I've thoroughly enjoyed all the audio books in this series, but this read the best for me. Jonathan Stroud's style is smoother and I had less moments where I rewound for clarity. It's a delightful tale of Bartimaeus in the time of Solomon with a Sheba coming across as sly as ever. It's a stand alone book or could be read before or in-between the other books. Sheba's assassin reminds me a lot of kitty, determined, courageous, and good moral character that shines grace in all the right parts.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Is Bartimaeus of Uruk, as he claims, a swashbuckling, debonair, and clever djinni renowned over the millennia for numerous magnificent achievements in architecture and war on behalf of various notable magician masters, including Gilgamesh, Ramses, and Nefertiti? Or is he really a wicked, duplicitous, and cheeky demon, as many of his masters complain? Jonathan Stroud's fourth novel featuring Bartimaeus, The Ring of Solomon (2010), reveals that the djinni and his detractors are both right, for although he can perform great feats (despite being but a middle-ranking spirit), he also remains ever eager to eat abusive magicians who mistake the wording of their spells or the drawing of their pentacles. Readers familiar with Bartimaeus from Stroud's earlier trilogy, The Amulet of Samarkand (2003), The Golem's Eye (2004), and Ptolemy's Gate (2005), will be happy to spend more time with the djinni in this stand-alone prequel, while readers new to Stroud's work will enjoy getting to know Bartimaeus, who is in fine form here, both as a witty, egotistical, and discursive narrator and as a resourceful, guileful, and plucky fantastic being.
The story involves the titular ring, which is a portal to the Other Place (where the djinn and other spirits live as pure and free essences) and which is interestingly similar to and different from Tolkien's Ring of Power; King Solomon, ruler thanks to the ring of Israel, the most powerful nation in the known world; Khaba the Cruel, one of Solomon's seventeen magicians with something of the crypt about him; Asmira, the loyal seventeen-year-old top bodyguard of the Queen of Sheba; and, of course, Bartimaeus. Although it is not difficult to guess early on whose machinations are causing trouble in Israel and environs, resulting in Asmira being sent on a suicide assassination mission and Bartimaeus becoming caught up in the affairs of the humans he purports to loathe but secretly enjoys, Stroud does unpredictably play with our perceptions of Solomon and write an entertaining novel.
One reason for the popularity of Stroud's Bartimaeus books is that they are so funny. Kids must enjoy the occasional body-humor, as when Khaba, he of the vicious essence flail and cruel essence cages, bends over at a temple work site, and Bartimaeus makes a farting noise that echoes "off the valley walls like a thunder clap," while adults must enjoy the in-jokes, as when Bartimaeus picks up a crumpled ball of parchment on which Solomon has written some songs, and says, "they were unlikely to be much good."
Stroud's writing is replete with wit, as in many of his similes, like "Avarice shimmered on [his eye] like a film of oil," and "With the eager energy of two criminals shuffling to the gallows, [we] set off downstairs," and "The voice was soft as tomb dust shifting." And Bartimaeus' many notes humorously interrupt his suspenseful tale, as when he explains the units of measurements used by djinn: "a rat's arse, a camel's thigh, a leper's stretch, and the length of a Philistine's beard."
Stroud writes many well-turned phrases and evocative descriptions, of which the following are but a snack:
--"A cadaver would have crossed the street to avoid him."
--"All around was a land of desolation and absence, of bleached hills fading to the edge of vision. The sun was a white hole in an iron sky. It warped the air into slices that danced and shimmered and were never still. "
--"Ripped from the infinite, plucked back down time's corridor... I dropped like a shower of gold down an endless well. I funneled inward to a point and landed... at the center of a pentacle."
--"Her eyes retained that glassy fixity that humans get when they are the self-appointed agent of a higher cause, and their own personality, such as it is, has faded out altogether."
--"And all at once, as if an unseen barrier had been penetrated, there broke upon her a rush of sound like a sea of sand poured down upon the earth. It was the whispering of the demons' wings."
