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Welcome to Alledia
on August 25, 2011
In fantasy stories, weird old houses always have something secret hidden in them.
And while "The Stonekeeper" starts with the heroine's family arriving at their new home, it doesn't take long for Kazu Kibiushi to bring us into the alternate world of Alledia -- I find the pink bunnies to be a bit distracting, but the grotesque monsters, menacing elves and eerie houses make up for it.
After her father's death, Emily accompanies her mother and brother Navin to a run-down family house -- but as they clean up and try to make it habitable, Emily finds a glowing stone amulet. And that night, Emily's mother is attacked and eaten alive by a tentacled monster, and when Navin and Emily chase it to get her back, they end up in a strange new world.
Even worse, a glowy-eyed elf is following the two children, until they are rescued by a representative of their great-grandfather, who lives in the forest with a gang of little robots. It turns out that Emily's stone amulet has the power to save the entire world of Alledia... and possibly to save her mother as well.
"The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)" reminds me a lot of Jeff Smith's Bone -- a dramatic, imaginative fantasy graphic novel that is slightly softened by some goofy-looking characters (one of the robots looks like a pink bunny). And it doesn't take long for Kazu Kibuishi to leap headfirst into fast-paced action and little touches of horror.
Actually, his entire approach is very original -- his elves aren't pretty Tolkienesque creatures, but sharp-toothed, glowy-eyed and pallid, and the forests and tunnels are full of tentacled horrors. Kibuishi paints the story in misty blue and gray tones, and adds in some whimsical touches (the floating mushrooms) to remind us that we're in another world. I was a little distracted by the mother's very long head, though.
Emily and Navin are pretty realistic young kids, both before and after their trip to Alledia; they whine and mope occasionally, but try to be strong for their mother's sake. They haven't yet shown what they're presumably capable of, but Emily thwarting the amulet's cruelty means that there may be even more growing up to do.
Be sure to have the second volume of the Amulet series on hand, because "The Stonekeeper" leaves you desperately wanting to know what happens next.