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Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon (A Bartimaeus Novel)

Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon (A Bartimaeus Novel)

Author: Jonathan Stroud

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion


Publish Date: January 24, 2012

ISBN-10: 1423124049

Pages: 416

File Type: Epub

Language: English

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Book Preface

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-sided 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 favoured 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 favoured 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.

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Epub September 22, 2016

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