After the original Bartimaeus trilogy, based in present day, Jonathan Stroud treats us a prequel set in Solomon’s Jerusalem in some 4,000 BC. Of course, The Ring of Solomon centres around the sarcastic, cantankerous and quite funny djinn Bartimaeus.
The 3rd level djinn with unparalleled cunning is once again asked to save mankind and, due to the binds of his summons, reluctantly agrees to do so. This time he is under the service of the evil magician Khaba who has designs on getting his hands on Solomon’s all powerful ring to take control of Jerusalem and beyond.
Meanwhile, Asmira has been dispatched by the Queen of Sheba to kill Solomon over threats to her [the Queen’s] sovereignty. On her way she bumps into Bartimaeus and after a series of fast paced scenes fused with magical action and wonderful narrative, she is teamed up with the star djinn to carry out her mission. Which it turns out is a bit of a fiat undertaking.
The book is written with two narrative perspectives, Bartimaeus’, complete with his quite witty footnotes on each page, and Asmira’s. This is a formula Stroud used very well in his original trilogy when he paired the djinn with the boy magician Nathaniel for three books. As always, and bearing mind these are ostensibly children’s books, the language and pace are both very clear and easy to follow. Chapters are nice and short, averaging about ten pages and the story is captivating as Stroud fuses historical fact with his own version of magical reality.
This was a device which worked well in the original trilogy when Stroud speculated that Gladstone and his fellow premiers were all actually quite powerful magicians who had taken it upon themselves to protect and serve the ordinary human. In The Ring of Solomon magic is part of every day life for man, a very different story.
This is an excellent book and can be read standalone from the rest of the series thanks to the fact it is a prequel and therefore none of the backstory is required. Fans of the series will have been disappointed when it ended but equally they will be (as I am) delighted at this return to form and will await the next Bartimaeus book which must surely follow on from this. 9/10