Full warning: this is a silly list, although the books on it really are great. Earlier this week, I made a comment about the superfluous magical amulet in the animated film adaptation of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. (For the last time, The Secret of NIMH didn’t need sorcery and magic to be a good movie. The original book is compelling without anything more fantastical than animals that all speak the same language! End of rant.) That got me thinking about books where the magical amulet really does belong in the story. Here are 6 of my favorites:
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud is the very first book that comes to mind when I think of magical amulets, probably because the amulet in question is in the title. (Major critical thinking skills are at work here, folks.) The book is narrated by Bartimeus, a snarky djinni summoned from the nether by a magician’s apprentice to steal a magical amulet. This series has all of Stroud’s characteristic snark and plenty of action.
The Belgariad is a 5-book series by David Eddings. Each of the main characters wears a personalized medallion on their quest to recover a magical orb. I think I would have liked the series more if I’d read it before I’d read many of the same fantasy tropes elsewhere, but the series has been a staple of fantasy literature for years.
A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett is part of Pratchett’s Discworld universe. Everything I’ve read from Pratchett has been hilarious and fast-paced. That’s not to say there’s not plenty going on in his books; his worldbuilding is amazing. A Hat Full of Sky follows a young witch named Tiffany Aching as she begins her magical training. The young witch wears a thoroughly unmagical necklace that is nonetheless very important to her and plays a key role in the magical ending. If you haven’t read anything by Pratchett yet, be prepared for a romp through one of the more intricately-detailed and humorous magical universes I’ve come across.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling isn’t about a magical amulet, but one plays a role in a major plot point. I say it counts. If you are one of those people who never got around to reading Harry Potter, go forth and read! The audiobooks are especially excellent if that’s something that appeals to you.
Sabriel by Garth Nix doesn’t actually contain a magical amulet so much as a magical bandolier. My list my rules, I say. When Sabriel’s father goes missing in the Old Kingdom, she sets off across the border to find him. Her father is Abhorson–the one who prevents the dead from coming back to cause mischief among the living. Sabriel takes up the job as best she can while she searches for her father, aided by his magical bells and bandolier. I read Sabriel years ago, but I am still fascinated by the bells of varying sizes and tones and the powers Nix gives them in the series.
The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan is the fourth book in the 14-book Wheel of Time series. The series is extremely broad in scope, but the heart of the series follows three boys from a small farming community on their quest to save the world. Matrim is the most clever of the boys and the one who would rather spend his time gambling and carousing than saving the day (although he does plenty of all three). At the end of The Shadow Rising, Mat makes a deal that almost costs him his life. His reward is a foxhead medallion with extremely powerful abilities. The series is a bit of a commitment, but it’s one my brother and I loved reading one summer (and fall and winter) in college. We still debate various points of the series over a decade later.
Have I missed any magical amulets or necklaces that belong on this list? I’d love to hear about them!