Saturday, April 25, 2009

Reading in the gloom!

With all the tasks that I had to do today what a shock it was that the one that I completed was reading the book!

The book in question was ‘The Golem’s Eye’ by Jonathan Stroud, the second volume in ‘The Bartimaeus Trilogy.’

On the back of Harry Potter in that it postulates a Britain in which magic is an everyday occurrence the twist here is that the magicians are in control in a Britain whose history includes Gladstone as an Empire founding master magician who leads an army in a battle royal against the Czech Empire.

The ostensible hero of this volume (and presumably the first volume too) is a young magician called Nathaniel who is accompanied on his adventures by his reluctant djin Bartimaeus. The non-magical heroine is Kitty and the interplay between Nathaniel and Kitty is a continuation of the tension which had been established in volume 1.

The Imperial Britain postulated in ‘The Golem’s Eye’ is one in which society is fairly rigidly stratified with the magicians being the ruling class and the non magical section of society (the commoners) being relegated to the more menial jobs within society and generally living the life of an under-class. The magicians are shown as arrogant with all the corruption of power.

The action of the novel is taken up with the activities of the Resistance and the intrusion into the orderly society of the magician dominated society of Britain of disruptive magical features. The upper echelons of the magicians are riven with an unseemly display of infighting as the minsters in government jockey for position.

This is a long novel which is packed with action and a sometimes bewildering collection of magical creatures of whom the most interesting by far is the djin Bartimaeus whose enforced subservience to his magician master Nathaniel is characterised by a wittily resentful dialogue where his own cowardice is engagingly presented!

All the major characters with whom we are encouraged to identify are flawed and the social tensions in this magical society are presented with some complexity. ‘Real’ history is tantalizingly spun to provide a convincing backdrop to social comment.

The cyclical nature of society and the inevitable decline of over-reaching empires add piquancy to the conflict between all sections of society. It’s also a damn good adventure story in which the many elements are handled with confidence and produce a gripping and engaging narrative.

I look forward to the other volumes in the series, but I do not see the style as something which will be useful for the pupils in my charge.

Another grey day. It seems particularly cruel that the week should be fine and only the weekend dull.

Perhaps it is an incentive for me to complete my tasks!
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