The Ring of Solomon


By Jonathan Stroud

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Fans rejoice — everyone’s favorite wise-cracking djinni is back!
Thousands of years before his fateful service to the magician Nathaniel in London, wily Bartimaeus served as djinni to hundreds of masters, from Babylon and Ancient Egypt to the modern Middle East. In this brilliant new installment in the best-selling series, history is revealed as readers travel alongside Bartimaeus to Jerusalem and the court of King Solomon for his most exciting adventure yet.



The Screaming Staircase

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

The Amulet of Samarkand: The 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.

Copyright © 2010 by Jonathan Stroud

Map illustration © 2010 by Kayley LeFaiver

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

All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group. 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 Disney • Hyperion Books, 114 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10011-5690.

ISBN 978-1-4231-4956-9


For Arthur,
with love


Title Page

Books by Jonathan Stroud



A Note on Magic

The Main Characters

Part One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Part Two

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Part Three

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38


Preview of Lockwood & Co., Book One: The Screaming Staircase

About the Author

A Note on Magic


Since history began in the mud-brick cities of Mesopotamia more than five thousand years ago, rulers of great nations have always used magicians to help maintain their rule. The pharaohs of Egypt and the kings of Sumer, Assyria, and Babylon all relied on magic to protect their cities, strengthen their armies, and cast their enemies down. Modern governments, though cloaking the fact behind careful propaganda, continue this same policy.

Magicians do not have magical abilities themselves, but derive their power from the control of spirits, which do. They spend many years in lonely study, mastering the techniques that will allow them to summon these fearsome entities and survive. Successful magicians are consequently always clever and physically robust. Because of the dangers of their craft, they are also usually ruthless, secretive, and self-serving.

For most summonings, the magician stands inside a carefully drawn circle of protection, within which is a pentacle, or five-pointed star. Certain complex incantations are spoken, and the spirit is drawn from its far dimension. Next, the magician recites special words of Binding. If this is done correctly, the spirit becomes the magician’s slave. If a mistake is made, the protective power of the circle is broken, and the unhappy magician is at the spirit’s mercy.

Once a slave is bound, it must obey its master’s instructions until its task is complete. When this time comes (it may take hours, days, or years), the rejoicing spirit is formally dismissed. In general, spirits resent their captivity, no matter what its duration, and seek any opportunity to do their masters harm. Most sensible magicians, therefore, keep their slaves for as short a time as possible, just in case their luck runs out.


All spirits are formed of essence, a fluid, ever-shifting substance. In their own dimension, known as the Other Place, they have no solid form, but on Earth they must take some kind of definite guise. However, higher spirits are able to change shape at will: this gives them some respite from the pain that Earth’s cruel solidity causes to their essence. There are five main categories of spirit.

These are:

1. Imps: The lowliest type. Imps are scurrilous and impertinent and their magic is humble. Most cannot change shape at all. Nevertheless they are easily directed and present no great danger to the magician. For this reason they are frequently summoned, and used for minor tasks such as scrubbing floors, clearing middens, carrying messages, and keeping watch.

2. Foliots: More potent than imps, but not as dangerous as djinn, foliots are favored by magicians for their stealth and cunning. Being reasonably adept at changing shape, they make excellent spies.

3. Djinn: The largest class of spirit, and the hardest to summarize. No two seem alike. They lack the raw power of the greatest spirits, but frequently exceed them in cleverness and audacity. They excel at shape-shifting, and have a vast arsenal of spells at their disposal. A djinni is the favored slave for most competent magicians.

4. Afrits: Strong as bulls, imposing in stature, and arrogant as kings, afrits are blunt and irascible by temperament. They are less subtle than other spirits, and their might frequently exceeds their intelligence. Monarchs throughout history have used them as vanguards in battle and as guardians of their gold.

5. Marids: The most perilous and least common of the five types. Supremely confident in their magical power, marids sometimes appear in discreet or gentle guises, only to suddenly switch to vast and hideous shapes. Only the greatest magicians dare summon them.

All magicians fear their spirit-slaves, and ensure their obedience by means of inventive punishments. For this reason most spirits bow to the inevitable. They serve their masters as efficiently as possible and—despite their natural instincts—remain outwardly zealous and polite, for fear of repercussions. This is what most spirits do. There are exceptions.

