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All I had was those first four chapters actually of The Amulet of Samarkand. I was excited by it, but my agent kept it quiet. I gave up my job and finished the other book and then I began working on Bartimaeus. Halfway through the following year, I had written about pages and that was when I showed it to publishers for the first time in the U.
Were you shocked? It was the most remarkable and bizarre month of my life. I spent the first half of that year essentially in seclusion, just finishing one book and writing the beginning of The Amulet. When I finally sent it out to various publishers, there was suddenly a massive amount of interest—more interest than I ever had had for any of my other books by a factor of Jonathan Burnham of Miramax Books in the States heard about it and he came motoring over to try and get the publishing rights for the States. Meanwhile, [Miramax chief] Harvey Weinstein read it and was interested in buying the film rights.
So over a period of a month, I went from this little, private project to suddenly selling the movie and book rights. It was just the strangest sensation. I remember wandering around for days with a silly grin on my face. Nothing was real; it was kind of like a dream world I suddenly entered.
Then again, what actually kept me going was the realization I now had to write the book. I couldn't go out and party. Magpies 12, no. Subtitled How the infamous Spammes escaped the jaws of death and won a vast and glorious fortune, this exuberant picture puzzle book [ The Lost Treasure of Captain Blood ] has a crew of villainous pirates who outwit the even more villainous baddies.
The reader is asked on each double page to solve the numerous puzzles before progressing. They range from simple observation tasks such as counting the dwindling number of ship's rats and finding the spy to eliminating the eight false hiding spots marked on the map to reveal the true treasure one.
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Each spread is covered in a large painting with much activity going on and speech bubbles of text. There are also comic-style strips of two or three frames which advance the plot. Puzzle instructions are given in boxed captions with black backgrounds which stand out from the surrounding busyness. The overall effect is much more complicated than books such as the Where's Wally?
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Because the text is broken up into such small and scattered snippets, reluctant readers may well find this an attractive book. Its subject matter, fast-paced action and overall appearance make it appealing, and an inability to solve some of the puzzles is not a deterrent. Some of the answers but not all are given on the next page. The only minor quibble is the wording of some of the text. Some of the instructions and answers are addressed directly to the reader and sound a little patronising to an adult but this is not a major issue.
Young readers may well spend several hours poring over this book. Not only will their reading skills be put to the test but also their problem solving, lateral thinking and powers of observation. School Library Journal 43, no. Loosely a story about a quest to retrieve a magic banner stolen by a dragon years ago, Viking Saga is a slight improvement on Stroud and Gale's The Lost Treasure of Captain Blood Candlewick, Like its predecessor, it is presented in an oversized, picture-book format and features a comic-strip story line dialogue balloons and all.
An omniscient raven narrator tucked away in the corner; a longhouse lemming and his growing band of buddies; Hilda, the blond supergirl who disguises herself to join Harri's crew; Fenrir, the loyal and fearless wolf; and a large and busy main scene all revolve around the good-hearted but rather bumbling Harri and his faithful companions.
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A rainy-day diversion for kids who can color inside the lines. Review of Buried Fire, by Jonathan Stroud. Deep beneath a hilltop in the English countryside, a dragon sleeps. It is neither a peaceful nor a willing slumber. Michael McIntyre sleeps on the hill above, blissfully unaware of the change that is about to take place in his life.
For as Michael sleeps, the dragon dreams, and a single reptilian thought rises from the earth to envelop the boy. When Michael awakens, he finds that he has the ability to see people's true identities. As the days pass, he realizes that he also has three other gifts: the gift of fire, the gift of flying, and the gift of mind control.
Michael takes his brother Stephen to the hilltop to initiate him into the small group of villagers who have been changed by the dragon. However, Stephen resists the use of his gifts. Meanwhile, the Reverend Tom Aubrey of St. Wyndham church has made an interesting discovery in his churchyard; the arm of a large Celtic cross has been lifted from the ground.
What he does not realize is that this cross bound the dragon into the earth, and with its removal the dragon's power has increased. Although Buried Fire has exciting fantasy elements, it is not a book that will appeal to all. The point of view within the text shifts from character to character, creating a fractured narrative that would be hard for a lower-level reader to follow comfortably. Also, the victory at the end of the story becomes dependent upon some minor secondary characters that are not terribly well developed, and as a result the conclusion feels convenient.
However, the tale itself is intriguing. Although the dragon is the core menace of the story, the humans who are acting on his behalf reflect the real conflict. Their interpersonal relationships remain human while their actions become reptilian. This thriller will appeal to those fantasy fans who are strong readers.
