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The Amulet of Samarkand  
UK cover
Author Jonathan Stroud
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Bartimaeus Trilogy
Genre(s) Children's, Fantasy novel
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date 2003
Media type Print (Paperback & Hardback)
Pages 462 pp (first edition, paperback)
ISBN ISBN 078681859X (first edition, paperback)
OCLC Number 52509519
LC Classification PZ7.S92475 Am 2003
Followed by The Golem's Eye

The Amulet of Samarkand is the first book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy written by Jonathan Stroud. It is well known for its liberal use of footnotes to voice the title character's sarcastic comments, as well as story background.


Plot introduction

A magician's young apprentice, Nathaniel, summons the irascible 5,000-year-old djinni, Bartimaeus (adi), to do his bidding. The task for Bartimaeus is an interesting mission: he must steal the powerful Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace, a master magician of unrivalled ruthlessness and ambition. Only problem is Bartimaeus couldn't care less for what his (Current) master really wants, only that he has a job to complete (and survive) before he can return to the spirit world again... well that and maybe get even with the annoying little brat who summoned him if get the chance. Before long, Bartimaeus and Nathaniel are caught up in a terrifying flood of magical intrigue, rebellion and murder. Nathaniel learns quickly that he may have gotten into a plot much more in depth than he and his djinni can cope with.

Plot summary

Nathaniel becomes an apprentice Magician after his parents forfeit him (as a very young child) to the magicians' adoption service in return for some money. His master, Arthur Underwood, is a mediocre magician and the assistant minister of Internal Affairs. Underwood is unwilling to having an apprentice whilst his wife, Martha, warmly welcomes Nathaniel.

Throughout his youth, noteworthy events embitter Nathaniel towards Underwood. One year before the events of the novel Underwood hosts a gathering of magicians in his villa. Upon his presentation to the other magicians, Nathaniel (age 10 at the time) is interviewed by his later antagonist Simon Lovelace who dismisses Nathaniel's obvious powers for magic. Nathaniel retorts impolitely and incurs the wrath of an invisible demon which derides his helpless condition. Once he is released, Nathaniel sets a fleet of mites upon Lovelace, which he easily destroys, and is punished with a beating from one of Lovelace's imps. Ms. Lutyens, his admired art teacher, attempts to waylay the punishment and gets fired.

Following his experience, Nathaniel vows to become his own master and learns from the books in Underwood's study whilst also plotting the downfall and humiliation of his nemesis Lovelace. Using a rudimentary scrying glass Nathaniel spies on Lovelace. One night he witnesses him paying a bearded mercenary after receiving a suspicious package. The imp in the glass quotes the mercenary as saying that the package is the Amulet of Samarkand. Days after his twelfth birthday, Nathaniel summons the djinni Bartimaeus, a cocky spirit with a grudge against his slavers --- the magicians. Bartimaeus, expecting a ridiculous and simple charge, such as levitating an object, is instead charged with the highly dangerous, unexpected command to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace. Whilst fulfilling his charge Bartimaeus runs into Faquarl and Jabor, two djinni under Lovelace's employ, the former of whom harbors a mutual grudge with Bartimaeus spanning thousands of years, the latter being a particularly dangerous and vicious djinni. After escaping Faquarl and Jabor, Bartimaeus is also accosted in an alleyway by a mysterious gang of youths, who attempted to steal the Amulet from him, somehow spotting it under Bartimaeus's clothes. The youths are later revealed to be the Resistance.

Bartimaeus is summoned back to Nathaniel and ordered to hide the amulet in Underwood's study for safekeeping. Charged to return to Nathaniel after completing that task, Bartimaeus is with him when Mrs. Underwood calls the boy by his birth name "Nathaniel", thus awarding the djinni with ammunition against the young magician. The use of the birth name acts as a defense mechanism against corporal punishment. Nathaniel counteracts this with a Perpetual Confinement spell on a sealed tin of rosemary (agonising to spirits) which guarantees Bartimaeus' servitude for one month and the safety of Nathaniel. Later, Nathaniel is officially named as John Mandrake. That night John/Nathaniel accompanies the Underwoods to parliament in for the state address. Nathaniel witnesses a wild looking youth release an elemental sphere into the throng of magicians at the address which results in a large explosion of trapped elements; an attack of the Resistance.

Bartimaeus was further ordered to spy on Simon Lovelace and to discover all he can about his acquaintances and the Amulet of Samarkand. He disguises himself as a messenger imp, after accosting Lovelace's genuine messenger, and travels to Pinn's Accoutrements to learn of the amulet. Simpkin, Sholto Pinn's foliot assistant, reveals that the amulet had been under government protection before it had been stolen. Then Bartimaeus blows his cover, botches his escape and is detained in the Tower of London, preventing Nathaniel from summoning him. After he fails to clean up his room after an attempted summoning, Underwood discovers Nathaniel's covert operation and confiscates his summoning paraphernalia and notes detailing his plot against Lovelace. However, before he can examine these notes Underwood is called to the Tower of London so he may interrogate Bartimaeus (unbeknownst to Nathaniel). When he returns later, Nathaniel spies on him using the scrying glass but is caught by his master. Before his master can punish him Lovelace presents himself at the door and defers Underwood's attention.

