Book Review #21: Amulet: Book One, The Stonekeeper (Graphic Novel) by Kazu Kibuishi

Thursday, 22 January 2015
Product details:
Publisher: Graphix 
Format: Paperback
Length: 185 pages
Published: 2008
Rating: ☆☆☆
Source: Purchased
Graphic novel star Kazu Kibuishi creates a world of terrible, man-eating demons, a mechanical rabbit, a giant robot---and two ordinary children on a life-or-death mission.
After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. Before long, a sinister creature lures the kids' mom through a door in the basement. Em and Navin, desperate not to lose her, follow her into an underground world inhabited by demons, robots, and talking animals.Eventually, they enlist the help of a small mechanical rabbit named Miskit. Together with Miskit, they face the most terrifying monster of all, and Em finally has the chance to save someone she loves.

After witnessing the beauty of the recent US covers of the Harry Potter series I came across the illustrator, Kazu Kibuishi and after later researching him a bit on the internet I finally came across this series. Amulet is a series that I have heard of previously from the book reviewing community online and I was eager to check it out so I bought the first three volumes. Here is my review for the first book in this graphic novel series, The Stonekeeper. So as usual let's start off with the cover, shall we?

Cover - First of all I was attracted to this graphic novel for the artistic style of Kazu Kibuishi that I recognised as mentioned before from the new US covers of the Harry Potter series. The distinctive characteristics noticeable in the faces of his characters. His artistic style is quite plain, surprisingly pleasing to the eye and yet very distinct. Observing the cover, obviously this graphic novel is pitched at a middle grade audience, it's not everyday you see a YA/Adult novel that seems to have a stuffed bunny on the cover.  However what really drew my attention was the focus on the amulet - it instantly got me wondering what sort of magical elements this graphic novel would have by the look of just the cover. I love the typography of the title, very bold and adventurous and I think it offsets the illustrations on the cover well.

Plot - The plot to this novel is in my opinion quite average. Obviously being the first instalment in a series it is very much an introductory plotline, focusing primarily on the relationships of the characters presented and gives the reader a basic look at the setting. Now in the first few pages we're introduced to a death, which for a middle grade book might be considered quite dark to have as a introductory theme however I think Kibuishi handled it really well, presenting the sheer impact it has on the surrounding characters both at the time and afterwards in the mourning period. Speaking of dark themes however, it would seem that Amulet does take a rather dark twist in terms of a generic adventure plot, which I have to admit I was exceptionally pleased at. I think I was just expecting that little bit extra. As mentioned before this installation was very much an introductory graphic novel, as it should be. When it came to the pace of this graphic novel, I felt a bit disappointed. For me the story progressed a bit too fast for my liking. At times I did find myself wondering exactly who each of the characters are. We get thrown head first into this world of creatures, robots and magic without really detailed explanation. A good analogy for this would be sitting in a car that is driving too fast and taking too many turns - it doesn't allow you time to feel relaxed and take in all of the sights around you.

Characters - For me this also kind of let me down slightly, as mentioned before I didn't feel like I knew the characters very well. I got to know their backstory with their father but otherwise we just get introduced to Emily and her brother Navin as our two main characters. Emily for me was very impulsive and arrogant and Navin quite inclined and more level headed than his sister. Navin was definitely my favourite of the two but I would have liked to see him be a bit more insistent and have a larger role in the story than giving Emily all the limelight. At times though I did really have a hatred of the way Emily's character acted, especially towards her brother. All of this simply because she was eldest so was in charge. I mentioned her impulsive nature and this really showed in her decision making. She acted a lot of the time without thinking it through and throwing herself into dangerous and general life threatening situations, either because the amulet told her to, or she thought it was best. Overall the characters, including the side ones, just seemed kind of flat to me. Whether this is down to as mentioned many times previously, this being an introduction to the series or whether the characters were just written that way. Either way I'm sure things will develop as the series progresses. 

Illustrations - If I am to be completely honest, if I was reviewing this book and not taking into account the illustrations (which for a graphic novel is bizarre, I know) I feel that I would have only awarded this novel a 2 star rating, because without the illustrations it didn't really captivate me as much as I hoped it would. Once again, it was very introductory and flat. For me what made this whole novel worth while was definitely the illustrations. They were simplistic and yet so detailed at times and I found the characters faces to really show their emotion well. A good example of this can be seen near the end of the story when Miskit the robot-rabbit notices he's brought the wrong darts. The look on his face to me was very expressive and quite humorous. I can definitely see how a younger audience would enjoy this because I really did. Overall however the the illustrations were quite dark in tone and I think this matched the mood of the plot really well. There were a vast amount of colours portrayed and for quite a dark scene that was really well adapted too and I am grateful for that. 

So overall those are my feelings towards the first instalment of the Amulet graphic novel series. A bit flat and too fast paced but overall not a bad first book. The illustrations definitely made up for its errors, so I award Amulet, Book One: The Stonekeeper a strong 3 star rating on my classification scale. I will be picking up the second volume in the hopes that it gets better as it progresses. 

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