It will especially appeal to those who eagerly await the final volume in Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy. School Library Journal 46, no. Sidebars describe local customs and offer safety guidelines for sightseers. Even a foldout tour map of the city is included. Lots of full-color illustrations and photographs of artifacts combined with a breezy, amusing text result in a delightful, tongue-in-cheek, but informative overview of Roman culture and life.
Publishers Weekly , no. A seemingly omniscient narrator begins [ The Amulet of Samarkand, ] this darkly tantalizing tale set in modern-day London, ushering readers into a room where the temperature plunges, ice forms on the curtains and ceiling, and the scent of brimstone fills the air.
Suddenly, the voice reveals itself as the djinn Bartimaeus, appearing in front of Nathaniel, the year-old magician who has summoned him "Hey, it was his first time. I wanted to scare him," Bartimaeus explains. The djinn thinks of himself as rather omniscient, having been present for some major historical moments as he explains in various footnotes, he gave an anklet to Nefertiti and offered tips to legendary architects—"Not that my advice was always taken: check out the Leaning Tower of Pisa". Debut novelist Stroud plunges readers into a quickly thickening plot: Nathaniel commands Bartimaeus to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace, a task that the djinn completes with some ease.
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Other factors quickly become more interesting: the motive for the boy's charge, how Simon came by the Amulet and the fallout from the theft. What these reveal about the characters of Simon and Nathaniel makes for engrossing reading. Stroud also introduces the fascinating workings of the "seven planes" magicians can see three of them only with special spectacles , the pecking order of magical beings, and the requirements of various spells and enchantments—plus the intrigue behind a group of commoners mounting a Resistance this loose end, presumably, will be explored in the remainder of the planned Bartimaeus trilogy.
The author plants enough seeds that readers will eagerly anticipate the next two volumes. Ages up. Kirkus Reviews 71, no. In a contemporary London full of magic, a thrilling adventure unfolds [in The Amulet of Samarkand ]. Twelve-year-old Nathaniel is apprenticed to a politician which means magician , but early emotional pain leads him toward hardness and anger. Arrogantly summoning a djinni to help him steal an amulet from slickly evil Simon Lovelace, he's swept into a swirl of events involving conspiracy at the highest government level.
Nathaniel's perspective alternates with that of Bartimaeus, the cocky, sardonic djinni. No character is wholly likable or trustworthy, which contributes to the intrigue.
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Many chapters end in suspense, suddenly switching narrators at key moments to create a real page-turner. Readers will hope that Stroud follows up on certain questions—is it slavery to use a djinni?
Horn Book Magazine 79, no. The magicians ruling the British empire in [ The Amulet of Samarkand, ] this anachronistic modern fantasy derive their powers from demons—marids, afrits, djinn, imps—who, though summoned to work the magicians' wills, are always looking for a loophole through which to destroy them. Bartimaeus, a smart-mouthed bruiser of a djinni, called by a stripling magician to steal the Amulet of Samarkand, finds just such a loophole when he learns his master's secret birthname. Nathaniel, however, manages to regain the upper hand with a time-delayed spell: Bartimaeus must protect the apprentice magician long enough to get the spell removed or spend eternity in a tobacco tin.
Through guile, teamwork, and dumb luck the ambitious but green kid and the "Spenser for Hire"-type djinni uncover and foil a coup attempt masterminded by Simon Lovelace, the powerful and ruthless magician who is after them for stealing the Amulet. The pace never slows in this wisecracking adventure; chapters in Bartimaeus's lively first person with indulgent explanatory footnotes alternate with third-person chapters on Nathaniel's adolescent insecurities and desires.
Stroud has created a compelling fantasy story in a well-realized world, but it is the complementary characters of Bartimaeus and Nathaniel that will keep readers coming back for the rest of the projected trilogy. Independent Sunday 7 December : Critics of J K Rowling can't fault her amazingly fertile comic imagination or the page-turning power of her stories.
But the excitement of the plots isn't matched by the quality of her prose, which is rarely more than efficient. Step forward Jonathan Stroud—in [ The Amulet of Samarkand, ] the first book of his projected Bartimaeus trilogy, he brings together a fabulist's facility with a rollicking relish in creating good sentences. The demon, or djinni, Bartimaeus, has spent centuries honing his world-weary sarcasm, often racing down into the footnotes the better to express his lofty wit. Stroud's England is not unlike Rowling's, in that magicians and non-magical folk exist side by side, but Stroud has reversed the balance: the arrogant magicians hold the power and they are far from benevolent.
Young readers will enjoy the exciting magical set-pieces and phantasmagorical battles, while their elders will be amused by the antics of a ruling class who come on like New Labour with wands.