February 22, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: 'The Ring of Solomon' by Jonathan Stroud



Bartimaeus makes a hilarious comeback after the rip-roaring success of 'The Bartimaeus trilogy' by Jonathan Stroud. Of course, I miss the strange Nathaniel and the daring Kitty. Stroud handles the powerful djinn's character (one of the most memorable fantasy characters I have come across) with ease though he takes upon great power being enslaved by human beings since ancient times. Now we are somewhere in 950 BC, watching the fourth-level powerful djinn serve King Solomon's wicked magicians. Khaba, the most evil of the lot assumes importance as the story progresses. The magicians are afraid of the wise and just king (thought of as 'evil and wicked') because of the ring he wears in his hand. The spirit of the ring is an all powerful entity that controls the beings of the 'other world' where Bartimaeus and his fellow djinns come from. 

The story is slow to start and only assumes some meaning when Bartimaeus meets Asmira, the talented assassin from Sheba, a nearby kingdom which has supposedly suffered the ire of King Solomon. Asmira's part of the story forms the main crux and how Bartimaeus ends up being integrated in it is a treat to read. His real irritation, humor and taunt combined form some great repartee between the two. The ending is not quite as emotional as 'Ptolemy's Gate' but definitely good. It does manage to quicken your pulse and keep you guessing. 

The cover catches the eye and promises a good read but disappoints in the beginning. The book lacks good pace but Bartimaeus' trademark humor and wickedly funny and cheeky footnotes keep the story rolling and you don't really feel bored. A demon who eats people and can also make you laugh. Funny, right? Stroud has made a decent attempt to recreate the Egyptian splendor of the ancient times and the involvement of imps, foliots, djinns, afrits and marids makes this book well worth a fantasy read. The tag-line of the book 'Everyone wants it, no one must have it' explains itself in the end as the ring is said to draw vast amounts of energy from the person who wears it. People talk about the book as a sequel to the trilogy but as it is set in an earlier period from the busy streets of London that the trilogy consists of, I think it would be better to call it a prequel of sorts. I give it a 4/5, neither more, nor less.


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