In addition to being a well-written, humorous, suspenseful, and imaginative historical fantasy, The Ring of Solomon is a dramatic exploration of the nature of servitude that champions personal freedom and integrity against the selfish or zealous pursuit of wealth and power: "Gods and nations, what are they but words?" says a spirit at one point. Moreover, because Bartimaeus has been enslaved by so many amoral magicians and has witnessed so many flawed kings and queens, destroyed cities, and fallen empires, he has acquired a jaundiced opinion of human nature and civilization. He regularly describes human beings as selfish, greedy, cruel, and false, and enjoys mentioning things like the fact that while spirits like him can see all seven planes of existence, fleas, tapeworms, and humans can only view one. Interestingly, however, his fellow djinni Faquarl is perhaps not incorrect when he accuses Bartimaeus of being soft on people (and not only because he likes their fresh and seasoned bone marrow).
Simon Jones relishes reading the novel, giving Bartimaeus an urbane, snide, and camp British drawl that even Tim Curry or Oscar Wilde might envy. His other character voices, like for the quietly malevolent Khaba, the attenuated but strong-willed Solomon, and the naïve and committed Asmira, are fine, too.
The Ring of Solomon is not without flaws. I like Asmira and accept that some third person chapters from her point of view are necessary for the story, but I enjoy Bartimaeus so much that I wish the entire novel were narrated in his first person voice. I also felt that in the climax Stroud has some characters do or not do some things they normally would not do or do and is probably hoping that we'll be too caught up in the exciting action to notice. But the resolution is neat, and fans of the Bartimaeus trilogy, as well as fans of savory, satirical, comical, and page-turning young adult historical fantasy should enjoy this novel.
The original trilogy is my favorite series of all time and this does a great job recapturing the feel. I had to give the story one less star though because I found the human protagonist to be less interesting or relatable than Nathaniel or Kitty. Still a great book and if it was not compared to its companions it would probably score a 5. Performance was also top notch.
Continues the humor and fun of the series. Of course, the only returning character is Bart, but the book is just as good as the others.
The footnotes. This is characteristic of the previous trilogy, and they are hilarious as well as informative. They add to the humor and depth of Bartimaeus. The book would not be the same without them
The discworld series. again, the footnotes. these are the only two series i've encountered with this attribute, and both use it amazingly
Really any time Bartimaeus talks. He is funny, witty, and above all, completely offensive to anyone in power
I read this because I had enjoyed the first three Bartimaeus novels and was delighted to find that a trilogy (the first three are presented as such) could extend beyond three.
In this book, Bartimaeus is summoned to Jerusalem during the times of King Solomon. I liked the historical setting (and I wished I had a map in front of me while I was listening). The dialogue, especially from Bartimaeus, was excellent as usual; the other characters and the use of magic were very entertaining as well.
But let me not forget the most important part: the narrator. Simon Jones may have been born to play this role. He does a fantastic job bringing Bartimaeus and the many creatures within this story to life.
I really liked this and can't wait for another one to come out.
I hold a BA in History from York University of Toronto; a 3yr Diploma in Computer Networking from Sheridan College in Oakville Ontario. I have been "reading" audio books sinces the late 80s and a member of Audible back to 2004. What a really like is a good long story preferable over 30 hours. :)
I really enjoy this book. While it's set long long before the original 3 books it is a return that then a reframing of the start of who Bartiumaeus is. The book is filled with lots of back chat and Bartiumaeus trying to help the "masters" he claims to hate. I always love turning Bartiumaeus on after a long day with pissed customers. He validates so much what you wish you could say while dealing with complaints.
I have listened to all four Bartimaeus books now and will happily listen to more should Jonathan Stroud decide he wants to keep writing them and as long as Simon Jones keeps reading them. Jones is perfect in giving life to the sassy, irreverent djinni.
Audiobook Junkie... Love all types of Science Fiction
This series is a prime example of how a Narrator can really make a good story even better. The voice of Bartimaeus is very well crafted and fits the writing perfectly. Now, onto the story. I am afraid I have to agree with other reviewers that this story is not as good as some of the predecessors if you are expecting any continuation from the last three books. This is a stand alone telling of Bartimaeus from his past. Now I am always a little critical of prequels, but we do get a better look at how Bartimaeus's past slavery forms his opinion of magicians whom seem to be the true demons. I found events a little difficult to get into at first, but by the end I was unable to take a break from listening.
so much so, the most sarcastic remarks can be appreciated!
the different voices and most of all inflections
Out Load Laughing
Great follow up to the trilogy