Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Amulet, Books 1-3

I apologize for abandoning this blog for the last month. I was promted at work and life rather exploded on me. I've got a bunch of half-written posts, and once again every intention of doing better from now on.

I've said before how much I love graphic novels. I especially love graphic novels with great plot, great writing, great art, the type of graphic novel that has some meat to it. It's no surprise then that I love the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi and of course I've previously raved about Kibuishi's work. These books are a huge hit at my library and since I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of the third book (which came out this week), I should pass it on to one of my young friends who has been eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Book: Amulet. Book 1: The Stonekeeper; Amulet. Book 2: The Stonekeeper's Curse; and Amulet. Book 3: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi
Vital Stats: Published in 2008, 2009, and 2010 by Graphix (an imprint of Scholastic); 185, 217, and 197 pages with full color illustrations through all three.
Awards: Eisner Award nominee
Marketed Toward: Ages 9 to 12
The Quick and the Short of it: Recommended with some reservations for the use of magic and violence

Book Synopsis
In the first few pages of the first in this series of graphic novels, Emily watches her father die tragically in a car accident. She and her family (mother and brother) are forced by economic realities after his death to move to the house of her great-grandfather. Of course, in the grand tradition of comic books, her great-grandfather never died, he simply disappeared. When Emily and her brother, Navin, discover a hidden portal in his house, his disappearance makes more sense. Emily puts on a magic stone amulet she finds and together they enter a strange alternate world. Unfortunately when their mother follows, she is carried away by an enemy and then poisoned. With the aid of some of Great-Grandfather Silas' robots and the magic powers of the amulet, they rescue her. In the process Emily learns a lot about her new role as a "stonekeeper" (wearer and wielder of the magic amulet). It is a job she has inherited from her ancestor and one she will keep for life. The ultimate question is if she will control the amulet or if it will take control of her, and what she will give up to do this. By the end of the third book, the family has decided to make their new home in this magical kingdom of Alledia, but they know it will be an uphill battle, a war even, to control the stone and take back from the evil elf king who rules the land. (Did I mention there's an evil elf king? And various other villians? Oh yeah, they're there too. I'm summing up 3 books in one paragraph, stuff will be missed.)

My Take
Great story, beautifully drawn book, complex and engaging characters. I love these books and I'll keep reading the next issues. They're also a very popular choice in my library and pop up on all sort of "best of" lists. My only gripe is sometimes the plotline seems a teensy bit trite. (Less than once a book, not enough to deter anyone from reading it.) When Emily's father was lost, and her mother had to let go, couldn't hold on, couldn't save him, it was tragic. When Emily had the same experience with her mother, it was too easy of a parallel. But I'm an adult and this book is aimed (primarily) at middle grade readers who won't have this complaint. So ignore that and walk away knowing this is a great book to hand to a reluctant reader. The main character is a female, but her brother plays a huge role (and has his own part to play in the war), and I've not had any problem at all with boys refusing to read a "girl" book. Overall, highly recommended. (Well, except for what is in the next section.)

Possible Issues/Christian Connection
There's magic in this book. (You've probably figured that out on your own.) The amulet that Emily wears (and is unable to remove) talks to her and allows her to wield amazing powers (pick stuff up, blast stuff, etc.). There are other amulets and the stonekeepers (as those who wear the amulets are called) can be corrupted by the power or learn to control it. There are some battles, some violence, but nothing too graphic or off putting.

Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.
Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse.
-Proverbs 2:11-12


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