Friday, 21 March 2008

Ptolemy's Gate

PTOLEMY’S GATE (Bartimaeus Trilogy, Volume 3) Jonathan Stroud, 2005, Doubleday, 515 pages, hardback NZ$45.00; Trade paperback NZ$29.95
ISBN 0-385-60616-8
[NZ agents: Random House Publication date: 21 Oct 2005]

Volume 3 of the Bartimaeus trilogy shows a remarkable reversal of fortunes. Young Nathan, once the nervous apprentice magician, is now the powerful Minister of Information in Rupert Deveraux’s government. Bartimaeus, his djinni servant (who rubbed shoulders with Solomon and gave footnotes to Faustus), is now so lacking in supernatural powers that he is trapped when a mere public toilet falls upon him. In Stroud’s dowdy dystopia of enchantment and empire, Britain is deadlocked in Europe and unable to budge the American rebels, while such resistance figures as Kitty Jones are gaining access to unexpected powers. Some have suggested that this very funny romp is more than just a glancing blow at Harry Potter; it is also an attack on Tony Blair’s spin-doctored administration, using kid wizards instead of whiz-kids. In that case, the identity of pompous playwright Quentin Makepeace, who turns the Prime Minister’s life into a musical, should be easy to decipher. Meanwhile Nathan and Bartimaeus are forced to join forces (quite literally) for a dazzling climax, which still leaves scope for a story of Kitty’s future set in this very entertaining universe.

Trevor Agnew

This review was first published in The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand on 16th December 2005.

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