Way back at the end of 2007, Mike “Gabe” Krahulik of Penny Arcade mentioned that he’d read Amulet and said, “if you are a fan of comics I suggest you do the same.” He called Kazu Kibuishi “one of the most talented individuals working in comics today.” And then moved onto the subject of Dickerdoodle cookies. That’s Penny Arcade for you. I decided at that time to go ahead and order Book One: The Stonekeeper for myself, not knowing what to expect—like I said, Gabe didn’t really say much about the book itself. I’d seen some of Kibuishi’s comics in the Flight anthologies that he edits but that’s about all I knew of his work.
I read it and enjoyed it, but then forgot to look for the next book until this spring when I happened to see Book Two: The Stonekeeper’s Curse at a bookstore and picked it up. By this time, though, my six-year-old daughter had learned to read and was starting to get into comics. As I was reading Book Two she kept looking over my shoulder. I said, “Hey, this isn’t the beginning of the story. You should go read the first book, and then you can read this one.” She read both books that afternoon, and then asked me where the next book was. I said: “You’ll have to wait.” Well, Book Three: The Cloud Searchers is finally out this month. I got an uncorrected proof from the publisher to preview (and had to fight my daughter for a chance to read it), and now we’re both eagerly awaiting the next one!
Here’s the story: after Emily’s father dies in a car accident, her mother moves them (with little brother Navin) to her great-grandfather’s old house. Pretty soon they discover some odd things about the house, including a mysterious amulet which begins to speak to Emily after she puts it on. When their mom is snatched away by a tentacled creature (see that thing on the cover?) Emily and Navin set off in pursuit, and find themselves in a parallel world, filled with monsters, unfriendly elves, and a house full of robot helpers left behind by great-grandfather Silas.
Kibuishi has created a world with a lot of depth, and it really draws the reader in. The amulet Emily finds grants her amazing powers but also demands her allegiance, which she is hesitant to give. You’re never entirely sure who to trust—there aren’t always clear-cut bad guys and good guys. Sure, the anthropomorphic fox guy looks friendly but is he hiding something? And even the treacherous-looking elf (he’s got sharp teeth, for cryin’ out loud!) might turn out to be an ally. Since Emily and Navin are just kids, they have to decide who to trust and where to go on their own.
The artwork is dazzling, clearly influenced by anime but with Kibuishi’s own style. Every so often you get an establishing shot on a full-page spread and it’s like a scene from a movie. One of my favorite scenes comes at the end of the first book, when you discover a secret about Silas’ house … but I don’t want to give it away. But it’s a scene that made me want to stand up and cheer. There’s plenty of action throughout, but not so much that there’s not time to develop the characters, either.
Amulet is targeted at middle readers—it’s listed as ages 9-12—but I think younger kids could enjoy it as well, as my daughter did. Just be sure to preview it, since there are some parts that are a little more frightening. And it’s certainly one that older kids and adults will love, too. I don’t know how many books are projected in the series, but wherever Kibuishi takes us, we’re happy to go along for the ride. Click here to read the prologue from the first book, and then get started with Book One. Heck, buy all three now and save yourself the wait later!
Wired: Heroic kids, a mysterious talking amulet, a mechanical rabbit named Miskit, Leon Redbeard the fox-man, need I go on?
Tired: Okay, yeah, not everyone likes talking animals, but the story hints that there’s actually a reason for their existence.
Disclosure: I received an advance proof of Book Three for review purposes.