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The Golem's Eye - Jonathan Stroud

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Author: Jonathan Stroud / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 28 October 2010 / Genre: Children's Fantasy & Magical Realism / Publisher: Random House Children's Publishers UK / Title: The Golem's Eye / ISBN 13: 9780552562812 / ISBN 10: 0552562812 / Alternative EAN: 9780552550277

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      19.03.2009 19:20
      Very helpful



      Hunting the Golem with Nathaniel and Bartimaeus!

      I was browsing the books in charity shop recently when I saw a book which appealed because of the evil looking skeleton on the front cover, I am reading a lot of horror novels at the moment and even without reading the blurb on the back cover of The Golem's Eye it looked exciting and interesting.

      It wasn't until I started reading that I realised this is more a fantasy book than horror, and not a good one either in my opinion. I hadn't realised that it's actually a book for older children, I had been expecting an adults horror novel but instead was left reading a strangely written novel featuring back chatting demons and an England ruled by magicians.

      Let me explain a little, Nathaniel is a fourteen year old magician who has been given a top government job hunting down a group of commoners who have formed a small but destructive band of rebels. They have been amassing a collection of magical weapons, stolen from magicians across the capital, they have become adept at using the less impressive weapons as they have no magical skills themselves and use them to attack magicians.

      Any magician worth his salt will be able to summon a mythical being to help in their day to day life, even the most lowly can enlist an imps help but Nathaniel is more accomplished than this and is master to a powerful Djinni called Bartimaeus.

      The Golem is a creature which has been summoned and rather than the story involving him too much the plot twists around Nathaniel's hunt for the magician behind the Golem. Nathaniel is a very irritating character, as are all of them in the novel to be honest with you. He is so young that it's completely obvious that such a young child cannot possibly be in charge of a government agency, he wouldn't be able to command adults and demons to the extent he does and he is just an extremely unbelievable character. I cannot even see that he would appeal to the age group of children that this book is written for as he's obnoxious and generally unpleasant.

      His demon is worse, while not spiteful like Nathaniel he's one of those wise cracking characters whose every sentence is punctuated with a satirical one liner. This became tiring within the first twenty pages and I soon began to dread the arrival of Bartimaeus, luckily for me he isn't in every single chapter as I think I would have put the book down so irritating is this. He is incapable of taking anything seriously, even when in mortal danger Bartimaeus attempts humour and to me it didn't really suit the story.

      The telling of the story is done through three characters; Nathaniel, Bartimaeus and Kitty, a member of the Resistance that Nathaniel also has a long time grudge against. The reader doesn't become aware of what the problem is between the young magician and Kitty until very late on in the story, and to be honest by then it's largely immaterial as other more exciting plot lines overwhelm this fact.

      I find the writing style to be rather irritating too as the chapters told by Bartimaeus are told in the first person, which I don't mind as long as this narrative is written well. Unfortunately it's not and this is made worse by the huge amount of footnotes on practically every page of Bartimaeus' narration. Footnotes are fine when used properly but most of these are completely irrelevant to the story, and some are obviously just footnote for footnote sake because the entire text could have quite easily been slotted into the story proper without all the need for looking for the corresponding numbered footnote. Also the sheer length of the footnotes got on my nerves, at least two of them covering half of a page which is ridiculously long in my opinion for a fiction novel.

      Kitty is the best character in my opinion, but even so I wasn't overly keen. She has a resistance to magic which makes her powerful in her own right as she is less easily thwarted by the magicians and their demons. She is quite a strong character although I wasn't convinced by how she seemed to flow from situation to situation with very little character development, or even much detail as to how she has found herself in particular circumstances throughout the story. She doesn't form relationships easily since a childhood attack by a magician left her friend badly scarred, I get the impression she doesn't like people in general although this avenue isn't explored as well as I would have liked.

      The story itself is fairly interesting, The Golem's Eye is aimed at children of a similar age to those who read Harry Potter or the Garth Nix fantasy novels but it has a darker feel and a more grown up storyline. If Golems, demons and imps can be considered grown up that is! I found it more entertaining than the two Harry Potter books I read, but I did find myself skimming through chapters at times when I lost interest in the current plot twist. The Golem didn't feature in the book as much as I thought it would, even though they were hunting for it there were so many other little story lines going on that I quite forgot about this creature for chapters at a time.

      I quickly realised that The Golem's Eye is part of a series of books featuring Nathaniel and Bartimaeus, this can be read as a stand alone book but there are lots and lots of references to their previous adventures which grated on me after a while as I couldn't keep up with the in-jokes. I think your reading experience would definitely be enriched by reading the previous novels if you like this kind of story, although personally I won't be looking for any more Jonathan Stroud books. I shall pass this on to my twelve year old granddaughter as she might enjoy it being a Harry Potter fan. Myself I found absolutely everything about this novel irritating and annoying, from the uninspired beginning to the glib and rather sudden ending.

      I'm sorry but I just didn't enjoy it at all, it's wasn't a horrendously bad book just not really my cup of tea at all. The story was lacking in atmosphere in my opinion and didn't have interesting enough characters to fall back on when the storyline finally got so boring that I couldn't wait for the book to end.

      You can buy a copy on Amazon for around £5, I feel rather glad that I paid just 30p for it as any more would have grieved me so little did I enjoy the read. Having said that, I am quite obviously not in the target audience that this book was written for and although I can't see the appeal at all I dare say this is one of those novels which would become popular among certain groups of young people - and if it's anything like Harry Potter I'll bet a fair few adults have been spotted with a copy of The Golem's Eye on the train!


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