Amulet, projected as a 10 volume series by creator Kazu Kibuishi, is shaping up to be something truly special. Kibuishi is weaving a story mixing deep archetypes with images and character types familiar from other popular epic entertainment, and yet still something quite original. The Cloud Searchers is the third volume in the series and easily the most accomplished of the series to date. I'm sure people have compared Amulet to Harry Potter, or even Star Wars before on a superficial level and there's some merit there. Amulet is vigorously entertaining and really engaging in the way a truly good adventure story can make you care about the fate of fictional characters and a fantasy world.
It's been about a year since Amulet 2: The Stonekeeper's Curse came out so I picked that book back up to read it and Amulet 3 back to back. That actually helped a lot because it's important to remember who the elves Trelis and Lugar are as they are both critical to the ending of Amulet 2 and open up the story in Amulet 3. Without trying to give away too much, Trelis and Lugar play an unexpected role in this chapter of the series.
Amulet 3 for my money does an even better job than Amulet 2 with the delicate balancing of extending bits of the past books just enough to satisfy but still leave us wanting to find out more by focusing around one specific mission, shifting the alliances of two existing characters and introducing a brand new character that may be tremendously significant to the entire series. Yes, it's a "middle" book, but it really manages to deliver an exciting conclusion within the larger still unresolved story.
Everyone who reads this book will rave about the art and rightfully so, but I'm really impressed with Kibuishi's narrative chops here. Both Emily and her brother Navin get their own chances to shine and show off a bit more of their character. These are kids thrust into a magical world that is calling on them in many ways to assume adult roles. I read Gary Tyrrell's review of the book at Fleen where he noted the presence of the kids' mother in this book. I think the mom acting like a mom really plays up some of the interesting and weird tensions that arise in putting kids into an adventure tale like this. I mean, Kibuishi is still largely writing something much more like Narnia than say Lev Grossman's The Magicians, but the mother and her motherly reactions does add a teeny bit of reality to the situation.
There's also plenty of action for a favorite character from Book 2 — Leon Redbeard, who is as much a mentor as a protector in this book. New characters include Gabilan, an assassin hired by the evil Elf King — he has much cooler gear than the standard bad elf soldier in the stories — maybe he's the Boba Fett of the books? There's also a ship pilot and co-pilot but it's too much of a stretch to think of them as Han Solo and Chewbacca, although their role in shuttling our heroes from one place to another has it's Star Wars-like moments. In fact, critic Sean Kleefeld mentions that a refueling stop on this group's trip feels to him a lot like Han Solo's trip to meet Lando Calrissian in Cloud City in the Empire Strikes Back.
Did I mention the art? Kibuishi's work is just amazing in this book. Every page looks painted, the environment is amazing from the forests to the fantastical cities they encounter. Anyone familiar with Kibuishi's work on the Flight anthology series won't be surprised to see fantastical looking ships flying through the clouds alongside equally fantastical flying animals. The action is exciting, the fights are dramatic without going on too long; Kibuishi has a big imagination and the skills to bring it to life on the page. I really enjoyed this book and recommend everyone checking it out.
The publisher provided a free copy to ComixTalk for review purposes.