Farquarl had been rubbing it in for hours. During the entire clear-up operation he’d been on at me, in fact, even while we’d been digging the burial pits, even while we’d been piling up the camels and trying to get them to light. He’d never stopped the whole time. It had ruined my afternoon.
The news that there was a Bartimaeus prequel in the works had many of us barking wildly. Not to mention panting excitedly when we heard an excerpt at an ALA Disney-Hyperion fall preview. As there were no ARCs available and having plenty other great stuff to read I figured I’d be a good girl and wait patiently till November. But then, out of the blue, I received a package from some kind folks at Disney-Hyperion. Ripping it open I discovered something that made me howl with enthusiasm. (Okay, no more dog stuff, I promise.) Yep, it was an unedited version of The Ring of Solomon. (Not sure what unedited means as it seems pretty polished to me.) Would I be jealous of me? Yes I would. Big time. Would I still want a spoiler-free taste of what is in store? Yes I would. So here goes.
As Bartimaeus told us in his footnotes in the previous books, he had a long and checkered career serving a variety of magicians over the eons. (And by the way, he’s got a blog. It is brilliant.) This is one of those stories (and I sure hope not the last). On the very first page we encounter Bartimaeus being his familiar self — snarkily shapeshifting and voiceshifting (Stroud’s switching from first to third person and back again as our djinni changes form) as he interacts with his master, a shrewd old magician. It is 950 B.C.E. Jerusalem and Solomon is the king. Soon we meet a young woman named Asmira who is a worthy new heroine, many bad things, and an engrossing new story. Oh, and a ring. That does a lot and is, needless to say, fiercely desired. And you know about those magical rings, don’t you? This isn’t that one, but it is mighty powerful in its own right.
One of the themes of the book is a consideration of blind devotion versus slavery. While Stroud may not have intended this it made me think about contemporary politics — particularly the nature of extremism, being raised to think a certain way, to consider self-sacrifice on behalf of a charismatic leader versus a leader doing the self-sacrifice, and the concept of enslavement. But don’t worry — it is first and foremost a grand adventure, filled with magical beings, the wonderful Bartimaeus, excellent writing, and cleverness galore.
You’ve got a treat in store, I can tell you.