The Amulet of Samarkand


By Jonathan Stroud

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around December 13, 2011. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Nathaniel is a magician’s apprentice, taking his first lessons in the arts of magic. But when a devious hot-shot wizard named Simon Lovelace ruthlessly humiliates Nathaniel in front of his elders, Nathaniel decides to kick up his education a few notches and show Lovelace who’s boss. With revenge on his mind, he summons the powerful djinni, Bartimaeus. But summoning Bartimaeus and controlling him are two different things entirely, and when Nathaniel sends the djinni out to steal Lovelace’s greatest treasure, the Amulet of Samarkand, he finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of magical espionage, murder, and rebellion.



The Screaming Staircase

The Amulet of Samarkand
Ptolemy’s Gate
The Ring of Solomon

The Amulet of Samarkand Graphic Novel

Buried Fire
The Leap
The Last Siege
Heroes of the Valley

About the Endnotes

Bartimaeus is famous for making snarky asides and boastful claims, which you can find in this book's endnotes. To access his comments as you are reading the story, click on the highlighted superscript number and the page will turn to the corresponding note. To return to where you were reading, click on the same number in the endnotes section. This feature works on most devices.

Text copyright © 2003 by Jonathan Stroud

Excerpt from The Golem’s Eye text copyright © 2004 by Jonathan Stroud

Excerpt from The Screaming Staircase text copyright © 2013 by Jonathan Stroud, illustrations copyright © 2013 by Kate Adams

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion Books for Children, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690.

ISBN 978-1-4231-4146-4


For Gina


The temperature of the room dropped fast. Ice formed on the curtains and crusted thickly around the lights in the ceiling. The glowing filaments in each bulb shrank and dimmed, while the candles that sprang from every available surface like a colony of toadstools had their wicks snuffed out. The darkened room filled with a yellow, choking cloud of brimstone, in which indistinct black shadows writhed and roiled. From far away came the sound of many voices screaming. Pressure was suddenly applied to the door that led to the landing. It bulged inward, the timbers groaning. Footsteps from invisible feet came pattering across the floorboards and invisible mouths whispered wicked things from behind the bed and under the desk.

The sulfur cloud contracted into a thick column of smoke that vomited forth thin tendrils; they licked the air like tongues before withdrawing. The column hung above the middle of the pentacle, bubbling ever upward against the ceiling like the cloud of an erupting volcano. There was a barely perceptible pause. Then two yellow staring eyes materialized in the heart of the smoke.

Hey, it was his first time. I wanted to scare him.

And I did, too. The dark-haired boy stood in a pentacle of his own, smaller, filled with different runes, three feet away from the main one. He was pale as a corpse, shaking like a dead leaf in a high wind. His teeth rattled in his shivering jaw. Beads of sweat dripped from his brow, turning to ice as they fell through the air. They tinkled with the sound of hailstones on the floor.

All well and good, but so what? I mean, he looked about twelve years old. Wide-eyed, hollow-cheeked. There’s not that much satisfaction to be had from scaring the pants off a scrawny kid.1

So I floated and waited, hoping he wasn’t going to take too long to get round to the dismissing spell. To keep myself occupied, I made blue flames lick up around the inner edges of the pentacle, as if they were seeking a way to get out and nab him. All hokum, of course. I’d already checked and the seal was drawn well enough. No spelling mistakes anywhere, unfortunately.

At last it looked as if the urchin was plucking up the courage to speak. I guessed this by a stammering about his lips that didn’t seem to be induced by pure fear alone. I let the blue fire die away, to be replaced by a foul smell.

The kid spoke. Very squeakily.

“I charge you…to…to…” Get on with it! “T-t-tell me your n-name.”

That’s usually how they start, the young ones. Meaningless waffle. He knew, and I knew that he knew, my name already; otherwise how could he have summoned me in the first place? You need the right words, the right actions, and most of all the right name. I mean, it’s not like hailing a cab—you don’t get just anybody when you call.

I chose a rich, deep, dark chocolaty sort of voice, the kind that resounds from everywhere and nowhere and makes the hairs stand up on the back of inexperienced necks.


I saw the kid give a strangled kind of gulp when he heard the word. Good—then he wasn’t entirely stupid; he knew who and what I was. He knew my reputation.

After taking a moment to swallow some accumulated phlegm, he spoke again. “I-I charge you again to answer. Are you that B-Bartimaeus who in olden times was summoned by the magicians to repair the walls of Prague?”

