Golem’s Eye by Jonathan Stroud

Two years after foiling Simon Lovelace’s plot to overthrow the government, Nathaniel is now a fast-rising minister in the Department of Internal Affairs. With the Prime Minister himself following his career with a keen and benevolent eye, it seems that Nathaniel’s bright future in government is assured. However, there are those who are jealous of his growing influence and who would like nothing more than to see him fail. Contemptuous colleagues wait only for the opportunity to discredit him.

Meanwhile, the Resistance continue to perform thefts and raids in their effort to to expose magicians as unfit to govern. Adding to the strange mix is a golem inflicting a series of terrifying attacks on the capital, a monster who may be under the control of a senior politician. Nathaniel finds himself being charged with the task of getting to the bottom of things to protect the government … and save his career at the same time.

Like its preceding volume in The Bartimaeus Trilogy, The Golem’s Eye is a fast-paced and entertaining read that is sure to delight Stroud’s growing army of fans. This time round, the narrative switches between three viewpoints and not just two: those of Nathaniel and Bartimaeus (as in the first book) and Kitty, a member of the Resistance. This makes for a more balanced brew.

The expansion of Kitty’s role (a character who made only a brief appearance in the first novel), is the main reason why I think this sequel is a better book than the original. The story is no longer told through the eyes of a magician and a creature of magic, but also through the eyes of a commoner and a female one at that. The Amulet of Samarkand, though an excellent start of the trilogy, suffered from not having a strong female character and a perspective outside the world of magicians and the elite. The Golem’s Eye addresses these flaws.

If Bartamaeus stole the limelight from Nathaniel in The Amulet of Samarkand, Kitty has the same effect in The Golem’s Eye. She develops into a more polished and likable character than Nathaniel as flashbacks into her past reveal the reasons behind her hatred of magicians and how she joined the Resistance. Her character arouses such poignancy that many readers will find themselves cheering for her and not Nathaniel by the end of the book.

Indeed, if there’s one criticism I can make on this sequel, it’s the fact that Nathaniel’s character becomes “just another magician” whose main aim in life is to amass great power and influence. On occasions, I became indifferent to what happened to him as I rushed through the chapters concerning him so that I could find out what happens next to Kitty.

Fans of Bartimaeus, however, will not be disappointed. He is as sharp-tongued and witty as ever and his footnotes – while they can disrupt the flow of the narrative – still have the power to send you laughing out loud. So you have been warned: don’t read this book in a places where being quiet is a requirement.

I sure hope Stroud is busy working hard on the third (and final) installment. I can’t wait to read it.

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