The first book in this series felt incomplete to me, as if the whole were a prologue and maybe a first chapter, but certainly not a full story.
I decided that I really needed to read the Amulet series after opening one of the later books (I’m not sure which) and discovering the rebellious prince of the elf court and the political allies and enemies that he has in his father’s palace. He was present in this first book but only barely, given not even a name.
This book focuses on the humans who find themselves in this alternate earth, a brother and sister and their widowed mother. It seems too to want to be about building the world, but the world introduced in this book is so shallow compared to what comes in the second.
This first book started more darkly than I expected, with the death by a car crash of the protagonist’s father, who while still alive but trapped beneath the dashboard and steering wheel plunged in the car over a cliff.
Seeking a new start and a less financially burdensome house, the widowed mother moves her family into an old house inherited from her eccentric grandfather. In her great-grandfather’s library, Emily pricks her finger on a handprint, which causes the revelation of a pendant that she cannot leave behind and which ties itself onto her neck. (Are you getting One Ring vibes? Because I was.)
In the house’s basement, chasing odd noises that she expects are caused by a wild animal, Emily and Navin’s mother is swallowed whole by a tentacled creature. The creature gets Navin too, but Emily and her mother are able to rescue him. By the time that they do, though, all three of them and the creature have entered a strange land through a portal in the basement.
The amulet speaks to Emily and leads her to the home of her great-grandfather in this land. Its instructions include telling her to leap off a cliff while clinging to a large mushroom which is too reminiscent of her father’s death, though that parallel seems never to be addressed within the text.
But her great-grandfather is dying.
His power over the amulet is passed to Emily when she accepts the power, and by accepting the power, she maintains the life force of her great-grandfather’s magical, mechanic creations.
Together with the machines, Emily and Navin chase after the creature that swallowed their mother.
With the amulet’s help, they manage to wrest her from the creature, but Emily is almost abducted by an elven prince who has his own stone amulet and who wants her help to kill his father. The amulet wants Emily to kill the prince for his attempted abduction, but Emily resists and lets him go. Emily’s desire for mercy I think will be central to what makes her an effective heroine of the series and of this fantasy world.
Emily’s mother is poisoned by the creature, and the second book takes the heroes of this tale to the nearest city where they seek the help of a doctor.
There Emily and Navin witness the cruelty of the elves who rule the city.
They are offered help from a vulpine bounty hunter, which they initially refuse, focused on merely helping their mother.
But the elves follow them to the doctor’s, and they narrowly escape into the arms of the resistance.
Emily, Leon Redbeard the bounty hunter/resistance fighter, and the leporine Miskit seek out the prophetic gadoba forest and the fruit that will cure Emily’s mother, pursued by the elves, but Navin discovers himself the commander of the resistance army.
The end of this second book is far more satisfying. The personal and societal stakes are heightened. The magic is a little better explained though still quite nebulous. The roles of the main pro- and antagonists are better settled. The family has a new home—the three of them, everyone conscious and mending.
I think I will continue on with the series, though I read the description of the last of the HiLo books the other day, and now I want to read that series too. Kazu Kibuishi has only one more book planned for this series, so perhaps I will wait until the series is complete then binge my way through the war for Alledia.
My advice to you, though, if you’re just coming to this series is to read past the first book, to read at least through the second before deciding whether you will or will not continue.
Kibuishi, Kazu. Amulet, Book 1: The Stonekeeper. New York: Graphix-Scholastic, 2008.
Intended audience: Ages 8-12, Grades 3-7.
Kibuishi, Kazu. Amulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse. New York: Graphix-Scholastic, 2009.
Intended audience: Ages 9-12, Grades 4-7.
This review is not endorsed by Kazu Kibuishi, Graphix, or Scholastic Inc. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.