Tuesday, 15 February 2011

‘The Amulet of Samarkand’ – Jonathan Stroud & Andrew Donkin (Corgi)

What with one thing and another, I really wasn’t in the mood to push it reading wise over the weekend so fancied something light and relatively easy going instead. The comic books I normally read don’t fall into this category at all (I dare anyone to say that ‘The Walking Dead’ is a light and easy going read...) but I did happen to have a couple on the pile that looked like they could be worth a look while the baby was using me as a climbing frame...

I’d read Andrew Donkin’s adaptation of ‘The Arctic Incident’ back in March last year and enjoyed it enough to be on the lookout for more of his work. It turned out that my review ended up giving me the chance to have a look at a review copy of Donkin’s adaptation of ‘The Amulet of Samarkand’ as well and I couldn’t say no to that. As it turned out, ‘The Amulet of Samarkand’ was exactly the kind of light and easy going read that I was after but not an awful lot more than that...

In a modern day London (and what looks like an empire beyond it) controlled by magicians, apprentice magician Nathaniel is out for revenge and will stop at nothing to get it. What Nathaniel has in mind involves the summoning of five thousand year old djinni Bartimaeus for a campaign of revenge that will begin with the theft of the fabled amulet of Samarkand. What Nathaniel doesn’t know though is just what kind of a wizard he has chosen to take on in the vicious Simon Lovelace. The resulting feud will escalate throughout the corridors of Parliament itself and Bartimaeus is caught firmly in the middle...

I don’t normally do this but before I go on to talk about the book itself, I’m just going to say a couple of words about... erm... the book itself...
After a few pages my copy of ‘The Amulet of Samarkand’ suffered a sudden and violent case of pages starting to come away from the spine and I wasn’t so much reading the book as I was ‘holding it gingerly and hoping for the best’. A few more pages in and this stopped being a problem but it wasn’t as if I was being particularly rough on the book to start off with... I don’t know if this was a one off case so if you’re thinking about picking up a copy for yourself then you might want to have a quick flick through first and see if all the pages stay where they are meant to.

Once I got past this small issue I ended up really getting into and enjoying this adaptation of ‘The Amulet of Samarkand’; I haven’t read the original book but felt that this version told us all the important bits that we needed to know. Having said that though, it felt like this format couldn’t fit in everything that the original book did. I came away with the impression that there was a positive wealth of background history that there wasn’t room to showcase. You could say that this lends a nice sense of depth to the background setting but, at the same time, the story itself felt a little too lightweight with nothing to properly back it up. Reading from a more ‘adult’ perspective, I couldn’t quite buy the reasoning behind Nathaniel’s desire for revenge either. It seemed a little too petty to hang a whole story off although a young adult reader might totally get it.

Having said all that though, ‘The Amulet of Samarkand’ was still a lot of fun to read. The plot was a little too linear for my tastes but there is always something exciting going on (you know how it’s going to go but it’s great to look at) and it’s all vibrantly rendered by Lee Sullivan’s art and Nicolas Chapuis’ colours. This is a graphic novel that’s a joy to look at. Bartimaeus takes centre stage with a bucket load of self-confidence (bordering on arrogance) that had me rooting for him the whole way through with his refusal to let mortal danger get in the way of a good quip. You know what? I even found myself warming to Nathaniel in the end after some of the stuff that happens to him…

Despite some issues with the way the story is told, I couldn’t help but enjoy the exuberant way in which ‘The Amulet of Samarkand’ is presented here and that got me back into the story before I realised what was happening. Fans of the original book will probably enjoy it more than I did but it’s still a great little read for a Sunday afternoon.

Eight out of Ten

1 comment:

Peter Andrew Leonard said...

Great to see you do a review of this one, Graeme. I'm reading it now (it's kinda my washroom book...uh, probably TMI?lol)

I read and LOVED the original book (and series).