Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 18 (2/21) -- Amulet: The Stonekeeper's Curse by Kazu Kibuishi

This is the second -- though very clearly not final -- book in the Amulet series, from the editor and guiding light of the Flight series of anthologies. I reviewed the first book in the middle of one of my reading-massive-stacks-of-comics-for-the-Eisners around this time last year, and mostly liked it; the Flight crew has tended to do solid, attractive animation-influenced work that doesn't really stretch outside of a narrow commercial (and often faintly, or explicitly Young Adult) comfort zone, and Amulet: The Stonekeeper was smack dab in the middle of that territory.

The Stonekeeper's Curse continues very much in the path of the first book, like so many portal fantasies that turn into series, the fact that our young heroine Emily (and her brother Navin and comatose, poisoned mother ) came from our world to this fantasy world quickly disappears into the background as the stew of walking robot houses, evil elf-lords, talking trees, powerful sentient gems, and wily, lovable fox-warriors bubbles up over increasing heat. Emily is a Young Woman With a Destiny, Scion of a Powerful, Renowned Family, Holder of a Mysterious Magical Artifact, and one or two other high-fantasy-for-youngsters cliches -- did I mention that she's a spunky tomboy? -- but Kibuishi embraces Amulet as a genre exercise, so it never becomes cynical. (For other examples of those genre elements: the evil elf-lord has a source of power very similar to Emily's, and his eager-to-please son is chasing her under the command of an older, nastier general.)

Stonekeeper's Curse is a well-told adventure story that rumbles down a path many stories have worn down before it; it's not going to surprise anyone who knows fantasy or YA in the slightest. But its expected audience will not have read this story a thousand times already, and may well imprint hard on this version of it -- Kibuishi has an engaging illustrative style mixing clean lines for characters and deep tones for backgrounds, and he hits the beats of this story solidly and does all of the expected things with grace and energy. Amulet is following in the footsteps of Bone, and that's a hard act to follow -- this isn't Bone, and never will be, but it's a entertaining story in its own right, and it's always fun to see pointy-eared elves -- who look disconcertingly like Penny Arcade's Witchaloks -- get what's coming to them. Pre-teens can do much, much worse than this, and often do.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
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Listening to: Hot Springs - Fantome Dinosaure
via FoxyTunes

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