BookBrowse Reviews Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud

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Ptolemy's Gate

The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 3

by Jonathan Stroud

Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2005, 512 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2007, 512 pages

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The thrilling conclusion of the Bartimaeus trilogy. Ages 12+

From the book jacket: Three years have passed since the magician Nathaniel helped prevent a cataclysmic attack on London. Now an established member of the British Government, he faces unprecedented problems: foreign wars are going badly, Britain’s enemies are mounting attacks close to London, and rebellion is fermenting among the commoners. Increasingly imperious and distracted, Nathaniel is treating Bartimaeus worse than ever. The long-suffering djinni is growing weak and vulnerable from too much time in this world, and his patience is nearing its end.

Meanwhile, undercover in London, Kitty has been stealthily completing her research on magic, demons, and Bartimaeus’s past. She has a plan that she hopes will break the endless cycle of conflict between djinn and humans. But will anyone listen to what she has to say?

In this thrilling conclusion to the Bartimaeus trilogy, the destinies of Bartimaeus, Nathaniel, and Kitty are thrown together once more. For the first time, we will learn the secrets of Bartimaeus’s past, and get a glimpse into the Other Place -- the world of demons -- as together, the threesome must face treacherous magicians, unravel a masterfully complex conspiracy, and defeat a formidable faction of demons. And worst of all, they must somehow cope with one another....

Comment
This is the third volume in the Bartimaeus Trilogy following The Amulet of Samarkand and The Golem's Eye. The story is set in an parallel world similar to our own with many familiar places and historical figures, except that in this world powerful magicians have ruled for centuries (think of a world somewhat similar to Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series or a children's version of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and you'll be on the right track).

The action is centered on a version of London in which two core levels of society exist - those who an can do magic and those who can't, with a third level of commoners who are resistant to magic. Magicians are the ruling elite who maintain control primarily by binding members of the spirit kingdom to do their will. The spirit kingdom is a complex place with multiple levels of spirit entities, boiling down to five levels (in order of power from weakest to strongest): imps, foliots, djinnis, afrits and marids, with occasional walk-on parts from even more powerful spirits. Non-magicians, who make up the majority, are known as commoners and exist in a feudalistic underclass of of ignorance and fear.

The story is told from three primary perspectives: Bartimaeus, a sarcastically witty but wise djinni whose asides are one of the many pleasures the books have to offer, magician John Mandrake (AKA Nathaniel) and Kitty Jones, a member of the commoner resistance movement seeking to end the magician oppression.


The first volume in the trilogy opens with an apparently familiar story: 12-year-old magician's apprentice Nathanial wants to prove himself after being cruelly humiliated. He studies long and hard to learn advanced spells that will enable him to bring forth and enslave a djinni but things get out of hand and soon he and the djinni, Bartimaeus are enmeshed in the middle of various magical plots, involving murder, blackmail, spies and a simmering revolt by the commoners; but, here's the twist, instead of the young magician's apprentice being the good guy battling evil - the magicians are the villains and Nathanial is a cold-hearted manipulator.

In the second book the story shifts to focus more on Kitty. Nathaniel is now a junior magician in the government, given the job of crushing the resistance movement (of which Kitty is a member), and capturing its leaders with the reluctant assistance of Bartimaeus.

The final book, Ptolemy's Gate, opens with Kitty in hiding, apprenticed to a magician from whom she hopes to learn enough to be able to summon Bartimaeus himself. Meanwhile the exhausted Bartimaeus is still bound to 17-year-old Nathaniel who is now a member of the elite ruling council in the government. War is raging in the American colonies, causing dissent among the commoners who provide the cannon-fodder. As Information Minister, Nathaniel spends his days writing propaganda to persuade the commoners that they're winning the war, while also tracking down traitors within the government. Itt soon becomes apparent that the threat from within is greater than any threat from without when a group of junior ministers, intent on turning over the government, attempt to bind demons inside their bodies, but the demons take control.


This is what Thomas, our 13-year-old in-house reviewer, who has read and re-read the series multiple times, has to say:

"Ptolemy's Gate is a very interesting book with many unexpected twists and turns in the plot. It is an excellent end to the series that still leaves just enough questions unanswered for your mind to continue puzzling over them for a long time to come. It stands out from other books because it gives more details on the spirits themselves, such as their personalities and the conflicts that exist between them caused by bitter feuds dating back thousands of years.

Will Kitty's strength and intelligence combined with the good that still lies somewhere in the heart of Nathaniel/John Mandrake, plus Bartimaeus's magic, wit and wisdom be enough to save the day? Readers will have to find out for themselves in the final, exciting volume of this entertaining saga. I highly recommend this series!"

This review is from the February 7, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.



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