Mar 08 2011
From The Amulet of Samarkand:
“The temperature of the room dropped fast. Ice formed on the curtains and crusted thickly around the lights in the ceiling. The glowing filaments in each bulb shrank and dimmed, while the candles that sprang from every available surface like a colony of toadstools had their wicks snuffed out. The darkened room filled with a yellow, choking cloud of brimstone, in which indistinct black shadows writhed and roiled. From far away came the sound of many voices screaming. Pressure was suddenly applied to the door that led to the landing. It bulged inward, the timbers groaning. Footsteps from invisible feet came pattering across the floorboards and invisible mouths whispered wicked things from behind the bed and under the desk…
Hey, it was his first time. I wanted to scare him.”
A few observations:
- The book has two rotating points-of-view, the ancient djinn here and an eleven year old magician. It was refreshing and brave to start with the character that wasn’t the audience stand-in.
- I like that the author implies (rather than exposits) what’s going on here. He never explicitly says that this is a magic ritual, but it’s pretty obvious even before you get to the invisible mouths whispering nefarious things.
- The atmospherics and sensory details did a really good job foreshadowing the plot and setting the mood. The description of the magic is a lot more sinister and evocative than, say, the Harry Potter series. (Quickly distinguish your story from competing works, particularly if your main character is a tween British magician).