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The Golem's Eye: The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 2    by Jonathan Stroud order for
Golem's Eye
by Jonathan Stroud
Order:  USA  Can
Miramax, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Djinni Bartimaeus is back ... along with boy magician Nathaniel (aka 'John Mandrake'), and Resistance fighter, commoner Kitty Jones. Though she only had a minor role in The Amulet of Samarkand, Kitty deserves her star billing this time around. Series narrator Bartimaeus has been around for millennia, and shares that perspective with readers when he tells us about his role (on the losing side) in the 1868 conquest of Prague by the British under Gladstone. The djinni's enslavement by wizards down through the ages has left him with a delightfully smart-aleck voice, which he expresses in footnotes, such as the one that tells us that 'Comparing masters is rather like comparing facial spots'.

As this episode opens, Nathaniel rides high in the magical elite of London society. He's mentored by Security Head Jessica Whitwell, and has a job in her Internal Affairs department, tracking down the Resistance. Though Nathaniel gave Bartimaeus his word to leave him in peace after the previous adventure, he quickly calls the demon into service again after a 'boiling cloud of darkness' creates mayhem in Piccadilly, the Resistance is blamed, and Nathaniel is pressed for results. In the meantime, we learn Kitty's backstory. A wizard's draconian retaliation after a childish accident left her best friend Jakob burned and disfigured. It also led to Kitty's realization of her immunity to magical spells (at least the weaker ones) and brought her into a Resistance cell that has been stealing magical objects and attacking wizards and their property.

At Nathaniel's bidding, Bartimaeus goes up against the marauder, in the guise of minotaur and cat, identifying it as a 'giant man of animated clay ... with the strength to rip down walls', in other words a 'golem'. The monster is manipulated by an unknown wizard through a carved piece of clay, the 'golem's eye'. Nathaniel and his djinni are dispatched to Prague, where golems were last invoked. There, they meet with a morbid British spy named Harlequin, and barely escape with life (in the djinni's case 'essence') and limb after an encounter with an old enemy from the first episode. While they have their foreign adventure, Kitty's crowd become tombraiders, on the advice of a mysterious 'scholar' named Mr. Hopkins. Unfortunately the sarcophagus they open has a guardian, a powerful 'afrit' maddened by its long entombment. Soon, it's loosed on an unsuspecting London, creating carnage as it hunts Kitty and the item that she took above ground as she fled.

Under increasing pressure from his ambitious, self-serving masters, Nathaniel also seeks Kitty. The pair meet again, amidst plots and counter-plots. Along the way, Bartimaeus teaches Kitty some handy history, and Nathaniel feels tiny twinges of conscience. As the episode closes, we see Kitty making plans, and Nathaniel, rich and powerful but also 'friendless and alone', dismissing Bartimaeus, who's surprisingly taking on somewhat of a Jiminy Cricket role with the boy magician. The Golem's Eye was just as good as the first book in this brilliant series and I can't wait for the final episode, which I assume will involve 'the American rebels'.

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