Mirror Magazine


Another boy wizard
By Emma Saunders
The last 12 months have been a whirlwind for children’s author, Jonathan Stroud. The 33-year-old’s fourth novel, The Amulet of Samarkand, became the subject of a bidding war between four top publishing houses last year. It resulted in a seven-figure deal with Random House and a contract with film company Miramax.

Stroud had only written 92 pages when the book was snapped up. The Amulet of Samarkand is one of a trilogy about a demon - or djinni - called Bartimaeus, who has been summoned by a twelve-year-old apprentice wizard, Nathaniel. Stroud knew the idea was special when it came to him but was taken aback by the frenzied interest.

“The idea came to me when I was out walking on a really dismal day last October and I pretty much had it mapped out from there,” he says. The book will inevitably draw comparisons with J.K. Rowling. Stroud was touted around as the new Rowling when the book deal was first announced.

How does he feel about the comparison? “I am honoured but also amused because it gets passed so rapidly from one person to the next,” he says. “I enjoyed the Harry Potter books and children’s fantasy is doing brilliantly at the moment. “I wanted to put a different spin on the fantasy thing and try something new - with the genie, rather than thy boy wizard, being the central character.” Bartimaeus is a witty and likeable character, who does not slot easily into the good or evil category.

The genie’s cynicism and dry sense of humour should ensure the novel appeals to adults as much as children. “The book is really for anyone, probably twelve plus. Adults will be able to get the book on different levels, like the humour and the references to history and myth,” says Stroud. The author, who gave up his editing job at a publishing company to write full-time, has a busy time ahead.

Despite his success so far, Stroud has a bigger long-term ambition. “As long as the books are still in print in 10 or 20 years time, that’s what I’d like. There is a fantasy surge at the moment, so we’ll see. “But the best books survive fashion.”

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