Tuesday, April 24, 2012

REVIEW: The Amulet Series by Kazu Kibuishi [Books 1-4]

Published by Graphix an imprint of Scholastic Books. 

The first graphic novel I ever read was Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper in February 2011. Although the premise is not completely original, the artwork and storyline easily captured my attention and drew me in. The artwork is wonderfully detailed and evokes the tone of each scene very well. At the time, I was impressed by the quality of the story and artwork, but since it was my first foray into the genre, I had nothing to compare it to, and was therefore hesitant to declare my newfound fandom of the Amulet series.

Over the next fourteen months I would read nearly two dozen more graphic novels ranging from fantasy stories like this one, contemporary stories, classics such as Frankenstein, Jane Eyre and even some Shakespeare, as well as a few nonfiction memoir type graphic novels. Now a bit more seasoned in the genre, I think back to my first impressions of The Stonekeeper and I'm delighted to know that it wasn't just an overzealous first impression that led me to adore the Amulet series, but a genuine appreciation for a really great fantasy adventure series for middle school aged kids and their parents. Okay, okay! I confess! My middle schooler read the first three around the time I did, but it turns out I'm continuing the series on my own. Hey, don't knock it! If you like the fantasy animated films by Hayao Miyazaki you'd probably get a kick out of the Amulet series. The Amulet series isn't nearly as deep with social and moral implications as Miyazaki's films, but it will certainly entertain you for a couple of hours with your kid. Or by yourself. I won't tell. ;)

I recently read the latest book in the series, Book Four: The Last Council and decided it would be nice to write a little series review so far on this gem of fantasy series.

Book One: The Stonekeeper [2008]
The story begins with a family tragedy that literally brought me to tears within the first few dozen panels of the book. I admit I'm a sap to begin with, but this event sets the tone for the sadness that consumes the family there on in. Circumstances drive the family to move into a distant relative's old home in a remote town, where Emily, the oldest child, finds an amulet that later starts to reveal some special powers.

On their first night in the house, the power goes out and later they hear a noise coming from the basement. The mom goes down to the basement to investigate and you guessed it! She gets abducted by a strange creature into the depths below the house. Now it's up to Emily and her younger brother Navin to rescue her as they travel into an alternate world below their great grandpa Silas' house with nothing but their courage and resolve to get their mother back.. plus the amulet, of course!

And so begins Emily and Navin's fantasy adventure into a world that is as exciting as it is scary and beautiful as it is frightful. Emily and Navin become aware of an evil elf who is stalking them and they meet some robotic friends--Miskit, Cogsley, Morrie, and others who help them out. Strong family elements help keep Emily and Navin on course, and thanks for that because but it's not always clear if the power of the amulet will help or hurt them on their quest.
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CAUTION: Spoilers from Book One!

Book Two: The Stonekeeper's Curse [2009]
Emily and Navin have rescued their mother, but she has been poisoned by the creature who abducted her. They venture to the City of Kalanis with their new friends in search of a cure for their mom. Once in Kalanis, they make some new allies with members of a resistance who are trying to stop the Elf King from taking over the kingdom of Alledia. The leader of the resistance, Leon Redbeard, tells Emily that they have been waiting for her to join their fight. The Elf King's son, Trellis, is the elf who has been stalking Emily since she and Navin entered this world and he's still hot on their trail, only now he is joined by Luger, the Elf King's ruthless second in command. Interestingly, Trellis' motives for stalking Emily become more complicated as his story is elaborated upon, which adds an interesting twist to the evil component of the series.

In the meantime, Emily continues to struggle with understanding and controlling the powers the amulet give her. Not only that, but now she is faced with the pressure of being 'the one' the resistance has been waiting for, when all she wants to do is cure her mom and go home.

This story is possibly more adventurous than the first book and definitely maintains a high level of suspense that will keep readers flipping the pages to find out what happens next. The path Emily is on is not an easy one and she's forced to make a lot of tough decisions in a world she barely understands and where others have put a lot of pressure on her to help their cause.
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CAUTION: Spoilers from Book Two!

Book Three: The Cloud Searchers [2010]
The adventures of Emily and Navin continue in this book when they set off with the resistance leader Leon Redbeard and two pilots--Enzo and Rico, in search of the lost city of Cielis which some believe is on an island hidden in the clouds. It is in Cielis where they hope to find help from the powerful Stonekeepers who make up the Guardian Council so that they can stop the Elf King.

