Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Ring of Solomon

by Jonathan Stroud
Hyperion, 2010. 398 pgs. Fiction

When the Bartimaeus trilogy ended with Ptolemy's Gate, didn't we think we would not see Bartimaeus again? We did. Thankfully, we were wrong. Set before the time (a meaningless construct to Bartimaeus) of the London trilogy, The Ring of Solomon finds the smart-mouth demon serving in the court of King Solomon where he is kicked off the temple-building project for sassing back while wearing the form of a hippopotamus in a skirt. Relegated to bandit-patrol in the desert he and a fellow-demon wipe out the robbers who have destroyed a caravan, but find a survivor whom the reader already knows as Asmira, sent by the Queen of Sheba to kill Solomon and steal his ring of power. But Bartimaeus thinks he might be able to be released to the Other Place if Asmira puts in a word for him with the creepy Khaba and his horrifying living shadow. Without revealing overmuch of a truly tempestuous plot, suffice it to say that Solomon is a different man than he seems to be, that Asmira becomes a much different person in the end than she is in the beginning, and that Bartimaeus, in spite of being yanked back and forth between spheres in breakneck fashion, overcomes impossible odds to fashion a deeply satisfying ending. Huzzah!

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