What a time waster this kid was. Who else would it be? I upped the volume a bit on this one. The ice on the light bulbs cracked like caramelized sugar. Behind the dirty curtains the window glass shimmered and hummed. The kid rocked back on his heels.

“I am Bartimaeus! I am Sakhr al-Jinni, N’gorso the Mighty, and the Serpent of Silver Plumes! I have rebuilt the walls of Uruk, Karnak, and Prague. I have spoken with Solomon. I have run with the buffalo fathers of the plains. I have watched over Old Zimbabwe till the stones fell and the jackals fed on its people. I am Bartimaeus! I recognize no master. So I charge you in your turn, boy. Who are you to summon me?”

Impressive stuff, eh? All true as well, which gives it more power. And I wasn’t just doing it to sound big. I rather hoped the kid would be blustered by it into telling me his name in return, which would give me something to go on when his back was turned.2 But no luck there.

“By the constraints of the circle, the points on the pentacle, and the chain of runes, I am your master! You will obey my will!”

There was something particularly obnoxious about hearing this old shtick coming from a weedy stripling, and in such a foolish high voice too. I bit back the temptation to give him a piece of my mind and intoned the usual response. Anything to get it over with quickly.

“What is your will?”

I admit I was already surprised. Most tyro magicians look first and ask questions later. They go window-shopping, eyeing up their potential power, but are far too nervous to try it out. You don’t often get small ones like this squirt calling up entities like me in the first place, either.

The kid cleared his throat. This was the moment. This is what he’d been building up to. He’d been dreaming of this for years, when he should have been lying on his bed thinking about racing cars or girls. I waited grimly for the pathetic request. What would it be? Levitating some object was a usual one, or moving it from one side of the room to the other. Perhaps he’d want me to conjure an illusion. That might be fun: there was bound to be a way of misinterpreting his request and upsetting him.3

“I charge you to retrieve the Amulet of Samarkand from the house of Simon Lovelace and bring it to me when I summon you at dawn tomorrow.”

“You what?”

“I charge you to retrieve—”

“Yes, I heard what you said.” I didn’t mean to sound petulant. It just slipped out, and my sepulchral tones slipped a bit too.

“Then go!”

“Wait a minute!” I felt that queasy sensation in my stomach that you always get when they dismiss you. Like someone sucking out your insides through your back. They have to say it three times to get rid of you, if you’re keen on sticking around. Usually you’re not. But this time I remained where I was, two glowing eyes in an angry fug of boiling smoke.

“Do you know what you are asking for, boy?”

“I am neither to converse, discuss, nor parley with you; nor to engage in any riddles, bets, or games of chance; nor to—”

“I have no wish to converse with a scrawny adolescent, believe you me, so save your rote-learned rubbish. Someone is taking advantage of you. Who is it—your master, I suppose? A wizened coward hiding behind a boy.” I let the smoke recede a little, exposed my outlines for the first time, hovering dimly in the shadows. “You are playing with fire twice over, if you seek to rob a true magician by summoning me. Where are we? London?”

He nodded.Yes, it was London all right. Some grotty town house. I surveyed the room through the chemical fumes. Low ceiling, peeling wallpaper; a single faded print on the wall. It was a somber Dutch landscape—a curious choice for a boy. I’d have expected pop chicks, football players….Most magicians are conformists, even when young.

“Ah, me…” My voice was emollient and wistful. “It is a wicked world and they have taught you very little.”

“I am not afraid of you! I have given you your charge and I demand you go!”

The second dismissal. My bowels felt as if they were being passed over by a steamroller. I sensed my form waver, flicker. There was power in this child, though he was very young.

“It is not me you have to fear; not now, anyway. Simon Lovelace will come to you himself when he finds his amulet stolen. He will not spare you for your youth.”

“You are bound to do my will.”

“I am.” I had to hand it to him, he was determined. And very stupid.

His hand moved. I heard the first syllable of the Systemic Vise. He was about to inflict pain.

I went. I didn’t bother with any more special effects.


When I landed on the top of a lamppost in the London dusk it was peeing with rain. This was just my luck. I had taken the form of a blackbird, a sprightly fellow with a bright yellow beak and jet-black plumage. Within seconds I was as bedraggled a fowl as ever hunched its wings in Hampstead. Flicking my head from side to side, I spied a large beech tree. Leaves moldered at its foot—it had already been stripped clean by the November winds—but the thick sprouting of its branches offered some protection from the wet. I flew over to it, passing above a lone car that purred its way along the wide suburban street. Behind high walls and the evergreen foliage of their gardens, the ugly white facades of several sizeable villas shone through the dark like the faces of the dead.

