Technically a prequel (# 0.5) of the Bartimaeus Trilogy, this fourth story about the djinni Bartimaeus holds has much fun, snarky commentary as the previous three stories. The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud (Lexile: 820; Interest Level: Grades 5-8) tells a story from Bartimaeus's past, before meeting Nathaniel, and blends the story of the Wise King Solomon into his fantastic fantasy series.
Bartimaeus is enslaved by an evil magician named Khaba, who is trying to overthrow King Solomon. King Solomon is very powerful because of his wisdom and his control of a very powerful magical ring which contains the spirit of an extremely high-level magical being. Khaba is mean to the spirits he enslaves, often keeping them longer than their essence should be kept on Earth. By request of a beautiful servant of the Queen of Sheba, Khaba agrees to allow Bartimaeus to leave his service, but instead of freeing him, Bartimaeus is trapped inside a bottle.
Asmira, the beautiful hereditary guard of the Queen of Sheba, steals the bottle, releases Bartimaeus and traps him into her service as she attempts to murder the great King Solomon and steal the Ring. Bartimaeus, as much as he hates his enslavement, grows to be a bit fond of Asmira's spunk, and the two of them make an interesting pair of determination and sarcasm. As always, I enjoy the smart-alec comments of Bartimaeus as well as the action in the story.
If you are a fan of fantasy, I think you will enjoy the books of this series. This one can stand alone from the rest of the trilogy (which starts with The Amulet of Samarkand), although the rest should be read in order. (398 pages)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.