Sunday, August 10, 2008

Review: Amulet

Amulet volume 1: The Stonekeeper, by Kazu Kibuishi
8/10, a gorgeous graphic novel of a fantasy adventure

Kazu Kibuishi first came to our attention through his webcomic "Copper," which led us to the anthology book "Flight." Last year, we picked up Kazu's book "Daisy Cutter: The Last Train" (which I believe is his first published graphic novel) and loved it, so we bought "Amulet" pretty much automatically.

The story, in a nutshell: after the loss of their father in a tragic accident, Emily and her brother Navin move with their mother to an ancient family home that once belonged to her grandfather. The grandfather, as often happens in stories like these, was exploring some other world connected through the house, and left an amulet behind , which Emily finds and puts on. Almost as soon as they venture into the other world, their mother is kidnapped, leaving the children to fend for themselves, with the help of the mysterious amulet and another voice. They are, of course, stalked by a shadowy presence whose motives are hidden, and chased by monsters whose motives are all too plain.

The story itself is compelling enough, if rather plain. Emily and Navin both want to be grown up, but they also seem to be aware of the carefree life they're leaving behind as they take on the responsibility of finding their mother. The characters of the children and the people (and non-people) they meet are nicely developed, and the story is beautifully paced and engaging.

But the real treasure in Amulet is the art. Kibuishi is a master at shading and depth, and under his talented pen (digital or not), the world and its inhabitants come alive. He imagines Victorian fantasy constructions: houses, castles, dungeons, laboratories, creepy monsters, ancient relatives, all with the delicate, confident touch of a master of his art.

Kazu posts updates to his blog about "Amulet," including tips about how it's produced. If you like fantasy adventures, Amulet is a gorgeous find, and one that deserves all the attention it's getting.

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