Previously Bartimaeus had awoken in the Tower to be unsuccessfully interrogated by Sholto Pinn and Jessica Whitwell, the Minister of Security. Jabor and Faquarl assist Bartimaeus in escaping the Tower by proviso that he reveal the location of the amulet and his master. In order to protect his master, and thus avoid perpetual confinement, Bartimaeus refuses and escapes by igniting Faquarl who had become covered in car petrol. Bartimaeus unwittingly leads Lovelace's servants to the Underwood house when he escapes. Lovelace threatens Underwood with violence when Underwood expresses ignorance to the alleged theft of an artifact. After quailing under Lovelace's magical intimidations, Underwood leads Lovelace to his study where the amulet is discovered. Nathaniel then reveals himself as the thief in an act Bartimaeus deems suicidal. Underwood then betrays Nathaniel by encouraging Lovelace to kill the boy but let him live. In spite of this, Lovelace summons Jabor to destroy the house, Underwood, Mrs. Underwood and Nathaniel, yet Nathaniel survives thanks to the quick-witted Bartimaeus.

Instead of fleeing the country after escaping the fire, Nathaniel promises to seek revenge for his beloved Mrs. Underwood's death and forces Bartimaeus to help by reminding him of the rosemary tin should he betray him. An angered Bartimaeus threatens to kill him because either way he will end up in the tin and encourages Nathaniel to free him then and now, but resolves to try and keep him alive after Nathaniel promises to free him after this final task. Nathaniel meets by chance some members of the Resistance yet fails to infiltrate the group and furthermore has his scrying glass stolen. After this Nathaniel and Bartimaeus travel to Heddlehem Hall in order to stop Lovelace's plot against the government. The pair arrive disguised as a delicatessen and son and they see Farquarl present in the kitchen at the hall. Bartimaeus also attempts to kill the mysterious bearded mercenary who displays extraordinary resistance to magic and possess a pair of seven league boots, which grant him exceptional speed. Meanwhile Nathaniel is discovered by Lovelace and his master Schyler. After Lovelace leaves the room to set his plans in motion, Schyler offered Nathaniel an ultimatum: to join Lovelace in his new order or die. Nathaniel manages to kill Schyler using petty magical cubes and he and Bartimaeus arrive in time for the conference.

The room in which the Parliament commune is sealed shut both physically and magically. Nathaniel attempts to warn the seated magicians but is foiled by Jessica Whitwell, who places him in an impenetrable bubble. The extravagant Persian rug on the floor is pulled away mechanically to reveal an enormous pentacle. Lovelace then blows an ancient summoning horn and calls forth the immensely strong spirit Ramuthra who proceeds to warp reality on the seven planes and destroy the surrounding magicians and djinni. Jabor is summoned to destroy Bartimaeus but is tricked into flying toward Ramuthra and is destroyed in his destructive field. After this, Bartimaeus, disguised as Lovelace's girlfriend Amanda, distracts Lovelace and allows the amulet to be stolen. Ramuthra obliterates Lovelace. Nathaniel surprises Bartimaeus by knowing the experienced method of dismissal. In this climactic moment, the culmination of Nathaniel's disastrous experiences and thirst for knowledge are appeased when he speaks the words of dismissal and cracks the summoning horn. After Ramuthra disappears, Nathaniel dramatically limps over to the half buried form of the prime minister Rupert Devereaux and lies the Amulet in his hands. After recounting a modified version of events which belittles Bartimaeus' achievement, advocates the role of Mrs. Underwood and neglects the less admirable experiences, Nathaniel becomes the quiet hero of the government. The outside world remain ignorant of his heroic acts yet Nathaniel is satisfied with a true magician's lifestyle under a new master, Jessica Whitwell.

Finally, Nathaniel dismisses Bartimaeus with a mutual agreement that he will never summon Bartimaeus again and that Bartimaeus never reveal Nathaniel's birth name to other spirits and other magicians. Before he is dismissed, Bartimaeus attempts to warn Nathaniel against the typical road of a magician involving power-seeking behavior, materialism, and a general shallow existence, also adding that Nathaniel should beware of his new master. Bartimaeus tells Nathaniel that he has something other magicians lack, something that he should guard, a conscience. In spite of feelings that this attempt is in vain, his last thoughts are those of hope for his young master.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

Details about a film adaptation of The Amulet of Samarkand have been released. Miramax will finance the film, with John Madden directing and a screenplay by Hossein Amini.[1]


  • Aleks' interesting award 2004
  • A 2004 ALA Notable Book
  • A 2004 Best Books for Young Adults Top Ten Pick
  • A Bank Street 2004 Best Book of the Year
  • A Booklist Top 10 Fantasy Book for Youth 2004
  • A Booklist Top 10 Fantasy Book for Youth 2004


"One of the years best books, I am very pleased with aleks for writing such a masterpiece" -The Times "A darkly tantalizing tale." -Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"One of the liveliest and most inventive fantasies of recent years." -Booklist (starred review) "Adi's tale is a masterpiece for children I am sure everyone is pleased who bought this brilliant book" -Random reader


  1. ^ "Bartimaeus Trilogy: The Amulet Of Samarkand". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 


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