Trellis and Luger have been somewhat humbled since the events at the end of the previous book and they appear to be allies to Emily and the resistance now. Their trust is still somewhat tenuous, which adds some much welcomed complexity in the relationships between the characters. Added to the mix are some new enemies to contend with--some blatantly obvious and others a bit more elusive, as well as a new ally with an interesting past.

The adventure and danger runs high yet again in this installment as Emily's quest takes her to new places in this world, all the while challenging her courage and discipline to do the right thing and not let the amulet control her. There are some fun, sweet moments as well, so do not be alarmed that it's all doom and gloom if you are reading this with young children.

The artwork continues to be amazing, carefully portraying full ranges of emotions of characters and the magnitude and majesty of this fantastical world.
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CAUTION: Spoilers from Book Three!

Book Four: The Last Council [2011]
After barely surviving the culminating events of the last book, Emily and her friends finally arrive in Cielis where the Guardian Council resides. They have high hopes of finding the help they need to defeat the Elf King, but they soon find out that the city of Cielis and the Council are not at all like they expected. Emily, Navin and their mom are separated from their resistance friends and escorted into the Academy where Emily is taken from her room and forced to compete for her spot on the Council with other young Stonekeepers. It is there that she begins to learn the dark truths about the state of affairs among the Stonekeepers and it does not bode well for the resistance or any of the people in the kingdom of Alledia.

In the meantime, Emily's resistance friends are also learning firsthand how wrong things are in Cielis. Trellis and Luger are imprisoned and Leon, Enzo and Rico are in the streets where they soon discover the people are practically living in hiding, in fear of the Council. Miskit and Cogsley have been missing since the previous book, but they are rescued by a new ally with a very interesting past, giving the resistance some hope. If they can make their way to Cielis in time to help, that is.

Once again this series continues to captivate me with its wonderfully rich and detailed artwork, ever expanding plot, continued character growth and overall suspense and intrigue. We learn more about the history of Alledia and the Guardian Council in this book, which helps set the stage for what promises to be the precipice of great change in this world. This book ends with some unfortunate losses, but also leaves the reader with hope that Emily and her friends can work together for the greater good of Alledia.



  1. These are a HUGE hit in our house, but I am ashamed to say I haven't read them myself, although I definitely admire the artwork. Will definitely have to catch up. Great review!

  2. OK, I really need to hunt these down. They sound great!

  3. Oh! these books sound really really good!!
    I'll put them on the shopping list :D

  4. I've just read the first one but I agree. The artwork and the story really make this a can't put down series.

  5. Daughter has read these and really enjoyed them. I may have to give them a look! Thanks for the review!

  6. Thanks for taking the time to read my review of the Amulet series! Hope you check it out sometime. :)

  7. I'm glad you're enjoying this series, Christine :) Maybe next, you'll start reading manga?

    I have to say, the style of the Amulet series is very reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki...

  8. Hmm.. I would try manga if I got a trusted recommendation from someone. What would you suggest?

    Kibuishi's style is very reminiscent of Miyazaki, whom I love. I actually noticed [after writing my review] that Kibuishi himself claims Star Wars AND Hayao Miyazaki as his biggest influences. It shows.

  9. I think that my son would really enjoy these! He loves graphic novels...I can't even keep track of how many he has read. I love that it is helping to shape him as a reader :)

  10. My son has read all 4 books in the series...will there be a 5th book coming out?

  11. I've heard there is a fifth book too, though I've only just finished the first (also recommended by my youngest daughter). I only read that far in your thoughts -- thanks for posting the spoiler warning -- and agree that it doesn't have the depth of Miyazaki's work, but it was wholly enjoyable (and, yes, those opening pages are so sad).

  12. Samanatha ... I think any kid would love this series. I don't think I'm ever going to out grow a good picture book. ; )

    Anonymous.. I'm nearly POSITIVE a fifth book will come out--especially given the ending of book four. They're only coming out once a year though.. which is reasonable in the publishing world, but difficult for fans to be so patient!

    Buried In Print... I sure hope there's a 5th book! Otherwise the 4th one opened a can of worms for nothing! ha!

    This series is great for reading either with or in conjunction with kids. It's entertainment right up their alley.. like Samantha said above, it's a great way to engage young readers in reading and it can act as a springboard to discuss important topics with your kids. The lesson that stands out the most to me reading this series is the importance of really thinking for yourself, not following your impulses or peer pressure but making good decisions based on your values and what's right. Even if that's not the easiest path.

    Thanks for stopping by! :)


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