Sunday, September 25, 2016

Amulet, Book Seven: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi

I've given up trying to guess how long Kibuishi's Amulet series will run: it was originally a two-book deal with Scholastic, and several of my other posts about this series -- see one, two, three, four, five, and six, respectively -- had some vague supposition about where we are in the overall plot. It just barely could be eight books, I suppose -- a series can always end in one more book, if it has to -- but it could be ten or twelve or twenty just as easily. There is an overall story here, but elements also feel like Kibuishi is adding new complications as he goes, so he could keep this going as long as the audience and he are still excited about it.

Which brings us to Firelight, at the end of which a Chekhov Gun from the very first volume is finally pulled down and fired at the reader. (No, I won't tell you which one. What kind of a reviewer do you think I am?) Firelight continues Kibuishi's transmutation of epic fantasy tropes into a middle-grade graphic novel: the party has been split for several books now, and we also have revealing flashbacks, startling revelations about the nature of magic in this world, difficult moral choices, and enemies-turned-allies. Plus, of course, journeys by the separate pieces of the split party across interesting new landscapes to find surprising and magnificent unexpected places. (Kibuishi's map hasn't changed since the beginning, I think, but there have been a number of places visited that aren't on the map -- and, in this book, one that couldn't be on that map.)

A review of an epic fantasy like this can either be for the fans, and revel in the names of the characters and minutiae of their adventures and new powers and hair-flipping moments, or stay general, on the assumption that most of the world has not read any particular book. By this point, you might have guessed that I usually come down in the second camp, and I'm doing it again here. I'm not going to tell you who all of the people are and what they're doing: it would be a sea of fantasy-book names, and look silly as all such things do.

I will say that this is a solid series; Kibuishi is a fine comics-maker, on all levels -- his pages are well-constructed, each book is a real volume rather than a collection of pages, and the overall series (despite my quibbles about its ever-extending length) moves cleanly and confidently across its landscape and delights in showing us each new thing. Your tween could find much worse things to be obsessed with -- and there's a lot to enjoy for those of us who aren't tweens anymore, too. (Those of us who have read epic fantasy for fortyish years will find a lot of it familiar, but what is a genre but familiarity?)

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