Jonathan Stroud’s “The Golem’s Eye”—Of Injustice, Camaraderie, and Blind Ambitions

In The Golem’s Eye, the second book of Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, young Nathaniel has grown up to become a junior magician in the Security Ministry. His dazzling career and tactless arrogance attracts enemies from all over the place. It brings pressure to his main job—eradicating rebellion movement trying to overthrow the magician government, The Resistance—as each politicians keep trying to frame every incidents into his fault.

Desperate for ally and enraged by the way other magicians look down on him, Nathaniel does something that he has promised not to do: summoning Bartimaeus and binding the djinn into a master-servant contract with him, again.

Though reluctant, Bartimaeus agrees to help Nathaniel find the people behind the Resistance. This effort brings them to a person from Nathaniel’s past, Katty, a commoner whose friends had attacked him years before and stolen his spying mirror.

But Katty herself has her own story to tell. Before she joined Resistance, she and her friend, Jakob, had been unjustly punished by a senior magician. This accident changed their lives forever. Jakob almost died and now can no longer have the confidence to go outside with his damaged physical appearance, and Katty is burnt with a determination to revenge her friend.

While Nathaniel tries to catch them, Katty and her organizations tries to obtain a magical device that will give them more access and resource to grow their rebellion movement. Unknowingly to both of our main characters, there is another villain lurking in the darkness. They send a golem to destroy many of London’s famous places and bring down both the Resistance and the presiding magic government at the same time. Now, Nathaniel has to answer a question: When push comes to shove, would he betray humanity and trust for the sake of his reputation and future career?

I don’t exactly remember how I found this series and how I ended up with the second book instead of the first one. What I know for sure is that even though I haven’t read the first book in the trilogy yet, I already love the series enough to put both The Amulet of Samarkand and The Ptolemy’s Gate into my to-be-read list. Maybe it’s Bartimaeus’s snarky attitude and sarcasm-filled humour. Maybe it’s Nathaniel’s development of character and the way I pray for him to get his sense back and come to the right path (it’s such a shame to be so heavily blinded by ambition at a young age). Maybe it’s Katty’s courage and humanity that shines through even in her weakest moment.

Or maybe it’s simply the magic. The djinns. The spellbooks. I find it’s enchanting that The Golem’s Eye manages to balance its political elements with its fantasy counterpart as a children book. Usually, children books are more clear cut in pointing out who the bad guys are. The main protagonists in children books are usually the perfect picture of hero: pitiful background story, a lack of self-confidence, and a firm hold on morality. Nathaniel, Bartimaeus, and even Katty aren’t like that at all. We know Nathaniel’s trademark arrogancy and the big possibility of him rapidly spiralling into the dark side. We realize that Bartimaeus is a djinn and therefore its loyalty doesn’t necessarily belong to people it likes. We have to admit that even Katty will do the wrong thing for the right reason if she’s forced to do so.

The world in The Golem’s Eye is not black and white, and neither do our main characters. Sometimes injustice happens and you gladly ignore it. Sometimes a friend asks for help and you turn away out of fear. Sometimes the future is all you can see and the now is never enough. But we are creatures of mind and heart. Even if we are now treading on the wrong path, we have the chance to come back and correct the map.

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