Student Book Review: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Personally, I had a hard time getting into The Amulet of Samarkand and never finished it, but plenty of my students enjoy this trilogy.  Today’s student reviewer, Alec, took my Y.A. Lit class because his girlfriend took it and recommended it and because he wanted to enjoy reading more.  When he was deciding on his project, he told me that he really liked reading The Hobbit, so he knew he wanted to read something like that.  Since he felt confident reading fantasy, he asked if he could create his own project and try a variety of genres to see what else he enjoys.  His favorite of the three books is The Amulet of Samarkand, with Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers and Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill in second and third.

Title: The Amulet of Samarkand

Author: Jonathan Stroud

Student Reviewer: Alec

Summary (From Goodreads): Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five and sent to live as an apprentice to a master. Powerful magicians rule Britain, and its empire, and Nathaniel is told his is the “ultimate sacrifice” for a “noble destiny.”

If leaving his parents and erasing his past life isn’t tough enough, Nathaniel’s master, Arthur Underwood, is a cold, condescending, and cruel middle-ranking magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The boy’s only saving grace is the master’s wife, Martha Underwood, who shows him genuine affection that he rewards with fierce devotion. Nathaniel gets along tolerably well over the years in the Underwood household until the summer before his eleventh birthday. Everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him.

Nathaniel vows revenge. In a Faustian fever, he devours magical texts and hones his magic skills, all the while trying to appear subservient to his master. When he musters the strength to summon the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Lovelace by stealing the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, the boy magician plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything he could ever imagine.

Student Review:

This book is about a young boy named Nathaniel, who is sold to the government to become a magician’s apprentice. It takes place in London where the government is run by magicians. His master is Arthur Underwood who is very up-tight, cold, and (in Nathaniel’s eyes) very cruel in the ways that he raises him. He steals an amulet from a high ranked magician to get back at him for public humiliation in front of one of his professors. He is also betrayed by his master, Underwood, who doesn’t defend him when Simon Lovelace Comes to get back his Amulet.

I really liked this book. It is the first in the Bartimaeus Trilogy and I plan on reading the other two. It is filled with action and there is always something going on. It is told through Nathaniel’s eyes for the most part. I liked the fact that the magicians don’t actually have any powers. They have to summon some sort of a being. They can summon anything from messenger imps to afrits. Nathaniel summons Bartimaeus and the way it works is that the summoned must listen to and do whatever the magician wants them to do. I love the way that Bartimaeus is constantly nagging with Nathaniel and his sarcastic remarks had me laughing out loud. It is told from the point of view of Nathaniel and Bartimaeus. I liked reading it more when it is being told through Bartimaeus’s eyes. He is constantly shape-shifting and his view on everything is hilarious.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy books even a little bit. It takes some time to get used to the world that the book is set in, but if you can get past that it is a very good book. I very much liked this book and plan on reading the entire trilogy.


  1. Thanks for highlighting this one, Alec! I thought The Amulet of Samarkand was so funny – especially all of the footnotes throughout. I read it after Jonathan Stroud won SLJ’s Battle of the Kids’ Books last year, and I still need to finish the trilogy. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

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