Fun, Historical and Fanciful | Review of ‘The Ring of Solomon’ (Bartimaeus 0.5)


By Cynthia Ayala

The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud
Disney Hyperion
Image Credit: Goodreads

“It is 950 B.C.E., and King Solomon rules Jerusalem with a steely hand; a hand on which gleams a magic ring of immense and unforgiving power. Solomon has just begun work on his marvelous temple, charging Khaba, a formidable magician in his royal court, to oversee its construction. The workforce is an ill-behaved bunch of demons, a particularly unruly djinni named Bartimaeus among them. True to form, Bartimaeus promptly gets kicked off the temple project and assigned the even more miserable task of hunting bandits in the desert. There he crosses paths with Asmira, a highly skilled and loyal captain of the Queen of Sheba’s guard, on a suicidal mission to save her country from Solomon’s imminent attack. Of course, Bartimaeus has no intention of helping her. That is, until Asmira makes him an offer he cannot refuse. A spellbinding addition to Jonathan Stroud’s New York Timesbestselling Bartimaeus audiobooks, The Ring of Solomon brims with dazzling wit, unforgettable characters, and powerful themes of freedom and slavery, with or without magical bonds.”—Goodreads

Published November 2, 2010 by Disney Hyperion, The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud is a prequel to his bestselling fantasy series about a wise-cracking djinni and his dealings with humans.

Who does not love this mischievous djinni, will all his cheek and his hilarious footnotes? Stroud has done it again, with his masterful storytelling that incorporates mythology, history, and magic in this tale about King Solomon and his all-powerful ring. Much like with the previous novels in the series, the novel continues to be both entertaining and fast-paced. It is such an easy read even though it goes back and forth between character perspectives and also includes zany footnotes. Footnotes by themselves can get a little annoying and tend to have a textbook feel to them that usually distracts the reader. However, Stroud is masterful in his adaption of them. He makes them work and serve the story quite well. They add humor to the story and give a deeper insight into Bartimaeus’s personality. Moreover, the story and footnotes add history to Bartimaeus; history fans will appreciate which explores so many references made in the original trilogy. That is not to say one needs to read one to understand the other, but it does give the reader just a little more fulfillment, if only because Bartimaeus is a fantastic character.

There is also a shift in narrative that is executed so well. Bartimaeus is the central-most character in the novel, so his perspective is written in the first person. Again, this is another reason he footnotes work so well because they are written in the same tone. However, the other perspectives in the novel, are written in the third person. This stylization allows the story to move so well and build the narrative, ultimately intermingling these three perspectives to make a cohesive plot line.

As far as characters go, Asmira is slightly more likable than Kitty ever was, her personality is a little more vibrant, and her character growth is unmistakable. For the most part, Asmira is a stoic character, but something is charming about her. She is straightforward in her goals, but ultimately, as secrets are revealed, and after spending so much eye-opening time with Bartimaeus, the way her character questions herself and her queen is terrific. She grows, more than Kitty ever seemed to, but not as much as Nathaniel did. The story is more relaxed as it opens up a new tale about everyone’s favorite snarky djinni. Sure the tension is still there, but this novel is no Ptolemy’s Gate (which was so sad and beautiful that it left me crying, for the record). It has a lightness to it even while it deals with themes such as slavery. That has always been an underlying theme of the series, as djinni are snatched from their mystical plane and forced into servitude. Despite that though, Stroud knows how to make the readers smile and laugh, and that is amazing.

The Ring of Solomon is a novel that makes the readers eager for more. More writing and storytelling, but more importantly, more Bartimaeus. The concept that went into creating this series and this character was so unique, balance the darkness and the lightness so well, making this a novel for all readers, no matter their age. (★★★★☆ | A)

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Product Details:

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2010

Page count: 398pp

Age Range: 9 & Over

ISBN: 978-1-4231-2372-9

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

List Price:  $17.99

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