My daughter picked this one up on a whim off a library shelf. I've seen it in previous cover incarnations, and it didn't appeal, but ...she's driving the bus. She read it first and said it was good, so I finally got around to reading it -- and I was glad I did!
It's told from two POVs. The first is the titular Bartimaeus, a demon / djinn, who is summoned by an inexperienced teen sorcerer to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from a truly powerful, adult sorcerer, Simon Lovelace. It's a job Bartimaeus can't refuse, because the teen -- the second POV, Nathaniel-- summons Bartimaeus by his name and controls him.
When Nathaniel was little, Lovelace paddled him in public, and like the petulant little sorcerer he is, Nathaniel swears revenge. He has no idea what the Amulet does, or why Lovelace stole it in the first place, but he's determined to get it and hide it in his inept master's house, no matter what it does to the only person who cares about him.
Bartimaeus is successful and brings the Amulet back to Nathaniel, but in the process learns Nathaniel's name and thus Nathaniel loses much of his power over him. The two have to act together, if not as equals, to figure out what Lovelace is planning and how to stop him. But Lovelace takes out just about everyone and everything Nathaniel ever cared about, and Nathaniel struggles to realize he's responsible for setting these events in motion.
This is a great series starter. I enjoyed Bartimaeus' POV. He's a likeable devil, literally. But not so much Nathaniel's POV. He's a whiny, it's-not-my-fault-ever teen. By the end he's matured -- a tad. He's never a likeable character, however.
The world building is fantastic, and the reader is fed the vitals of the plot in dribbles, right up to the cataclysmic ending. The plot is masterfully twisted. It's a thoroughly satisfying read at 462 pages, and took two nights to finish!