Two years have past since Nathaniel and Bartimeaus defeated Simon Lovelace, and Nathaniel has risen in status in the British government. At only fourteen, Nathaniel has an important job in Internal Affairs, rooting out The Resistance. When a business famous for selling artifacts to magicians is attacked, everyone points their fingers at The Resistance. Nathaniel is the only one who feels differently. Knowing his career is on the line, he does something he swore he'd never do again, summon Bartimeaus for help.
The Golem's Eye is the second novel in the Bartimeaus trilogy. I am happy to report that it is just as satisfying as the first novel, The Amulet of Samarkand, in every way. This time we have a third protagonist named Kitty, who is both a commoner (a non-magical citizen, considered inferior to magicians), and a member of The Resistance (a small group that fights against the control of the magicians). What's interesting about Kitty is although The Resistance is technically a group of thieves and terrorists, she is a much more heroic character than Bartimeaus, who has no conscience, and Nathaniel, who at times feels like a villain.
What I like a lot about this series is despite the fact that it's a book for children and teenagers, it still covers a lot of meaty topics. With this story about magicians and commoners, we're able to see the real danger of having one group that believes that they are naturally superior to another, and how the superior group keeps the other passive. Education is severely limited, as magicians manipulate the curriculum to always show themselves in a favorable light. As a result, commoners grow up feeling as if they should be thankful for their cruel masters, and only a select few (such as Kitty) even question their situation. All of these methods of control felt very real-to-life for me, despite the magical setting. Another element that felt true to life were the magicians in the government, who often seemed more concerned with furthering their political aspirations than the greater good.
Going deeper into the concept of control, Stroud gives us many situations that display “master and slave” mindsets, the most obvious being Nathaniel and the djinni Bartimeaus, who is a literal slave to the magician. A less obvious one is with Nathaniel as a slave to his professional superiors. At times, we see Nathaniel do some rather deplorable acts in order to prevent punishment, much like a djinni may attack a child because he fears the repercussions from his master. I like the fact that although Stroud shows sympathy to these individuals with limited control, he does not give them a get out of jail free card. Just because you are “following orders” or will face fire consequences if you disobey, doesn't change the fact that what you are doing is wrong.
Much like The Amulet of Samarkand, I experienced The Golem's Eye as an audiobook. The narrator, Simon Jones, does a great job of crafting different voices and building tension. This is the most obvious in a masterfully done grave robbing sequence. Despite the fact that I questioned the believability of a fourteen year old boy being given an important government job, I really liked the story that was told here. I look forward to finishing the trilogy.
Rating: four and a half stars
Length: I listened to the audiobook, but the print version is 576 pages
Source: Lewiston Public Library
Similar Books: The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, The Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer, The Skulduggery Pleasant Series by Derek Landy.
Other books I've read by this author: The Amulet of Samarkand (my review)
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