The book is set in a London where magic is commonplace; in fact the whole Government is comprised of magicians. Nathaniel is a young apprentice to one of these ministers, Arthur Underwood. Due to an incident a year previously Nathaniel wants to seek revenge on another powerful magician, Simon Lovelace. Nathaniel summons the djinni Bartimaeus and bids him to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelaceâ€™s house. Unfortunately this is a powerful Amulet which Lovelace will do anything to find and is the start of Nathanielâ€™s problems.
The theme that runs through the book is power; an individual magicianâ€™s power and what heâ€™ll do to get it and the power the magicianâ€™s have over the â€˜commonâ€™ people. I am sure this second theme will be continued in the sequel as there was several questions left unanswered.
I have to admit that I found this difficult to get into at first, which I found surprising as itâ€™s a childrenâ€™s fantasy book, which I tend to enjoy. It was probably to because the point of view changes (it is either Bartimaeus in the first person or Nathaniel in the third person) and that in the beginning events were written linearly; however about 100 pages in I was hooked.
I look forward to reading the sequel, The Golemâ€™s eye, but would recommend the Artemis Fowl books before this one as I found them easier to read and funnier.