Sarcastic djinni returns in ‘Ring of Solomon’

Djinnis are a tricky lot. You wish for beauty, you get turned into a flower.

Bartimaeus is not above such tricks, especially if it means being released from his master. The demon makes no apologies for his behavior, instead trying to lure his master into a mistake any way he can, even if it means shapeshifting into a beautiful woman to tempt a magician out of his protective pentacle.

“Great Jehovah, Bartimaeus! You don’t think that’s going to work on me?”

My eyelashes quivered beguilingly. “I’ll dance too, if you’ll only step a little closer. Come on, spoil yourself. I’ll do the Twirl of the Seven Veils.”

The magician spoke with irritation. “No, thank you. And you can stop that, too.”

“Stop what?”

“That … that jiggling about.”

Of course, few magicians are foolish enough to fall for such illusions. Bartimaeus knows as much but just can’t help himself. His mischievous nature is just part of his character, and he’s a character who has become beloved by author Jonathan Stroud’s fans.

Stroud began Bartimaeus’ story with a trilogy, “The Amulet of Samarkand,” “The Golem’s Eye” and “Ptolemy’s Gate,” which followed the djinni’s adventures with his master Nathaniel. Now the clever demon returns in a prequel, “The Ring of Solomon.”

Bartimaeus has been summoned by the corrupt magician Khaba to work on the temple of King Solomon, who rules 950 B.C. Jerusalem through the power of a magic ring. Bartimaeus’ cheeky nature quickly lands him in trouble and he’s forced to hunt for bandits in the desert. It is there that he crosses paths with a young woman named Asmira, a warrior on assignment for the Queen of Sheba, whose land has been threatened by the king.

Usually Bartimaeus has little use for humans, but he sees something special in Asmira. Little does the djinni know that they share a common enemy — not that such matters carry much weight with demons. But as Asmira’s mission becomes clear, Bartimaeus ends up having no choice but to help her, a chore he’s sure will land him in the fatal Dismal Flame.

“The Ring of Solomon” is a welcome addition to a series of books fans surely thought was finished. Bartimaeus is a memorable character, whose wit and cleverness will endear him to readers. The fast-paced story, filled with Bartimaeus’ snarky footnotes, stands on its own for those unfamiliar with the series. But once they get a taste, I’m sure they’ll be back for more.

It’s good to see you again Bartimaeus. Hope you come back again soon.

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