Amulet, Book One: The Stonekeeper (Graphix, 2008)
Monday, 16th April, 2012 § 1 Comment
(Disclosure: Scholastic Malaysia recently mailed me a whole stack of books for me to read and review including the first four books of the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi. I love it when people send me free books, especially if those books are kick ass awesome)
Amulet revolves around Emily and Navin who, with their widowed mother, move to an old family home out in the woods. The huge derelict house once belonged to an eccentric ancestor who mysteriously disappeared and was never heard or seen from again. The children soon discover a strange amulet that grants its bearer powerful magic but before Emily can begin to understand on how to handle the strange artifact, their mother is kidnapped by a tentacled spider-like monster. In pursuit of the monster, Emily and Navin find themselves in a parallel world filled with strange creatures both good and evil. And wouldn’t you know it, someone else wants the amulet for himself. Isn’t that always the case?
Part steampunk, part fantasy, part science-fiction, Amulet reminds me of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated features especially Spirited Away which has a somewhat similar concept. Amulet however does not bother to shield its target audience from the horrors of life. I mentioned above that Emily and Navin’s father is dead. Yeah, we get to see that in the opening pages of the book. Swerving to avoid a broken down car, Emily and her mom could only watch in horror as the family car rolls down the cliff with Emily’s dad still in the car (he couldn’t get out in time). Some parents may find that too dark for children to read but I applaud series creator Kazu Kibuishi for being honest about it. He could have avoided the death scene and just stated that Karen was a single parent with two kids, but no. Mr. Kibuishi actually gave us the back-story as to what made her a single parent with two kids. Death happens, kids. Suck it up.
Once Emily and Navin enters the strange realm, the story shifts to high gear. I could not wait to turn the page to see what happens next to the point that I missed one glaring question that I only asked upon a second reading: how do we know the titular amulet Emily is wearing around her neck is a force for good?
Sure, it saved her a couple of times but all she knows about it is from her great-great grandfather who literally dies as soon as he delivers his final message to Emily. A man whom she never met until she enters the strange magical world, a man whom according to her mother mysteriously disappeared decades ago, tells her the amulet can help Emily find her mother and bestow powers beyond her wildest dreams and then conveniently dies is not exactly a person whose word a teenage girl should take at face value. Plus, during the climactic battle against the Elf prince, the amulet persuades Emily to strike down the prince without so much as a “hello” and only Emily’s innocence or her ability to look beyond revenge saved the Elf prince. There is something sinister about this amulet but Book One: The Stonekeeper delivers no answers.
I for one enjoy the idea of a morally complex universe where nothing is black and white. Again I applaud Kazu Kibuishi for not talking down to his young readers. Apart from the great storytelling, the artwork is also very good. The colours and the setting combine to create a world at once mythical but at the same time realistic if that makes sense. It’s the clever use of the colour palette that made this book pop out. It felt like watching an animated movie.
A great story and great artwork and lots of questions in Book One make me excited to continue the journey in the second book. There are already four books out so far with the fifth one scheduled for later this year.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good adventure story. But if you don’t like to read graphic novels, then you’re dead to me. Dead!