Author: Jonathon Stroud
Publication date: 7 October 2004
The plot: The second book in the Bartimaeus trilogy. Set in an alternate universe, the UK is run by magicians who have replaced politicians in government. Something is attacking the country and 14-year-old John Mandrake (also called Nathaniel), the assistant to one of the magicians, is given the job of finding out what is behind it. Is it the resistance or something much nastier?
The characters: Teenage wizard John Mandrake/Nathaniel, djinni Bartimaeus, commoner Kitty and her pals, lots of wizarding politicians and many other magical creatures - not all of them nice...
Highlights: Bartimaeus is very cool and clever and is always winding up Nathaniel, even though he has to do what he is ordered to do. Their mission twists and turns all over the place and takes the pair to Prague and back. Along the way they meet loads of magical creatures including giant stone monsters and a walking, talking skeleton. Kitty and her resistance friends are also good fun, and very brave.
Any weak bits?: Nathaniel really is very annoying and very wet at times for a leading character. It's also a bit difficult to remember which magical creature is which at times and who they're working for.
Unputdownable? Not quite, as at times in the middle it seems to drag, but once the skeleton turns up (and you'll know when it does) the action hots up towards a thrilling and surprising end.