– By Meghana Mavathur (2nd Year, Civil)
The Bartimaeus trilogy is a fantasy series written by Jonathan Stroud, comprising of 3 books published in series from 2003 to 2005. A prequel was written for the series in 2010.
The series follows the journey of 3 major characters and narrates the story through their perspective. The first of these characters is the namesake of the series, Bartimaeus himself. Bartimaeus is a djinni of middle-ranking power, whose scalding sarcasm and rapier wit make this series a must read. One of the most exquisitely created characters in recent times, he blurs the lines between humour and pathos and keeps the reader enthralled right through the series. It helps that he’s over 5,000 years old and all those years of experience contribute to his sheer sense of snobbishness and self-appreciation. These lines aptly give us an idea of his character, his vice, virtue, hamartia, hubris and starkly scanty humility.
“I am Bartimaeus! I am Sakhr al-Jinni, N’gorso the Mighty, and the Serpent of Silver Plumes! I have rebuilt the walls of Uruk, Karnak, and Prague. I have spoken with Solomon. I have run with the buffalo fathers of the plains. I have watched over Old Zimbabwe till the stones fell and the jackals fed on its people. I am Bartimaeus! I recognize no master. So I charge you in your turn, boy. Who are you to summon me?”
Then there’s Nathaniel, who is such a finely crafted character that the reader is effectively played so that he roots for Nathaniel right from the beginning, right through his steady but unwavering deterioration as a positive protagonist, till the point where Nathaniel returns to his former ‘true’ self, and the reader whoops in joy. This triumphant elation lasts for a very short time, but we’ll get there.
Then there’s Kitty. Kitty makes for the perfect balance. Her presence is more powerful as a contrasted voice of historical metaphor, balanced with Bartimaeus and Nathaniel, rather than an isolated voice of revolution. Some books are just impossible to put down. They make you stay and marvel at the magnificence of the plot or just the sheer genius of the author. This is one such series. Being a die-hard fan of the Potter series, it isn’t easy for me to say this, but in my opinion, this series is the better one, arguably the best specimen of the fantasy genre. The brilliantly laid out plot, the historically and eerily prophetic use of symbolism and metaphorical, rather alternative realities, satiates the intellectual capacities of the reader. The stark and sheer humour of Bartimaeus literally never ceases right through the series, always making the reader laugh. Finally, this series, in my opinion, has the best climax of any fantasy series that I’ve ever read. While I was overjoyed like anyone else that Harry lives at the end of the seventh book, Nathaniel’s death at the end of the third book adds that much more credibility and realism to the series. The realism of Jonathan Stroud’s writing is hard to match in other fantasy works. As a work of fantasy, humour, political intrigue and drama, this series score top marks.