty Jones. Other magicians have tried but little is known of their attempts. It is the world where Bartimaeus, the witty, fourteenth level djinni, dwells when he is not enslaved by a magician.

Plot summary

As the books progress, three cycles become evident. The first and largest from the overarching plot line standpoint is the rise and fall of London as a world power. The second and third are more personal; the boy changing from the pitiful, yet noble, Nathaniel, to the power-hungry, arrogant John Mandrake and back again to the boy he was, and the third, involving Kitty and Bartimaeus, who restore each other's faith in their races. In a Bartimaeus trilogy forum, Jonathan Stroud has remarked that he was planning to make a Bartimaeus "bible".

The Amulet of Samarkand

The Amulet of Samarkand
The first book in the series, published 2003, introduces Nathaniel as the gifted 12-year old apprentice of a middle-aged mid-level magician, Arthur Underwood. He assumes his magician name—John Mandrake—to protect him from rivals who would wish to harm him. When the magician Simon Lovelace cruelly humiliates Nathaniel in public, Nathaniel decides to take revenge by stealing Lovelace's most powerful possession, the Amulet of Samarkand. Unknown to his tutor, he begins the study of advanced magic in order to summon the djinni Bartimaeus and enslave him. Bartimaeus later overhears Nathaniel's birthname, which greatly reduces Nathaniel's control over him, because demons can cast counterspells if they know a person's birth name. Things soon get out of hand and Bartimaeus and Nathaniel find themselves caught in the middle of magical espionage, murder, blackmail, and revolt. Together, the two of them defeat Lovelace's most powerful demon, Ramuthra, and Lovelace himself.

The Golem's Eye

The Golems Eye
Published in 2004, the second book picks up two years and eight months later and features Nathaniel as a junior magician working his way up the government ranks. In this book Kitty Jones is introduced as an important character. She is a part of the Resistance movement which seeks to end the oppressive rule of the magicians. Nathaniel is tasked by his superiors to crush the Resistance and capture the members. His task is complicated when a seemingly invulnerable clay golem starts to make random attacks on London. Much to the displeasure of Bartimaeus, Nathaniel recalls the djinni to aid him in uncovering the origins of the golem, and to save his own skin.

Ptolemy's Gate

Ptolemys Gate
In the final book of the series, published 2005, Nathaniel is a senior magician and a member of the ruling council, an elite class of magicians in the government. Bartimaeus is still trapped on Earth by Nathaniel and is treated with disdain. Meanwhile, Kitty Jones has been hiding undercover and completing her research on magic and spirits. She hopes that this will enable her to break the endless cycles of conflicts between djinn and humans. The main plot of this story is a conspiracy to overthrow the government which causes the most dangerous threat in the history of magic. Together, Nathaniel, Bartimaeus and Kitty try to save the city of London from this dangerous threat.

Bartimaeus reveals to the reader the presence of an endless cycle wherein magicians summon spirits, magicians rule over commoners, spirits spread magic throughout a city, some of the commoners gain a resistance to magic, the commoners rebel against the magicians, the magicians are overthrown, and the spirits return to the Other Place until another magical empire rises to power. This cycle proves to be the main plot, which culminates in the overthrowing of Londonmarker. Bartimaeus makes references to other magical empires, such as Baghdadmarker and Egyptmarker, all of which have fallen from power as well.

Continuing the Series

Jonathan Stroud (author) has recently stated that he is beginning work on a new book about Bartimaeus and hopes for it to be published by the end of 2010. The title and information of the plot, setting or characters are unknown (but we can expect the title character, Bartimaeus, to return). More can be read about this upcoming addition to the series at the journal page of Jonathan Stroud's official website.

Main characters

Bartimaeus

One of the main characters of the trilogy, after whom the trilogy is named. Bartimaeus is a sarcastic djinni. He usually provides explications in the form of footnotes which provide various views into his past exploits as well as the nature of djinn and magic.

One of Bartimaeus's most important masters is the great magician Ptolemy, who was a very good master to him, and gave him three great gifts. The first gift was that he treated Bartimaeus like an equal, which is almost never heard of in a demon-magician relationship.The second gift was that he gave Bartimaeus freedom to walk between Earth (of which he was frequently allowed to explore) and the Other Place. The final gift was that when death was inevitable, he sacrificed the last few seconds of his life to dismiss him, thus sending him back to the Other Place and saving him. Nathaniel would later do the same in the fight against Nouda. Nathaniel, Kitty and Ptolemy are probably the only humans he considers true friends.

In the first book of the trilogy, Bartimaeus learns the young magician Nathaniel's birth name, and therefore gains some power over him. This knowledge complicates things for Nathaniel, much to Bartimaeus' amusement.

Bartimaeus seems to have played a disproportionally large part in world history, mentioning (among other things) that he played a part in the death of Genghis Khan and helped to build the walls of Praguemarker, Jerichomarker, Urukmarker, and Karnakmarker, as well as having spoken with Solomon. He has served masters in Sumeria, Jerusalem, Egypt, Mexico, North America, Prague and Britain. Some of the previous masters of Bartimaeus include Ptolemy, Gilgamesh, Solomon, Zarbustibal, Heraclius, Hauser and Tycho Brahe. Although it does not state who his master was, Bartimaeus says he was in the service of several notable Ancient Egyptian rulers, including Ramses and Nefertiti. Bartimaeus speaks several human languages, including English, Czech, Amaraic, Babylonian and Old Egyptian.

Nathaniel/John Mandrake

One of the trio of major characters in the series. In the first book, The Amulet of Samarkand, he foils a coup and saves the life of the Prime Minister, Rupert Devereaux. In the second book, The Golem's Eye, after assuming a mantle in the government, he works towards stopping various attacks occurring in Londonmarker carried out by a shadowy group known as the Resistance. In the third book, he is caught up in a revolution by spirits on earth, but ultimately manages to stop it. Over the course of the trilogy, Nathaniel the innocent young boy, hungry for knowledge, is transformed into the arrogant John Mandrake. By the end of book three, however, he becomes more responsible and honorable, more like his younger self. He becomes more self-conscious, helps destroy an evil demon, and saves Bartimaeus much as Ptolemy had done.

Kathleen "Kitty" Jones

A commoner formally known as Kathleen Jones is one of the main characters of the trilogy. Kitty first appears in book one, and her role in each book gradually increases. In book two, The Golem's Eye she assumes a much larger role and some of the story is told from her point of view. Kitty's affiliation with the Resistance is detailed, as well as how she came to be involved with them. Through a failed plot to strengthen the Resistance, Kitty unwittingly releases an afrit onto the streets of Londonmarker. As Nathaniel is attempting to clean up that mess, as well as rid the city of the golem, Kitty destroys the golem, saves Nathaniel's life, and escapes with her own. Bartimaeus lies to Nathaniel and explains that Kitty was destroyed by the golem. In book three, Ptolemy's Gate, Kitty has assumed two alternate identities called Clara Bell and Lizzie Temple, and is working for a magician. Through her dealings with the magician she gains knowledge of summoning, and is able to summon Bartimaeus. Kitty researches much into Bartimaeus' favorite guise and eventually follows in the footsteps of Ptolemy and travels into the Other Place to seek help from Bartimaeus. While the paths of Kitty and Nathaniel have been long and fraught with problems, their dealings with each other foster affection in book three.

See also



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