After the death of their father Emily and her younger brother Navin move to their great-grandfather’s house with their mother. In quick succession Emily finds the eponymous amulet, they discover a doorway to an alternate universe in the basement, and their mother is captured by a spider monster. From this point on all the action in the story happens in this alternate world.
Ages 8 and up
I was tempted to recommend this one for ages 10 and up because it’s full of some pretty dark material but I’m going to give kids the benefit of the doubt. As a parent, however, you should be aware that the book opens with a very young Emily helplessly watching her father die in a car accident. The author then puts a spin on the old Disney rule of killing off the parents by having the mother held prisoner inside a nasty spider monster (an arachnopod, to be specific), getting stung by said beastie, and almost dying – almost. It’s not all this grim but heads up.
So let’s see, parents dying or almost dying, lots of creepy monsters, plenty of fantasy action with some violence, evil elves, some people and anthropomorphic animals getting killed, more creepy monsters, children and cute robots in peril, I think that covers most of it.
Even though I would classify Amulet as generally darker than Bone I do have to give it credit in particular for its strong characterization and the way it handles the children Emily and Navin. In my opinion children in fantasy stories are either infallibly exceptional heroes or useless whining brats, that is until they learn the value of friendship, immediately become infallibly exceptional, and save the day.
Over the course of the series so far Emily is learning about both the gift and the curse of possessing the amulet and we get to watch her struggle for dominance over the power of the stone. She is often exceptional in her moral fortitude but her struggle is believable and engaging. While I am enjoying Emily’s journey, Navin and the way people interact with him is more compelling for me. Fairly early in the story Navin is handed an important responsibility and his reaction is wonderfully authentic. It’s a mixture of excitement and wonder that someone would actually hand him the responsibility he wanted. You can tell its something that had never happened to him before. Once he has established his ability to handle the responsibility new adult characters are introduced that see him only as a kid and withhold the responsibility. It’s an interesting game the author is playing with his character and I’m curious to see more of it as the series continues.
One big problem I have with the story is the pacing. I can understand that the author wants to keep the pace moving quickly but he’s not taking any time with the journey.
“We have to get to Demon’s Head Mountain, it’s our only choice!”
“But no one has ever returned from Demon’s Head Mountain!”
“Ok, we’re here.”
“Oh no! Evil Elves! And our journey back will be even more dangerous than our journey here!”
“Ok, we’re back.”
“We have to get to the lost city of Cielis, it’s our only choice!”
“But no one has ever found it! We don’t even know if it exists!”
I don’t want to give anything away but I think you get the idea. And even though I do think the too quick and facile pacing is a problem I think the imaginative elements of the fantasy world and the strong characterization that I’ve already mentioned make up, mostly, for these shortcomings.
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment or have something to add?
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Let me know what you think.