In the year 1899, nearly simultaneous events bring two wildly different beings of old-world magic to the new world and send them searching for the meaning of their existence, just like millions of other lonely, homesick immigrants on the shores of 20th-century America.
This week’s Author Takeover explores the power of an ancient, elemental kind of magic that forms the background to our understanding of magical worlds today. After all, there would be no “Avada Kedavra” without “Abra Kedabra” and no magic words at all without the Djinni of old. Alywn Hamilton, author of the brand new YA novel “Rebel of the Sands”, writes about her journey through “Potter” and how it helped to release the genie of fantasy novels to a new generation of readers.
Some trilogies are open-ended. When the author decides to add a fourth book to it, we start to call it the So-and-So Quartet. Since fans of a series are unlikely to regret the arrival of a new installment, this sort of thing is usually embarrassing only to publishers who have invested money in packaging the first three books as the So-and-So Trilogy, and to unsparingly critical readers who notice (sometimes) that the fourth book isn’t quite as good. But what do we do when a trilogy comes to a very definite, final end—like, for example, the Bartimaeus Trilogy, whose human protagonist John Mandrake made the final sacrifice at the end of book three? (Oops. Spoilers!) How does the author get away with adding a fourth book to the series? It’s easy, actually. He makes it a prequel. And he makes it good.
In Book 3 of the “Bartimaeus” trilogy, a seventeen-year-old magician named Nathaniel, though he calls himself John Mandrake, has clawed his way nearly to the top of a world of (sometimes literally) backstabbing ambition. It’s an alternate-history version of present-day Britain, where magicians are the ruling class and the non-magical “commoners” toil in conditions not far above slavery.
If a boxed set of “Harry Potter” were to fall through the looking-glass, what came out the other side might be a lot like the “Bartimaeus Trilogy”, of which this is Book 2. The fantasy world in this series is somewhat of a bizarro, backward-land version of Harry’s wizarding world, which forms a secret enclave within the present-day world of us ordinary muggles. In Bartimaeus’ world, the British empire is openly run by magicians, while the majority of the population—dismissively called “commoners”—toils in a condition not far above slavery.
Book Five of “Children of the Lamp” continues the series’ ABC-order sequence of titles. Brought to you by the letter E, it’s such a fun book that you’ll hope the pattern holds through all 26 letters of the alphabet. In this installment, teenage djinn twins John and Philippa Gaunt visit the moist, mysterious rain forest of the Peruvian Amazon, together with their resourceful Uncle Nimrod, his ex-thief butler Groanin, and other friends—including, naturally, one who is a traitor.