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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.