THE GOLEM’S EYE, Jonathan Stroud, 562pages, $8.99
Nathaniel is gliding the winds of success. He has saved the Prime Minister and other government higher ups from death, (it would appear singlehandedly). And now, with everyone hailing his brilliance and the Prime Minister taking great interest in his future, his glider to new heights has been given a set of jets.
Everything about his new life is exciting. He has a new master, the highly important and very powerful Jessica Whitwell. He lives in an apartment of his own, located in her town house that overlooks the river Thames. And at not quite fifteen years of age, he has an office of his own as assistant to the head of the Department for Internal Affairs. He’s feeling cocky in his tight suit, pointy shoes and rock star hair. He’s even tempted to put his feet up on his desk just to rub it into the eyes of the office naysayers.
But the government has a problem. Rebels headed by Kitty, a one time acquaintance of Nathaniel’s, are creating problems all over London. Though it’s his job to route them out, he hasn’t gotten very far. Now it appears they have gone beyond the imaginable, destroying three shops and killing innocents. His boss and master Miss Whitwell makes it icily clear to him that unfortunate things happen to department heads who embarass the Prime Minister. This is the world of Magicians after all. They don’t just stop at firing someone to get the point across.
Only a matter of life and death could force Nathaniel to summon up the biggest pain in the demon world, the proud and prickly Bartimaeus. It will take some dealing and flawlessly worded contractual spells of course: Bartimaeus is a tricky demon, and he has the goods on Nathaniel; but Nathaniel drives a hard bargain of his own.
Naturally there’s plenty of political intrigue, duplicity and murder to keep the plot moving. But it is always the demon Bartimaeus that can cause the reader to miss train stops and forego lunch. His wry wit and self-aggrandizement in the face of his own cowardice makes for good comedy. He makes an art out of turning his failures into virtues. But despite his numerous failings, he also conceals a heightened sense of decency that makes his character all the more interesting and endearing.
Jonathan Stroud has a wicked sense of humor with perfect British timing. Though written for young audiences, The Golem’s Eye has a sophistication that begs to be enjoyed by adult readers as well. Look, we all need a good laugh these days. This book delivers at least one on just about every other page and will keep you smiling in between those. Four stars out of five.