Amulet, Book One: The Stonekeeper
In the wake of a harrowing car crash, Em and her mother must physically let go as the mangled wreck slides over the side with her father still trapped inside. Two years later, Emily, her brother Navin, and her mother are forced to leave the city and settle in a family home in the country. Em is clearly haunted by the loss of her father and is taking the move away from everything they know very hard, even though she realizes why it is financially necessary for the family. The three do their best to make the house habitable. While exploring, Em discovers the library of her eccentric Great Grandfather Silas, who has disappeared some years before. In his things, she finds an amulet among the puzzles, inventions, and books. That night, the amulet warns Em to keep her family together and safe. The stay in the new home is short-lived and their sleep is interrupted by a strange thump. Protective, their mother investigates the noise and is spirited away by a strange beast. The children race to help her and find themselves entering a bizarre world through a door in the basement. Their adventure continues as they follow the instructions from the amulet. In addition to meeting Great Grandfather Silas, the pair find themselves the leaders of a troop of robots trying to rescue their mother and protect the powerful stone in the amulet from falling into the hands of a dark creature that wishes to control Alledia. While attempting to rescue her mother, Em is forced to choose between saving her mother or getting her brother to safety in a scene reminiscent of the original accident. Finally, with their robot friends, Em and Navin are able to free their mother, but she has been poisoned and the key to the antidote lies many miles away. As this volume closes, the two set off again to find the cure and bring their family back together.
Teenagers will enjoy the unusual characters throughout the book including a rabbit named Mistik, a surly robot named Cogsley, a mysterious elfin lurker up to no good, and various bulbous tentacled beasts. In addition, Great Grandfather Silas has created a world of interesting puzzles and inventions including a robotic house and a plane called the Albatross. The landscape is fittingly dark and sinister and includes daunting challenges such as the Gauntlet. Any teen who has recently experienced the loss of a loved one will feel a kinship with Em as she struggles to cope with the lose of her father.
I am not a huge fan of graphic novels in general, but this selection definitely made me rethink my bias. Who knew so much story could be told with so few words! My only complaint is that the second volume has not been published yet. I raced through the first volume in less than thirty minutes and now I want more! While the story is touching, there are also many elements of a true adventure which provide enjoyment for many audiences. In addition to a theme of family, this volume explores the idea of entering the unknown and trusting in others to help one find the way. Kibuishi does an admirable job of fleshing out his cast of characters with very few words, and each plays an important role. Em must rely on Navin’s experience with video games to fly the Albatross, while cautious Navin is buoyed by Em’s courage and fire. Even the grumpy robot, Cogsley, has an important skill necessary for the task at hand.
Visually, Kibuishi’s illustrations are stunning. The images have real depth and the colors are rich and creamy. The lines are smooth and rounded and pleasing to view. The illustrations add to the story in a way I had never anticipated. Faces display emotions vividly and realisticially without being cartoonish. The cover immediately caught my attention and hinted at the contents with tentacles reaching through a mysterious door and a strange pink rabbit with a patchwork ear. The illustrations and cover would appeal equally to male and female readers with its flowing lines and science fiction themes. This would be a good choice for a relunctant reader of either gender due to the visual impact and fast pacing. Readers of all ages will enjoy the union of real life drama and fantasy. Newcomers to graphic novels and manga will find this an easy transition to the genre.