by Gareth Hinds
|The Ring of Solomon
by Jonathan Stroud
I read THE ODYSSEY by Gareth Hinds first. Based on Homer’s epic poem, it tells of the terrible efforts King Odysseus must make to return home to Ithaca.Even holding the book is a joy, the soft blues and greens of the cover, its velvet feeling. Before reading a word, you have to wander through the pages, admiring this world.
The story is wonderfully told in the confines of space allowed in a graphic novel; captivating illustrations enhance the tale. We see the strength of Odysseus the beauty of his queen, the terrifying face of the Cyclops. The eyes of the characters are stunningly portrayed: anger, courage, longing, scheming.
I can only imagine the depths of research that went into this book. The author’s note gives us a hint of the tremendous variations in translations and questions raised by scholars that gave him leeway in telling the story while still preserving historical background.
As in many of the classics, a myriad of characters people the pages. It’s hard in the beginning to keep them straight. I found myself reading and rereading.
And each time, I found something new to admire in the writing and especially in the illustrations; I was moved particularly by the views of the sea.
But what about Jonathan Stroud’s THE RING OF SOLOMON? What about the djinni Bartimaeus? For those who aren’t familiar with djinn, the author tells us that “they lack the raw power of the greatest spirits, but frequently exceed them in cleverness and audacity.” That’s Bartimaeus. He’s certainly clever, full of himself, and his humor is laugh-aloud. Just listen to his take on his master: “The magician’s eye bulged; it looked like an egg emerging from a chicken.”
Bartimaeus has the ability to change form. He’s a good looking young guy, a lizard, a sand cat, a pygmy hippo. Not only does Bartimaeus change form, so does the author. The sand cat speaks in third person…and in the same paragraph, Bartimaeus’s voice is heard in first. Clever!
What an unlikely pair Stroud has given us: the conscientious Asmira who is determined to save her country, and that scamp Bartimaeus who is more interested in saving himself.
The book is inventive, action packed and hysterically funny.
I have to choose one of the two, and so it must be this one, Johathan Stroud’s THE RING OF SOLOMON. I found his imagination dazzling, his story intriguing.
One other thing that factored in my decision: I had to stay up at night to keep reading, just to see what Stroud had in store, those twists and turns that kept me guessing until the end.
I was sorry to get to that end.
– Patricia Reilly Giff
And the Winner of this match is…
… THE RING OF SOLOMON
It’s the battle of the ancient civilizations: the Greeks vs. the Hebrews! I’m really pleased that both of these books have advanced this far because I felt neither one really got their just due. For me, The Odyssey was the year’s best graphic novel and The Ring of Solomon just sort of got lost in a really strong crop of fantasy books. (How else do you explain a book with five starred reviews slipping under the radar?) I want to second a couple of Patricia’s points. First, the expression portrayed on the faces of the characters, particularly the eyes, is stunning. The scene where Odysseus’s dog lays eyes on his master after eighteen years, and then passes on with the help of the goddess Athena is a prime example of this. And second, the self-serving Bartimaeus does play well against the conscientious Asmira, presenting a nice contrast to the selfish Nathaniel, his master throughout the later trilogy.
– Commentator Jonathan Hunt