Bartimaeus: Ptolemy's Gate
I'm happy to admit to being wrong: my first impressions of the trilogy were incorrect. After reading Ptolemy's Gate, I have to say Stroud has created a really fantastic work of fantasy/fiction. My one remaining complaint - and I think it's a valid one - is that somehow all three books felt a little too long, too wordy. Tighter editing would have worked wonders, but in retrospect, the books are strong enough that even with this verbosity: they're still remarkable.
I'm currently taking a class on queer theory, so I'm on Heightened Alert for queerness. and Ptolemy's Gate has it. Probably all three books have it, really. The most exciting moment for this came late in Ptolemy's Gate, when Bartimaeus (as narrator) says "It was all a bit butch and male." I can't say more without Giving Away The Plot, but my goodness! a book "for children" that says something was butch!!!!!
Stroud does a good job, I think, of making his main three characters - Nathaniel/Mandrake, Kitty and Bartimaeus - morally complex. This is no Manichean universe; these are good, bad, confused, complicated characters. The books refuse simple choices and predictability; the Other Place perhaps crystallizes this complexity. It was difficult for me (via Kitty Jones) to get my brain around a place so Other but it is an appealing Other Place, and one worth thinking about.
I'm certainly also a fan of the progressive - moderately progressive, anyway - politics of the book. any world where the ruling class is challenged is usually good with me.
So: recap. The Bartimaeus trilogy is definitely a keeper. I think eventually I'll re-read it, although I don't find it as intensely satisfying and in need of re-visiting as, say, Diana Wynne Jones's novels.
I have to say, though, I'm not sure how to deal with the ending of Ptolemy's Gate: in some ways, it was deeply satisfying. In other ways........I felt somehow cheated. I'm really not sure yet how I feel about this, but I do know the trilogy, as a whole, was definitely worth reading.