The Cloud Searchers & The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi
I just read The Cloud Searchers and The Last Council, books three and four in Kazu Kibuishi’s graphic novel series AMULET. AMULET, published by Scholastic, is aimed at young adult readers, but adults will find plenty to enjoy in this series.
Emily and her brother Navin lost their father in a terrifying car accident. Their mother moved them to a house she inherited from her grandfather Silas, an inventor and explorer. Emily soon became the guardian of a strange, powerful amulet, and the family made its way to an alternate dimension. Now, Emily must face not only the Elf King and his destructive army, but the insidious influence of the stone itself.
In The Cloud Searchers, Emily, Navin and their mother travel with Miskit and Cogsley, two of Silas’s creations, to find the city of Cielis, believed to be the home of the Guardian Council. The city was nearly destroyed by the Elf King’s army, and the Council hid it among the clouds. Silas’s journal contains a partial map to the city, which resides in the heart of an immense storm system. The heroes hire an airship to fly them to the city, battling wyverns and Galiban, the Elf King’s hired killer.
I’ve really grown to like these characters. Cogsley, the robot built by Silas, is a curmudgeon with a big heart, and Miskit, the pink rabbit, is brave. Emily’s mom is clueless, but she is still a good mom, even though she tries to apply rules from our world to the situation she’s in, with about as much success as you’d expect.
Emily’s inner struggle against the power of the stone grows more important, especially once Prince Trellis reveals a secret of the Elf King. The voice of the stone is growing stronger and, in her dreams, it takes on a form now.
In The Last Council, Emily and her friends find the cloud city. Emily is immediately separated from her friends, and Trellis and Luger are imprisoned. A boy named Max Duncan presents himself as Emily’s guide and coach. Emily wants to talk to the Guardians, but Max tells her that they don’t want to meet with her. They plan to have her compete against other young stonekeepers for a seat on the council.
Meanwhile, Cogsley and Miskit meet Vigo, a stonekeeper who was a friend of Silas. Cogsley is also adopted by a baby wyvern, much to his chagrin. Vigo gives Miskit and Cogsley information that contradicts what Emily is learning in Cielis.
Emily’s contest in the Garden of the Stonekeepers is dark and frightening, especially since the young stonekeepers have been pitted against each other. The grouls are scary monsters, but the most frightening thing about this contest is how cold and unforgiving the Guardians are. In defiance of the rules laid down by the Council, Emily pulls the contestants together as a team. Ultimately, though, she is betrayed, and the Elf King achieves his goal.
Despite the dire circumstances at the end of the fourth book, Kibuishi ends on a poignant note, as Vigo and Emily use their amulets to honor stonekeepers who have fallen in battle. Emily is growing stronger and learning to trust her instinct. We readers also begin to understand more about the terrible power of the amulets.
Kibuishi’s clean drawing and brisk prose move these books quickly. I think some of his names are uninspired choices – Cielis in particular bears an unfortunate resemblance to a highly-advertised medication for men –but the target audience is middle-school readers, and I think they will love these. For grown-ups, this is a classic good-and-evil fantasy epic with tough choices, self-doubt, betrayal, loyalty and heroism. These books are a great way to spend a few hours.
Though I haven’t read the five volumes out so far, my ten-year-old daughter tore through them quickly and absolutely loved them.
The author is also well-known for editing a multi-volume series of anthologies collecting short story comics for adults under the title FLIGHT.
Also, he has just edited the first volume of an anthology of short story comics aimed specifically at children. It’s called FLIGHT EXPLORER. I hope he has plans to edit more collections because my daughter liked every story in it.
Thanks for your review this week!
I should be back to the column next week with a follow-up review to my last one from a few weeks ago. I couldn’t resist writing about Planetary Volume Two, which is surprisingly even better than volume one! (which means it gets six stars.)
Brad; I saw an issue of FLIGHT but didn’t realize it was for adults. I’ll have to look for it consciously now. Thanks!