Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Amulet (Book 2): The Stonekeeper's Curse

Kazu Kibuishi
The second book in Kazu Kibuishi's all ages Amulet series continues the story of siblings Emily and Navin as they journey to a fantastic world. Many may be familiar with Kibuishi's work in the Flight anthologies, but I think that the first book in this series is some of the best work the artist has come out with as of yet, complete with some spellbinding cartooning. Unfortunately, with this second book, he doesn't continue that trend. The first book established a dark realm for the characters of this world to traverse, and introduced a great supporting cast like the robots that man a house that walks like a giant man. Emily has inherited the mantle of stonekeeper, an honor formerly held by her grandfather, and unfortunately she must take up the honor - and curse - of that magical stone, using it for good instead of being overcome by its power. My biggest problem with the latest book in this series is that the originality that was sparked initially is completely void in this new book. Kibuishi may expand his world a small step with the second volume, but it's to its detriment, as many new elements are unfortunately story devices that we've seen elsewhere dozens of times. The magic of that first installment dissemble into standard fantasy elements, beginning with the amulet that, like hundreds of rings or necklaces or stones in other books have corrupted their bearers, threatens to do the same to Emily here, with no twist to the weight she must bear. Also, the world that is expanded here is completely in line with any other fantasy book that wishes to evoke an epic feel: an oppressive race of people (elves here) rule the world with an iron fist in a world populated by anamorphic animals who live in an age that is at once medieval (as is demonstrated by its villages and rogue-ish, sword-bearing characters) and technologically-advanced (there are the robots). While Kibuishi yet demonstrates an uncannily fluid, cinematic art style that smoothly depicts action and magic (as we saw with the first Amulet book), the storytelling here is second rate and falls into the tropes of the genre so deep that it looks unlikely ever to climb back out.

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