Well, perhaps it was my mood that made it seem like that. Five things were bothering me. For a start the dull ache that comes with every physical manifestation was already beginning. I could feel it in my feathers. Changing form would keep the pain at bay for a time, but might also draw attention to me at a critical stage of the operation. Until I was sure of my surroundings, a bird I had to remain.

The second thing was the weather. Enough said.

Third, I’d forgotten the limitations of material bodies. I had an itch just above my beak, and kept futilely trying to scratch it with a wing. Fourth, that kid. I had a lot of questions about him. Who was he? Why did he have a death wish? How would I get even with him before he died for subjecting me to this assignment? News travels fast, and I was bound to take some abuse for scurrying around on behalf of a scrap like him.

Fifth…the Amulet. By all accounts it was a potent charm. What the kid thought he was going to do with it when he got it beat me. He wouldn’t have a clue. Maybe he’d just wear it as some tragic fashion accessory. Maybe nicking amulets was the latest craze, the magician’s version of pinching hubcaps. Even so, I had to get it first, and this would not necessarily be easy, even for me.

I closed my blackbird’s eyes and opened my inner ones, one after the other, each on a different plane.1 I looked back and forth around me, hopping up and down the branch to get the optimal view. No fewer than three villas along the street had magical protection, which showed how wealthy an area we were in. I didn’t inspect the two farther off up the street; it was the one across from them, beyond the streetlight, that interested me. The residence of Simon Lovelace, magician.

The first plane was clear, but he’d rigged up a defense nexus on the second—it shone like blue gossamer all along the high wall. It didn’t finish there either; it extended up into the air, over the top of the low white house, and down again on the other side, forming a great shimmering dome.

Not bad, but I could handle it.

There was nothing on the third or fourth planes, but on the fifth I spotted three sentries prowling around in midair, just beyond the lip of the garden wall. They were a dull yellow all over, each one formed of three muscular legs that rotated on a hub of gristle. Above the hub was a blobby mass, which sported two mouths and several watchful eyes. The creatures passed at random back and forth around the perimeter of the garden. I shrank back against the trunk of the beech tree instinctively, but I knew they were unlikely to spot me from there. At this distance I would look like a blackbird on all seven planes. It was when I got closer that they might break through my illusion.

The sixth plane was clear. But the seventh…that was curious. I couldn’t see anything obvious—the house, the street, the night all looked unchanged—but, call it intuition if you like, I was sure something was present there, lurking.

I rubbed my beak doubtfully against a knot of wood. As expected, there was a good deal of powerful magic at work here. I’d heard of Lovelace. He was considered a formidable magician and a hard taskmaster. I was lucky I had never been called up in his service, and I did not much want his enmity or that of his servants.

But I had to obey that kid.

The soggy blackbird took off from the branch and swooped across the road, conveniently avoiding the arc of light from the nearest lamp. It landed in a patch of scrubby grass at the corner of the wall. Four black trash bags had been left out there for collection the next morning. The blackbird hopped behind the bags. A cat that had observed the bird2 from some way off waited a few moments for it to emerge, lost patience, and scuttled curiously after it. Behind the bags it discovered no bird, black or otherwise. There was nothing there but a freshly turned molehill.


I hate the taste of mud. It is no fit thing for a being of air and fire. The cloying weight of earth oppresses me greatly whenever I come into contact with it. That is why I am choosy about my incarnations. Birds, good. Insects, good. Bats, okay. Things that run fast are fine. Tree dwellers are even better. Subterranean things, not good. Moles, bad.

But there’s no point being fastidious when you have a protective shield to bypass. I had reasoned correctly that it did not extend underground. The mole dug its way deep, deep down, under the foundations of the wall. No magical alarm sounded, though I did hit my head five times on a pebble.1 I burrowed upward again, reaching the surface after twenty minutes of snuffling, scruffling, and turning my beady nose up at the juicy worms. I uncovered after every couple of scrapes.

