I enjoyed listening to the first book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy (The Amulet of Samarkand) so much that I knew I'd have to get the audio version of the second book, and I'm glad I did! Simon Jones is a wonderful reader, particularly when he is narrating the sections of the book that are told from the point of view of the djinni Bartimaeus - his dry humor and caustic, witty remarks have me chuckling throughout.
There may be spoilers in the following review, so if you are interested in this trilogy, I suggest you take a look at my review of the first book, and stop reading right now. This book is set several years after the end of the first one, and Nathaniel, although he's promised never to summon the djinni Bartimaeus again, finds himself in a tight spot, and out of desperation he goes back on his agreement and performs the summoning.
Nathaniel is now in a position of considerable power, but the efforts of the Resistance, a group we met in the first book that is opposing the high-handed rule of the magicians, are becoming more and more troubling. The responsibility of putting an end to the Resistance has fallen to Nathaniel, who at fourteen years old is a nice scapegoat for the other, older magicians, who are unwilling to risk their own positions of privilege in the case of failure - but perfectly happy to attached themselves firmly to his coattails if he succeeds.
This book, like the first in the trilogy, is told in alternating sections told from Nathaniel's and Bartimaeus's points of view - but also with the added (and most welcome, in my opinion) point-of-view character of Kitty Jones. We briefly met Kitty in the first volume. She is a young girl who is a member of the Resistance, and we travel to the past to discover exactly why she is so determined to put an end to the magicians' hold on power. But as her involvement with the Resistance progresses, she begins to doubt their methods of petty theft and vandalism, doubting that they will be able to spark effective political change in that way.
Meanwhile, Nathaniel's position in the government becomes ever more precarious. London is beset by attacks of a much more powerful, destructive nature than anything wrought by the Resistance thus far, and he is charged to discover and apprehend the perpetrator immediately - or his job will be taken over by the police, and Nathaniel will be demoted to a boring civil service position and lose his apprenticeship in the bargain. His only real ally is Bartimaeus (an unwilling ally at that), and they are soon involved in a convoluted mystery with red herrings, magical artifacts, mysterious Prague graveyards, werewolves, and gleeful, cavorting skeletons.
Nathaniel, while exhibiting some selflessness in the first volume, seems unfortunately destined to follow the typical magician's path toward egocentricity, arrogance and moral corruption. Given the fact that he was taken away from his family as a young boy and put into the care of an arrogant and egocentric magician, this is not surprising. Kitty is resourceful and courageous, willing to risk her safety for those she cares about - and to do the right thing, which is a nice change from Nathaniel's behavior. And of course Bartimaeus's voice, which is unfortunately not as present as in the first book, adds a wonderful touch of humor and insight (often at Nathaniel's expense) and lifts the story well above other YA fantasy novels.
I read this as part of the Mythopoeic Award Challenge, and I'm very much looking forward to completing the trilogy, with its compelling blend of fantasy, adventure and mystery.
Books in the Bartimaeus Trilogy:
1. The Amulet of Samarkand
2. The Golem's Eye
3. Ptolemy's Gate
The Golem's Eye (#2 in the Bartimaeus Trilogy) by Jonathan Stroud; narrated by Simon Jones (Listening Library, 2004)
Also reviewed at:
Becky's Book Reviews
Bloggin' 'bout Books
Here, There and Everywhere