The Main Characters


Solomon King of Israel
Hiram Solomon’s vizier
Khaba A magician—in service to King Solomon
Ezekiel A magician—in service to King Solomon
Various other magicians, servants, and wives  


Balkis Queen of Sheba
Asmira A captain of the guard


Bartimaeus A djinni
Faquarl A djinni
Beyzer, Chosroes, Menes, Nimshik, Tivoc, and Xoxen Djinn—in service to Khaba the Cruel
Gezeri A foliot—in service to Khaba the Cruel
Numerous other marids, afrits, djinn, foliots, and imps  


Sunset above the olive groves. The sky, like a bashful youth kissed for the first time, blushed with a peach-pink light. Through the open windows came the gentlest of breezes, carrying the fragrances of evening. It stirred the hair of the young woman standing alone and pensive in the center of the marble floor, and caused her dress to flutter against the contours of her lean, dark limbs.

She lifted a hand; slim fingers toyed with a ringlet of hair beside her neck.

“Why so shy, my lord?” she whispered. “Come near and let me look on you.”

In the opposite pentacle the old man lowered the wax cylinder in his hand and glared at me with his single eye. “Great Jehovah, Bartimaeus! You don’t think that’s going to work on me?”

My eyelashes quivered beguilingly. “I’ll dance too, if you’ll only step a little closer. Come on, spoil yourself. I’ll do the Twirl of the Seven Veils.”

The magician spoke with irritation. “No, thank you. And you can stop that, too.”

“Stop what?”

“That…that jiggling about. Every now and then you—There! You did it again!”

“Oh, come on, sailor, live a little. What’s putting you off?”

My master uttered an oath. “Possibly your clawed left foot. Possibly your scaly tail. Also possibly the fact that even a newborn babe would know not to step outside his protective circle when requested to do so by a wicked, duplicitous spirit such as yourself. Now, silence, cursed creature of air, and abandon your pathetic temptations, or I shall strike you sideways with such a Pestilence as even great Egypt never suffered!” The old boy was quite excited, all out of breath, his white hair a disordered halo around his head. From behind his ear he took a stylus and grimly made a notation on the cylinder. “There’s a black mark there for you, Bartimaeus,” he said. “Another one. If this line gets filled, you’ll be off the special allowances list for good, you understand. No more roasted imps, no time off, nothing. Now, I’ve a job for you.”

The maiden in the pentacle folded her arms. She wrinkled her dainty nose. “I’ve just done a job.”

“Well, now you’ve got another one.”

“I’ll do it when I’ve had a rest.”

“You’ll do it this very night.”

“Why should I do it? Send Tufec or Rizim.”

A bright jag of scarlet lightning issued from the forefinger of the old man, looped across the intervening space, and set my pentacle aflame, so that I wailed and danced with mad abandon.

The crackling ceased; the pain in my feet lessened. I came to an ungainly standstill.

“You were right, Bartimaeus,” the old man chuckled. “You do dance well. Now, are you going to give me any more backchat? If so, another notch upon the cylinder it shall be.”

“No, no—there’s no need for that.” To my great relief the stylus was slowly replaced behind the aged ear. I clapped my hands vigorously. “So, another job, you say? What joy! I’m humbled that you have selected me from among so many other worthy djinn. What brought me to your attention tonight, great Master? The ease with which I slew the giant of Mount Lebanon? The zeal with which I put the Canaanite rebels to flight? Or just my general reputation?”

The old man scratched his nose. “None of that; rather it was your behavior last night, when the watch imps observed you in the form of a mandrill swaggering through the undergrowth below the Sheep Gate, singing lewd songs about King Solomon and loudly extolling your own magnificence.”

The maiden gave a surly shrug. “Might not have been me.”

“The words ‘Bartimaeus is best,’ repeated at tedious length, suggest otherwise.”

“Well, all right. So I’d had too many mites at supper. No harm done.”

“No harm? The Watch reported it to their supervisor, who reported it to me. I reported it to High Magician Hiram, and I believe it has since come to the ears of the king himself.” His face became all prim and starchy. “He is not pleased.”

I blew out my cheeks. “Can’t he tell me so in person?”

The magician’s eye bulged; it looked like an egg emerging from a chicken.1 “You dare suggest,” he cried, “that great Solomon, King of all Israel, master of all lands from the Gulf of Aqaba to the broad Euphrates, would deign to speak with a sulphurous slave such as you? The idea! In all my years, I have heard nothing so offensive!”