The mole poked its head cautiously out of the little pile of earth it had driven through the immaculate surface of Simon Lovelace’s lawn. It looked around, checking out the scene. There were lights on in the house, on the ground floor. The curtains were drawn. The upper floors, from what the mole could see, were dark. The translucent blue span of the magical defense system arched overhead. One yellow sentry trudged its stupid way ten feet above the shrubbery. The other two were presumably behind the house.

I tried the seventh plane again. Still nothing, still that uneasy sense of danger. Oh, well.

The mole retreated underground and tunneled below the grass roots toward the house. It reappeared in the flowerbed just below the nearest windows. It was thinking hard. There was no point going further in this guise, tempting though it was to try to break into the cellars. A different method would have to be found.

To the mole’s furry ears came the sound of laughter and clinking glasses. It was surprisingly loud, echoing from very close by. An air vent, cracked with age, was set in the wall not two feet away. It led indoors.

With some relief, I became a fly.


From the security of the air vent, I peered with my multifaceted eyes into a rather traditional drawing room. There was a thick pile carpet, nasty striped wallpaper, a hideous crystal thing pretending to be a chandelier, two oil paintings that were dark with age, a sofa and two easy chairs (also striped), a low coffee table laden with a silver tray, and, on the tray, a bottle of red wine and no glasses. The glasses were in the hands of two people.

One of them was a woman. She was youngish (for a human, which means infinitesimally young) and probably quite good-looking in a fleshy sort of way. Big eyes, dark hair, bobbed. I memorized her automatically. I would appear in her guise tomorrow when I went back to visit that kid. Only naked. Let’s see how his very steely but ever so adolescent mind responded to that!1

However, for the moment I was more concerned with the man this woman was smiling and nodding at. He was tall, thin, handsome in a rather bookish sort of way, with his hair slicked back by some pungent oil. He had small round glasses and a large mouth with good teeth. He had a prominent jaw. Something told me that this was the magician, Simon Lovelace. Was it his indefinable aura of power and authority? Was it the proprietorial way in which he gestured round the room? Or was it the small imp which floated at his shoulder (on the second plane), warily watching out for danger on every side?

I rubbed my front two legs together with irritation. I would have to be very careful. The imp complicated matters.2

It was a pity I wasn’t a spider. They can sit still for hours and think nothing of it. Flies are far more jittery. But if I changed here, the magician’s slave would be certain to sense it. I had to force my unwilling body to lurk, and ignore the ache that was building up again, this time inside my chitin.

The magician was talking. He did little else. The woman gazed at him with spaniel eyes so wide and silly with adoration that I wanted to bite her.

“…It will be the most magnificent occasion, Amanda. You will be the toast of London society! Did you know that the Prime Minister himself is looking forward to viewing your estate? Yes, I have that on good authority. My enemies have been hounding him for weeks with their vile insinuations, but he has always remained committed to holding the conference at the Hall. So you see, my love, I can still influence him when it counts. The thing is to know how to play him, how to flatter his vanity.…Keep it to yourself, but he is actually rather weak. His speciality is Charm, and even that he seldom bothers with now. Why should he? He’s got men in suits to do it for him….”

The magician rattled on like this for several minutes, name-dropping with tireless energy. The woman drank her wine, nodded, gasped, and exclaimed at the right moments, and leaned closer to him along the sofa. I nearly buzzed with boredom.3

Suddenly the imp became alert. Its head swiveled 180 degrees and peered at a door at the other end of the room. It tweaked the magician’s ear gently in warning. Seconds later, the door opened and a black-jacketed flunky with a bald head stepped respectfully in.

“Pardon me, sir, but your car is ready.”

“Thank you, Carter. We shan’t be a moment.”

The flunky withdrew. The magician replaced his (still full) wineglass on the coffee table and took hold of the woman’s hand. He kissed it gallantly. Behind his back the imp made faces of extreme disgust.

“It pains me to have to go, Amanda, but duty calls. I will not be home this evening. May I call you? The theater, tomorrow night, perhaps?”

“That would be charming, Simon.”

“Then that is settled. My good friend Makepeace has a new play out. I shall get tickets presently. For now, Carter will drive you home.”

Man, woman, and imp exited, leaving the door ajar. Behind them, a wary fly crept from its hiding place and sped soundlessly across the room to a vantage point that gave a view of the hall. For a few minutes there was activity, coats being brought, orders given, doors slammed. Then the magician departed his house.

