Kazu Kibuishi: Amulet and Other Works

I am pleased to present Kazu Kibuishi! The first works by Kazu that I read were the Amulet series recommended to me by a librarian friend of mine.

I have to say, the premise (thus far) is a standard fantasy portal quest. Family goes through a door and enters another world (and I expect them to return as well). Girl is “special” and must save the world in order to save the ones she loves. Nothing super new there, however, it is the art and the compassionate storytelling that keep me going as the series progresses. You’ll find below a quick review of each of the books that are out right now, and then a little spotlight on some other works by Kazu Kibuishi.

 

Book One: The Stonekeeper (2008)

The story begins with a blast from the past, uncovering the tragedy that has shaped the Hayes family. Emily and her family (little brother Navin, and mother Karen) move into a distant relative’s house in a remote town, where Emily discovers the amulet. The amulet, which, throughout the book begins to reveal it’s true powers.

The power goes out on the first night in the new house and Karen (the mom), goes to investigate a strange noise coming from the basement. She gets abducted by a strange creature (with tentacles!) and dragged into the world below the house. Emily, wearing the amulet, and Navin venture after her determined to rescue her and return home. Upon descending into Alledia their fantasy adventure begins. The amulet holds within it great power, but it is not clear yet whether it is going to help or hinder Emily – and besides, other things are on their mind as they race to free their mother, and evade whatever, or whoever, is following them.

 

Amulet

They arrive at their great grandfather Silas’ house. The house, built by Silas is robotic, as are it’s inhabitants: Miskit, Cogsley, Morrie, and others who help the Hayes as they adventure through Alledia.

This is very much a set-up novel, we get the history of the characters, a good grounding in each of the character’s strengths, weaknesses, cutenesses. There are strong family elements throughout Amulet, which helps to keep Emily and Navin on track throughout the books. The art is stunning, such brilliant colour and play with light and dark.

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Book Two: The Stonekeeper’s Curse (2009)
(CAUTION: Spoilers from Book One!)
The adventure continues, as when Karen is rescued it is discovered that she has been poisoned by the creature who abducted her. In Silas’ house they adventure to the City of Kalanis in the search for a cute. Once there, however, the plot thickens. They are befriended by members of a resistance group who are trying to stop the Elf King from taking over all of Alledia. There is something darker at work, however, when Redbead (the leader of the resistance) tells Emily that they have been waiting for her… Emily is already under pressure from the amulet as she tries to gain control over it (and herself) and discover a cure for her mom, but now that she is “the one!” the people of Alledia are counting on her. Emily has some big decisions to make.
amulet 2
Meanwhile, the Elf King’s son, Trellis (I know, what a sissy name for a “bad guy”), has been stalking Emily and Navin. He is joined by the Elf King’s ruthless second in command, Luger. Trellis, it is clear is not as evil as Luger or the Elf King for that matter, and he is therefore a conflicted hero/anti-hero character throughout the series.

This book continues the adventure with more world building and plot thickening. Politics come into play – and no one is really sure who is on who’s side. The amulet’s powers make themselves more known and now that Emily is “the one” we know exactly what kind of fantasy story we are in. She will have to decide between running home and saving the world – don’t worry, the books are still being released, so I don’t even know what happens in the end. Being “the one” is not an easy, but being her little brother isn’t easy either. The contrast between the heavy decisions that Emily must make and her little brother’s adventure into teenage-hood is interesting and delightful. Navin really grows and becomes his own character from this book on into the rest of the series – as he steadily become smore independent, Emily steadily gets more and more sucked in to… her destiny.

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Book Three: The Cloud Searchers (2010)
(CAUTION: Spoilers… from the other two books)

Now that Karen is cured the adventure can continue as the Hayes decide to join the resistance. With some new friends Enzo and Rico, they search for the lost city of Cielis, where they hope to find a way to stop the Elf King. Cielis, which is rumoured to be a floating island hidden in the clouds, is also the home of the powerful Stonekeepers who make up the Guardian Council, who Redbeard hopes will help the resistance. Trellis and Luger begin this book as tenuous allies to Emily and the resistance – this adds some much needed complexity but also plot motivation and conversation around “destiny,” “good,” and “evil.”

amulet_cielis

New friends and new foes crop up in this book, some obvious and some not so – adding some interesting elements. The book is full of action and might have spent a little more time developing it’s characters and exploring some issues a little more. Still, the fighting is fun to read through and there are some harrowing moments! Many new and fantastically realized locations are explored, including the sky! I love it when Kibuishi illustrates flight and aerial creatures and worlds, it’s just gorgeous.

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Book Four: The Last Council (2011)
(CAUTION: Spoilers from the other three books)
The Hayes family and friends arrive in Cielis after a harrowing adventure, they are definitely bedraggled and need of allies. The Guardian Council initially welcomes them, but of course, they are not exactly what our heroes had hoped. Emily is taken and forced to compete for a spot on the Council, it is a very Huger Games like scenario that I wasn’t a big fan of. In the arena Emily learns more about the history of the Stones and the Stonekeepers and realizes that the kingdom of Alledia has more to fear than just the Elf King.
amulet 3

In the meantime, Emily’s resistance friends are also learning firsthand how wrong everything is in Cielis. Trellis and Luger are imprisoned and Leon, Enzo and Rico are in the streets where they soon discover the populace is living in fear of the Council. Miskit and Cogsley have been missing since the previous book, but they are rescued by a new ally, an ally with an interesting past and who gives the resistance a new hope – well, that is if they can make their back to Cielis to rescue Emily.

The series still continues and it is still captivating, it’s getting more complex as more characters and subplots are added – but the overall intrigue and suspense (and honestly, the cool history and world building) keep me reading. The book ends on a sad note, but there is also hope now that Emily and her friends might be able to save Alledia.

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Book Five: The Prince of Elves (2012)
(CAUTION: Spoilers from the other books)
The revelations continue in this installment of the series. Finally, Emily begins to truly uncover the dangers of her alliance with the amulet, finally we get Trellis’ past and hurrah! We get more Navin as important character, and even Karen, the mother comes back as an important character – as mother and otherwise.
The story continues to complicate his plotline, though I must contend that it stays on the track of a secondary world fantasy. It continues to question good and evil and how these absolutes are ludicrous – history again becomes an important element as each character has motivations behind what they have become are often redemptive. In this installment the characters are chasing Max Griffin a stonekeeper who has stolen the master stone, and in uncovering his past – well, it’s an awful lot like Emily’s. 
The series continues to build in scope and stakes, the pacing is fast (and at times this is an issue) but it is a gripping and easy (though at times interesting) read. In combination with the fabulous art, Kazu Kibuishi has truly created a remarkable series with Amulet.
Looking forward to Book Six: Escape from Lucien which should be released in August 2014!
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Other Works:
Flight_Book6
FlightIs a beautiful series by professional and non-professional artists and storytellers all dealing with the theme of flight. It’s in short story style and it’s just gorgeous! There are 8 books in the series, and I have read the first. It’s lovely and intriguing.
Explorer – This is another set of stories by a 7 graphic novel creators. It is also lovely, having flipped through it, it is on my “to sit down and read list”.
Copper
Copper A series for younger readers about a boy and his dog in a magical, mysterious world. Each book is a self-contained, imaginative adventure.