- Posted by Ed Sizemore on October 3, 2010 at 11:50 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Kazu Kibuishi
- PUBLISHER: Graphix/Scholastic; $10.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
***Warning: this review contains spoilers***
Emily and Navin have rescued their mother, but they now have to find a cure for the arachnopod sting she suffered that left her in a coma. Along the way, they pick up a new companion, Leon Readbeard. He will teach them more about the history of Alledia, the nature of the power stones, and the Elf King.
Emily comes to understand that her mission is to defeat the Elf King. He is a strong stonekeeper, and she will not be able to do it alone. However, all the other stonekeepers vanished and are assumed to be dead. The former capital city of Cielis no longer exists. There are rumors that the stonekeepers and the city still survive, but they are only rumors, since no one has seen either in years.
After three volumes, I still find this series to have a dark streak, and I continue to have reservations about it. My doubts about Amulet can best be seen by comparing the series to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. As Tolkien did, Kazu Kibuishi is gifted in bringing to life the corruptive nature of evil. The Elf King is similar to Sauron. He is more than a despot seeking dominion over all the world. Both are the embodiment of evil. They taint all they touch, whether people or places. Even those who seek to defeat the Elf King have to be careful that in their desperation to overthrow him, they don’t begin to adapt the Elf King’s methods themselves.
Furthermore, the power stones offer their keepers great power, reminiscence of the One Ring and the Rings of Power. It’s implied the only limit to the stone’s power is the ability of the welder to channel such energy. However, we learn that the stones are sentient. They hunger for unlimited power and push the stonekeepers to channel more and more energy. Stones can take possession of their keepers if they become powerful enough. This makes me call into question anyone’s use of the power stones, since it’s hard not to see them as having a bend toward evil.
Where Kibuishi departs from Tolkien is in his depiction of good. To resist the temptations of Sauron and the One Ring, Tolkien’s characters were called to ennoble themselves. People like Gandalf and Aragon were embodiments of good. There are no corresponding characters or morality in Amulet. Emily is told that to overcome the power stone’s urgings, she must have a stronger will. It seems like a Nietzschean struggle for dominance. Even if Emily is able to master the stone, what guides her as to its proper and moral use? In Amulet, people are expected to do good without any real reason why or what benefits there are. Emily says not everyone wants to be a hero and there’s a reason for that. Kibuishi offers us no compelling vision of goodness to inspire us.
A great example of this lack of moral language is seen in volume two. At the Gadoba tree, Emily only takes one fruit to heal her mother. Miskit suggests that they take as many they can. Emily says no, that taking more than one will cause more trouble. I applaud her lack of greed, but not her reasons. Miskit should be chastised for his greed and selfishness. At the very least, Leon should explain that they take only what’s needed so others too can benefit from the Gadoba tree. Miskit is a robot and such moral instruction would not be out of line. This avoidance of moral language disturbs me.
In all other aspects, Amulet is a brilliant work of epic fiction. Alledia is a wonderful alternate world filled with beautiful landscapes and intriguing towns. All aspects of this alternate reality have been well thought out: technology, geography, architecture, history, etc. You can imagine yourself living in this world. Few authors are able to craft such a believable fantasy world.
Kibuishi does a great job with the central cast, too, crafting a genuinely likeable and sympathetic group of people. We get to watch as Emily and Navin mature and find a place for themselves in Alledia. Navin is still my favorite character. He’s humble and unassuming. People constantly underestimate him. I wish more of the cast showed his wisdom to ask questions before they act.
The art continues to be flawless. The panels look more like paintings than comic pages. The coloring makes excellent use of subtle shading to bring the images to life. More than once, I’ve turned the page to be shocked by the beauty of a splash page. It’s a visually stunning book that sets a high standard for all kids’ comics to follow.
I can’t get past my misgivings to give Amulet my full recommendation. With each book, I keep hoping the needed moral dimension will be added to make this truly a first-rate epic fantasy. So far, I’ve been disappointed. I wouldn’t hesitate to give it to my nephew, but I would talk to him after each book to fill in what I think is missing. Parents will need to decide for themselves if Amulet is appropriate for their children. Certainly, Amulet is worthy of serious consideration. (The publisher provided review copies.)