The Ring of Solomon
|Genre||Children's, Fantasy novel|
|14 October 2010|
|Media type||Print (paperback & hardback)|
|Pages||448 pp (first edition, paperback)|
|Followed by||Bartimaeus trilogy|
The story opens in Jerusalem with the djinni Bartimaeus who is currently in the service of one of King Solomon's 17 High Magicians. His master commands him to retrieve a magical artifact of sorts from the city of Eridu. Bartimaeus succeeds, and then manages to trick the magician into commanding him to use the artifact against him. It sends a spurt of water out at him and knocks him out of his protective circle. Bartimaeus subsequently devours the old man and with the magician's death is released and returns to the Other Place.
King Solomon of Israel, upon learning of Bartimaeus's murder of Ezekiel (the old magician who enslaved Bartimaeus) is insulted that a mere djinni is the perpetrator. To make Bartimaeus pay for his actions he commands Khaba, an Egyptian and another of the 17 to summon Bartimaeus into his service and punish him. He also proposes to the queen of Sheba and is refused.
The scene shifts to the Sheban capital of Marib where Balkis, the aforementioned queen, receives a message from a marid supposedly in Solomon's service: either pay a ransom of 40 sacks of frankincense or be destroyed, and gives her two weeks to pay. Balkis decides to send her loyal guard captain Asmira to Jerusalem to assassinate Solomon.
Back in Jerusalem, after being summoned into Khaba's service, Bartimaeus is commissioned to perform multiple degrading jobs including grain counting, sewage treatment, and artichoke collecting. Another unpleasant element is that one of his fellow slaves is his old rival Faquarl. Khaba assembles the eight djinn under his command and informs them that they have been commissioned to build Solomon's Temple on the Temple Mount and that they are to build it without using any magic whatsoever. After Bartimaeus uses his trademark wit to infuriate Khaba, the magician unleashes his essence flail on the djinn and threatens to place them in his essence cages (devices similar to the Mournful Orb in The Amulet of Samarkand) should they displease him a second time.
At first Khaba and his foliot Gezeri directly supervise the initial stages of construction but after a while they stop showing up at the building site and the attitudes of the djinn grows lax. They begin assuming nonhuman forms and start using magic to build the temple (both actions directly violate Solomon's edicts). Several days later Solomon makes an unexpected appearance on the building site. The other djinn manage to revert to human form and disguise their use of magic but Bartimaeus is caught in the form of a pygmy hippopotamus in a skirt (a comic reference to one of Solomon's 700 wives, "the one from Moab"). The king interrogates Bartimaeus and the djinni reluctantly admits his guilt while covering for the other spirits. As Solomon prepares to use the Ring on Bartimaeus, the djinni resorts to a display of groveling in order to appease the king. Bartimaeus's pathetic display amuses Solomon, who agrees to spare the djinni's life and instead punishes him (and Khaba, whom Solomon blames for failing to keep his spirits in line) by sending them to hunt down the bandits.
Several days later, out in the desert, Bartimaeus and Faquarl find and defeat desert bandits attacking Asmira. Faquarl insists on eating her but Bartimaeus hopes she can intercede with Khaba on their behalf. Asmira is then escorted to Jerusalem by Khaba and manages to persuade him to reluctantly dismiss the two djinn. Faquarl gains his freedom but Bartimaeus is imprisoned in a small bottle by Khaba and his principle slave, the marid Ammet, as punishment for his earlier crimes. Asmira tries to use her feminine wiles to convince Khaba to get her near Solomon and fails. Asmira frees Bartimaeus from the bottle and commands him to help her kill Solomon. The pair sneak through the palace gardens and scale the tower wall to Solomon's chamber almost completely through Bartimaeus' efforts.
They encounter the king in his observatory and Asmira kills him with her dagger only to discover that it is an illusion set up to trap them. Bartimaeus escapes, but Asmira is captured and taken before the true King Solomon. Meanwhile Bartimaeus encounters the trapped afrit Philocretes and learns the secret behind Solomon and the Ring, that it causes immense pain to the bearer, in this case King Solomon. He then sneaks into the chamber where Solomon is interrogating Asmira and steals the Ring. Asmira claims the Ring only to discover that its energies inflict pain upon whoever touches it or uses it. Solomon maintains that he never sent any ransom demand to Sheba, which causes Asmira to doubt herself and her loyalty to Queen Balkis. In the end Asmira does not kill the king, choosing instead to take the Ring back to Sheba in spite of Solomon's warnings and Bartimaeus' demoralizing analysis of her motives. Suddenly Khaba arrives, subdues both girl and djinn and claims the Ring for himself. Khaba commands the Spirit of the Ring to destroy several of his rival magicians as well as Solomon's palace, but Asmira manages to grab her last throwing knife and slices off Khaba's finger, with the ring still on it, and commands Bartimaeus to throw it in the sea. Although weakened by his use of the Ring, Khaba attempts to destroy both Asmira and Solomon who manage to hold off Khaba's other servants for a brief time.
Meanwhile Bartimeaus has fled the palace with Ammet in hot pursuit. The two eventually reach the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and, Bartimaeus dips the ring in the sea, fulfilling his command. In an unexpected move, he then puts the Ring on and commands the Spirit to seal Ammet inside a wine jar at the bottom of the sea for a few thousand years. Returning to Jerusalem Bartimaeus knocks out Khaba and returns the Ring to Asmira who gives it back to Solomon. The king imprisons Khaba and pardons both Asmira and Bartimaeus for their deeds. Solomon then summons Queen Balkis to Jerusalem and clears the misunderstanding. However, a spiteful Balkis disowns her loyal guard from her service. Solomon then offers Asmira the opportunity to work for him instead.
In the aftermath of the attack Asmira willingly dismisses Bartimaeus, revealing her intention to turn down Solomon's offer in favour of choosing her own path in life and the two part ways on friendly terms.