I flew out into the hall. It was wide and cold, and had a floor of black-and-white tiles. Bright green ferns grew from gigantic ceramic pots. I circled the chandelier, listening. It was very quiet. The only sounds came from a distant kitchen, and they were innocent enough—just the banging of pots and plates and several loud belches, presumably emanating from the cook.

I debated sending out a discreet magical pulse to see if I could detect the whereabouts of the magician’s artifacts, but decided that it was far too risky. The sentry creatures outside might pick it up, for one thing, even if there was no further guard. I, the fly, would have to go hunting myself.

All the planes were clear. I went along the hall, then—following an intuition—up the stairs.

On the landing a thickly carpeted corridor led in two directions, each lined with oil paintings. I was immediately interested in the right-hand passage, for halfway along it was a spy. To human eyes it was a smoke alarm, but on the other planes its true form was revealed: an upside-down toad with unpleasantly bulbous eyes sitting on the ceiling. Every minute or so it hopped on the spot, rotating a little. When the magician returned, it would relate to him anything that had happened.

I sent a small magic the toad’s way. A thick oily vapor issued from the ceiling and wrapped itself around the spy, obscuring its vision. As it hopped and croaked in confusion, I flew rapidly past it down the passage to the door at the end. Alone of the doors in the corridor, this did not have a keyhole; under its white paint, the wood was reinforced with strips of metal. Two good reasons for trying this one first.

There was a minute crack under the door. It was too small for an insect, but I was aching for a change anyway. The fly dissolved into a dribble of smoke, which passed out of sight under the door just as the vapor screen around the toad melted away.

In the room I became a child.

If I had known that apprentice’s name, I would have been malicious and taken his form, just to give Simon Lovelace a head start when he began to piece the theft together. But without his name I had no handle on him. So I became a boy I had known once before, someone I had loved. His dust had long ago floated away along the Nile, so my crime would not hurt him, and anyhow it pleased me to remember him like this. He was brown skinned, bright eyed, dressed in a white loincloth. He looked around in that way he had, his head slightly cocked to one side.

The room had no windows. There were several cabinets against the walls, filled with magical paraphernalia. Most of it was quite useless, fit only for stage shows,4 but there were a few intriguing items there.

There was a summoning horn that I knew was genuine, because it made me feel ill to look at it. One blast of that and anything in that magician’s power would be at his feet begging for mercy and pleading to do his bidding. It was a cruel instrument and very old and I couldn’t go near it. In another cabinet was an eye made out of clay. I had seen one of them before, in the head of a golem. I wondered if the fool knew the potential of that eye. Almost certainly not—he’d have picked it up as a quaint keepsake on some package holiday in central Europe. Magical tourism…I ask you.5 Well, with luck it might kill him some day.

And there was the Amulet of Samarkand. It sat in a small case all of its own, protected by glass and its own reputation. I walked over to it, flicking through the planes, seeking danger and finding—well, nothing explicit, but on the seventh plane I had the distinct impression that something was stirring. Not here, but close by. I had better be quick.

The Amulet was small, dull, and made of beaten gold. It hung from a short gold chain. In its center was an oval piece of jade. The gold had been pressed with simple notched designs depicting running steeds. Horses were the prize possessions of the people from central Asia who had made the Amulet three thousand years before and had later buried it in the tomb of one of their princesses. A Russian archaeologist had found it in the 1950s, and before long it had been stolen by magicians who recognized its value. How Simon Lovelace had come by it—who exactly he had murdered or swindled to get it—I had no idea.

I cocked my head again, listening. All was quiet in the house.

I raised my hand over the cabinet, smiling at my reflection as it clenched its fist.

Then I brought my hand down and drove it through the glass.

A throb of magical energy resounded through all seven planes. I seized the Amulet and hung it round my neck. I turned swiftly. The room was as before, but I could sense something on the seventh plane, moving swiftly and coming closer.

The time for stealth was over.

As I ran for the door I noticed out of the corner of my eye a portal suddenly open in midair. Inside the portal was a blackness that was immediately obscured as something stepped out through it.


On Sale
Dec 13, 2011
Page Count
480 pages

Jonathan Stroud

About the Author

Jonathan Stroud is the author of the Lockwood & Co. series (now a Netflix series), as well as the New York Times bestselling Bartimaeus books, and the stand-alone titles Heroes of the Valley, The Leap, The Last Siege, and Buried Fire. He lives in England with his wife and three children. He invites you to find him online at and on Twitter at @JonathanAStroud.

Learn more about this author