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Review: Amulet, Vol. 1-3

Snow Wildsmith

Emily and her brother Navin have moved into their Great-Grandfather Silas’ house after their father dies. They and their mother are looking for a new start, but they don’t expect it to come in the way that it does. Their mother is kidnapped by a tentacled beast and dragged into another world. When Emily and Navin follow her, they discover a destiny that links them to their ancestors. Together they will meet strange new friends, face deadly enemies, and brave the darkest secrets of their own hearts.

Amulet, vol. 1-3
Kazu Kibuishi

Ages 9-13; Grades 4-8
Scholastic/GRAPHIX
Volume 1: The Stonekeeper: Jan. 2008, ISBN 978-0-439-84681-3, 192 pages, $9.99
Volume 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse: Sept. 2009, ISBN 978-0-439-84683-7, 224 pages, $10.99
Volume 3: The Cloud Searchers: Sept. 2010, ISBN 978-0-545-20885-7, 208 pages, $10.99

The Amulet series is an ambitious undertaking. In the first three books, Kibuishi begins crafting a layered fantasy adventure that features a legion of characters, a wide variety of locales, and many elements that will be familiar to fans of hero’s quest style fantasy and science fiction. The question is whether or not he will be able to tie all of those elements together at some point in order to end his series coherently. Even three volumes in, it’s hard to tell exactly where he is headed with his story. Kibuishi has offered a lot to his readers and expects them to keep up with him. That’s not a bad thing for a creator to do, but with about a year between each volume, that does mean that libraries should expect a good amount of re-reading of previous volumes.
amulet1 Review: Amulet, Vol. 1 3
The elements that tie all three books together so far are Emily and her brother. Emily discovers that she is a Stonekeeper, a person chosen to wield a magical stone. The problem is that the stone’s motives are not as benign as they might first seem. She soon discovers that she will have to work hard to master the stone’s power or be in danger of allowing it to master her. Navin, on the other hand, quickly shows himself to be a resourceful young man and a deft pilot, though readers are never quite told how he learns the skills that he displays. There are a multitude of additional characters who both help and hinder Emily and Navin’s quest, including an evil Elf lord who is consumed by the power of his stone and the mysterious fox Leon Redbeard who helps train Emily to control her stone. With so many characters to keep straight and with the children’s quest taking them over so much territory, a character guide and a map would have been useful inclusions.

Kibuishi’s art is more than up to the task of bringing life to the land of Alledia, where the story takes place. He has a slightly cartoonish style when drawing characters, so none of them look overly realistic. But that is the perfect fit for a fantastic story such as this and just because a character doesn’t look realistic, doesn’t mean that he or she looks any less menacing or heroic. Kibuishi’s settings, though, are where he really shines. Whether the adventurers are flying through the clouds or trekking through the forest, whether they are exploring the bowels of a house or walking the back alleys of a city, the paths they travel seem to leap from the page, imbued with life and alive with vibrant colors.

Though I personally found Amulet’s storyline a little too drawn out and chaotic and I would have liked Kibuishi to begin drawing at least some elements together by the end of book three, I have to admit that there is a cinematic quality to his work which keeps a reader engaged. The action scenes move the book along quickly, leaving readers breathless until the plot pauses for a moment to allow them to catch up. Then it’s off again, daring readers to follow. I can guarantee that older elementary school and middle school readers will eat this series up, because I’ve had to repair quite all of the very-well-loved copies of Amulet at the school where I volunteer. A great choice for fantasy fans looking for a long, complex series.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Scholastic/GRAPHIX.

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Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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