“Oh, come, come. Look at the state of you. Surely you must have.”

“Two more notches, Bartimaeus, for your effrontery and cheek.” Out came the cylinder; the stylus scratched upon it furiously. “Now then, enough of your nonsense. Listen to me closely. Solomon desires new wonders for his collection. He has commanded his magicians to search the known world for objects of beauty and power. At this very moment, in all the wall-towers of Jerusalem, my rivals conjure demons no less hideous than you and send them out like fiery comets to plunder ancient cities, north, south, east, and west. All hope to astound the king with the treasures they secure. But they will be disappointed, Bartimaeus, will they not, for we will bring him the finest prize of all. You understand me?”

The pretty maiden curled her lip; my long, sharp teeth glinted wetly. “Grave-robbing again? Solomon should be doing seedy stuff like this himself. But no, as usual he can’t be bothered to lift his finger and use the Ring. How lazy can you get?”

The old man gave a twisted smile. The black hollow of his lost eye seemed to suck in light. “Your opinions are interesting. So much so that I shall depart right now and report them to the king. Who knows? Perhaps he will choose to lift his finger and use the Ring on you.”

There was a slight pause, during which the shadows of the room grew noticeably deeper, and a chill ran up my shapely spine. “No need,” I growled. “I’ll get him his precious treasure. Where do you want me to go, then?”

My master gestured to the windows, through which the cheery lights of lower Jerusalem winked and shone. “Fly east to Babylon,” he said. “One hundred miles southeast of that dread city, and thirty miles south of the Euphrates’s current course, lie certain mounds and ancient diggings, set about with fragments of windblown wall. The local peasants avoid the ruins for fear of ghosts, while any nomads keep their flocks beyond the farthest tumuli. The only inhabitants of the region are religious zealots and other madmen, but the site was not always so desolate. Once it had a name.”

“Eridu,” I said softly. “I know.”2

“Strange must be the memories of a creature such as you, who has seen such places rise and fall…” The old man gave a shudder. “I do not like to dwell on it. But if you recall the location, so much the better! Search its ruins, locate its temples. If the scrolls speak truly, there are many sacred chambers there, containing who knows what antique glory! With luck, some of the treasures will have remained undisturbed.”

“No doubt about that,” I said, “given its guardians.”

“Ah yes, the ancients will have protected them well!” The old man’s voice rose to a dramatic pitch; his hands made eloquent fluttering gestures of dismay. “Who knows what lurks there still? Who knows what prowls the ruins? Who knows what hideous shapes, what monstrous forms might…Will you stop doing that with your tail? It’s not hygienic.”

I drew myself up. “All right,” I said. “I get the picture. I’ll go to Eridu and see what I can find. But when I get back I want to be dismissed straight off. No arguments, no shilly-shallying. I’ve been on Earth too long now and my essence aches like a moldering tooth.”

My master grinned a gummy grin, stuck his chin toward me, and waggled a wrinkled finger. “That all depends on what you bring back, doesn’t it, Bartimaeus? If you impress me, I may let you go. See that you do not fail! Now—prepare yourself. I shall bind you to your purpose.”

Midway through his incantation the horn blew hard below the window, signaling the closure of the Kidron Gate. It was answered, farther off, by the sentries on the Sheep Gate, Prison Gate, Horse and Water Gates, and so on around the city walls, until the great horn on the palace roof was sounded and all Jerusalem was safe and sealed for the night. A year or two back I’d have hoped such distractions would make my master stumble on his words, so that I might have leaped forth and devoured him. I didn’t bother hoping now. He was too old and too experienced. I needed something better than that if I was going to get him.

The magician finished, spoke the final words. The pretty maiden’s body became soft and see-through; for an instant I hung together like a statue formed of silken smoke, then burst soundlessly into nothing.


No matter how many times you see the dead walk, you always forget just how rubbish they are when they really get moving. Sure, they look okay when they first break through the wall—they get points for shock value, for their gaping sockets and gnashing teeth, and sometimes (if the Reanimation spell is really up to scratch) for their disembodied screams. But then they start pursuing you clumsily around the temple, pelvises jerking, femurs high-kicking, holding out their bony arms in a way that’s meant to be sinister but looks more as if they’re about to sit down at a piano and bash out a honky-tonk rag. And the faster they go, the more their teeth start rattling and the more their necklaces bounce up and get lodged in their eyeholes, and then they start tripping over their grave-clothes and tumbling to the floor and generally getting in the way of any nimblefooted djinni who happens to be passing. And, as is the way with skeletons, never once do they come out with any really good one-liners, which might add a bit of zest to the life-or-death situation you’re in.

