The Amulet of Smarkand demonstrated that it’s a book with the wherewithal to totally sidestep my critical sensibilities on its very first page. It opens with a description of a magician summoning a supernatural entity that is nicely atmospheric, but that will feel comfortable, even familiar, to readers familiar with the genre tropes — and then Stroud pulls a very, very fast one on the reader.
I was instantly hooked, and disappointed by absolutely none of what followed (until I got to the point where the book ran out of words). Stroud draws on a number of mythic and literary traditions (without being too obvious or ostentatious about it), introduces some truly memorable characters, and delivers an absolute corker of a plot. I say, “hurrah!” and “woohoo!” and suchlike.
Some might complain that none of the characters are very likable; I would vehemently disagree, although I concede that none of them are unflawed. Some might complain that this novel feels like the first act of a larger work, but I don’t think it fails as a standalone novel; it does resolve its primary conflict. And I’m giddily delighted that the story doesn’t stop here.
needs more demons? no! (and apparently, they really don’t like to be called by that name.)