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The Bartimaeus Sequence has a small, but loyal fan base that has stuck with the series for many years and will continue to do so for many more years I suspect.
Last year I was part of a fan zine, a collection of stories and pictures put together by fans to celebrate a series. I submitted two character study stories to explore those minor, but important, characters in greater detail. I first read this book series at age ten, and just a few weeks before I turned twenty-two, I still felt the passion to write two entire short stories for this series within a week. The series is clearly dear to my heart.
I was not the only one, as the 2019 Bartimaeus Sequence Fanzine Millennia has over 100 pages of fan made content. There is now a Japan-based one in the making after seeing the success of the American/English one. Despite nearly a decade since the last book was published, the fans still keep coming back with the same passion they started with.
I could write pages about the themes, style and layers to this book series, but for now I am going to sell you on picking up the books themselves.
“Your main characters are a politician, a terrorist, and demon.”
This is a common joke among fans and I would say this is one of the compelling forces towards the series for readers. The Bartimaeus Sequence is a book series considered for children, not even YA, but the characters display a moral gray area not often found in literature for children. As a child, these characters catch your attention as for the first time you do not have a simple answer to the good vs bad guy situation.
Nathaniel, the main human male lead and politician, arguably becomes more of a villain as his involvement with revenge and politics grows deeper after a childhood of abuse. Kitty, the terrorist, fights a corrupt government who let one of their politicians hurt her and disfigure a friend as children. Kitty hurts innocents along the way and is hardly effective in her ways.
Then you have Bartimaeus, our demon and titular character, who has been involved in wars, assassinations and numerous other historical events. Bartimaeus is also a slave from a species who is scared of forming connections due to how likely it will end badly. The species tries to survive a world that hurts them to exist in. That is in the literal sense, being summoned to earth is psychically painful for the demons.
As a young child who was used to the easy black and white character predictions of Harry Potter where basically every Slytherin was a guaranteed villain, this was fascinating. The characters were complex and you could not simply label them as good or bad. They had their reasons, their flaws and their good parts that were questioned and examined.
The Artemis Fowl series has a similar catch, but I will say I never found those books to foster the same desire in me to reread them. Every time I read the Bartimaeus Sequence I find a new layer that the younger and less worldly me had bypassed in naivety. Commentary on imperialism, revolution, history and politics that my 10-year-old self missed is blatantly obvious to the 22 year old me. It leaves me wondering if in another 10 years, the 32-year-old me will have a different view.
Despite The Bartimaeus Sequence seemingly being aimed at children, it is a series with a lot to say about the world and the powers that be. It is truly a series I would suggest for a fantasy lover of any age. From a Gen Z who might miss the greater picture but will love the sarcastic voice of Bartimaeus and his amusing footnotes, to a Millenial who will eat up the commentary on the socio-political views of the world and history – this is a recommendation you should not pass up.
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