Adolescent Emily and her younger brother Navin are lost in the land of Alledia trying to rescue their mother while being chased by an evil Elf prince and icky monsters. The dark and foreboding world (found in the basement of their new home)
has nothing about it that is certain and is much like the current state of their lives after their mother has ripped them away from the comfortable and familiar only to live in the creepy ancestral home with the dread of new schools, new people, and new experiences waiting for them.
All of this with the violent loss of their father lingering in the background to make everything unsettled. To make matters worse, their dread is confirmed after their mother is captured by a disgusting creature of teeth and tentacles.
Alledia is like an updated Narnia but menacing and with more machinery. The parallels with C.S. Lewis are certainly there: young kids work their way through weird old house owned by strange family member and find themselves in wondrous place. Never gets old. Kibuishi touches all of the things that great kids literature tangles with.
Emily and Navin get lost in a dark and sinister world full of the unfamiliar. In the process of trying to find their mother, Emily and Navin come across their Great Grandfather, an eccentric genius who has withdrawn to this strange world and surrounded himself with crafted mechanical wonders of all sorts, including their new sidekick, the plucky robot Miskit.
Amulet is most certainly setting up to be a coming-of-age tale about navigating the inner turmoil of adolescence and dealing with the fear of loss and the unknown. The good and the bad play equal roles as Emily discovers a powerful stone necklace and finds to her dismay that she has been burdened with the role of "stonekeeper." She must learn to understand and control the strange new power she now wields. Emily and Navin’s early experiences in Alledia are full of wish fulfillment and power fantasy all intermingled with a darker side of adolescent escapism.
If you’re familiar with Kazu Kibuishi’s past work, particularly his webcomic "Copper," you’ll find many familiar themes of exploration and the wonder of discovery – along with cute talking critters. Although the steampunky tech so often seen in "Copper" and "Daisy Kutter" doesn’t make much of an appearance in Amulet (yet), what does appear is masterfully interwoven with the elements of higher fantasy (elf kings, mystical stones, magic) and sets us up for an interesting ride.
Kibuishi’s mastery is in his simplicity of form and sparseness of dialogue. Like "Copper" and "Daisy Kutter," he relies on smooth and clever visuals to tell his story in classic style. Scenes zoom in and pull back with a regular beat that’s almost like breathing and move the story forward in natural rhythm. Panels are moody when needed and subtly adorned.
I picked up Amulet only recently. After reading it and loving it, I cajoled my 9-year-old daughter for a few days to read it before she finally did. She now must have Book Two! Amulet was broadly published at the start of the year and thankfully, Book 2 is in the works. We’ll be waiting.