“Oh, come on,” I said, as I hung from the wall, “there must be someone here worth talking to.” With my free hand I fired a plasm across the room, causing a Void to open in the path of one of the scurrying dead. It took a step, was sucked into oblivion; I sprang up from the stones, bounced off the vaulted ceiling, and landed nimbly on top of a statue of the god Enki on the opposite side of the hall.

To my left a mummified corpse shuffled from its alcove. It wore a slave’s robe and had a rusted manacle and chain about its shrunken neck. With a creaky spring it leaped to snare me. I yanked the chain, the head came off; I caught this mid-palm as the body fell away, and bowled it unerringly into the midriff of one of its dusty comrades, snapping its backbone with neat precision.

Jumping from the statue, I landed in the very center of the temple hall. From every side now the dead converged, their robes as frail as cobwebs, hoops of bronze twirling on their wrists. Things that had once been men and women—slaves, freemen, courtiers, and under-priests, members of every level of Eridu’s society—pressed tight about me, jaws gaping, jagged yellow fingernails raised to rend my essence.

I’m a courteous fellow and greeted them all appropriately. A Detonation to the left. A Convulsion to the right. Bits of ancient person spattered merrily on the glazed reliefs of the old Sumerian kings.

That gave me a brief respite. I took a look around.

In the twenty-eight seconds since I’d tunneled through the ceiling, I’d not had time to fully assess my surroundings, but from the décor and the general layout, a couple of things were clear. First, it was a temple of the water god Enki (the statue told me that; plus he was featured prominently in the wall reliefs, along with his attendant fish and snake-dragons) and had been abandoned for at least fifteen hundred years.1 Second, in all the long centuries since the priests had sealed the doors and left the city to be swallowed by the desert sands, no one had entered before me. You could tell that from the layers of dust upon the floor, the unbroken entrance stone, the zeal of the guardian corpses and—last but not least—the statuette resting on the altar at the far end of the hall.

It was a water serpent, a representation of Enki, fashioned with great artifice out of twisting gold. It glittered palely in the light of the Flares I’d sent forth to illuminate the room, and its ruby eyes shone evilly like dying embers. As an ancient work of art alone, it was probably beyond price, but that was only half the story. It was magical too, with a strange pulsing aura visible on the higher planes.2

Good. That was that settled, then. I’d take the serpent and be on my way.

“Excuse me, excuse me…” This was me politely ushering the dead aside, or, in most cases, using Infernos to strike them burning across the hall. More were still emerging, trundling forth from slotlike alcoves in each wall. There seemed no end to them, but I wore a young man’s body, and my movements were swift and sure. With spell and kick and counterpunch I plowed my way toward the altar—and saw the next trap waiting.

A net of fourth-plane threads hung all around the golden serpent, glowing emerald green. The threads were very thin, and faint even to my djinni’s gaze.3 Feeble as they looked, however, I had no wish to disturb them. As a general principle, Sumerian altar-traps are worth avoiding.

I stopped below the altar, deep in thought. There were ways to disarm the threads, which I would have no trouble employing, provided I had a bit of time and space.

At that moment a sharp pain disturbed me. Looking down, I discovered that a particularly disreputable-looking corpse (who in life had clearly suffered many skin ailments and doubtless looked upon mummification as a sharp improvement to his lot) had snuck up and sunk his teeth deep into the essence of my forearm.

The temerity! He deserved special consideration. Shoving a friendly hand inside his rib cage, I fired a small Detonation upward. It was a maneuver I hadn’t tried in decades, and was just as amusing as ever. His head blew clean off like a cork from a bottle, cracked nicely against the ceiling, bounced twice off nearby walls, and (this was where my amusement smartly vanished) plopped to earth right beside the altar, neatly snapping the net of glowing threads as it did so.

Which shows how foolish it is to go enjoying yourself in the middle of a job.


On Sale
Jan 24, 2012
Page Count
416 pages

About the Author

NOVL - Headshot photo of Jonathan Stroud

Jonathan Stroud ( is the author of four previous books in the Lockwood & Co. 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.