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Title: Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Rating: **** 1/2
Format: Listened to the audiobook version from Audible.com
For Ages: 10 and up (though an 8 or 9 year old who's the youngest of a family will probably enjoy the audiobook version too.)

The Ring of Solomon can be read as a stand-alone novel for readers who have never had the pleasure of meeting the sarcastic, cheeky djinni, Bartimaeus of Uruk, or as a satisfying prequel for fans of the Amulet of Samarkand series.  This time around our favorite djinni is in ancient Israel. As in the previous books, in this universe, magicians use their knowledge of magical summoning spells to capture spirits, like djinni, from another world and make them do the magician's bidding in the human world. King Solomon has his own powerful Marid, the highest level of spirits, trapped inside a magic ring that keeps everyone in line, including Bartimaeus, who finds himself enslaved by the king's cruelest magician. Like usual, Bartimaeus is handling his predicament in the most amusingly bitter and rebellious way possible.

Solomon has also threatened the Queendom of Sheba with total destruction if Sheba doesn't give in to a monthly blackmail payment in the next 10 days. Young Asmira, a seventeen-year-old girl in the hereditary guard to the Queen of Sheba is the Queendom's only hope. She's traveling to Israel on an important mission to kill King Solomon and take the ring.  If she succeeds, the Queendom will be free.

The Ring of Solomon is a fun adventure full of exciting fights and lots of banter. It's lighter in tone than the previous darkly political series but still manages to make a lot of subtle points about slavery.  As a result, this story would make an excellent read-aloud for families or classrooms and would be an especially good audiobook for a family car trip, as the tale can be appreciated by both kids and adults alike.

The audiobook version is excellent.  The narrator manages to give each of the large cast of characters their own unique voice and inserts each of Bartimaeus's famously funny footnotes (asides about any topic that comes into his head) in just the right part of the story each time.