Reviewing The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey

November 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

The Masked Avenger patrols the metropolis by night, upholding justice and ensuring the restful sleep of the citizens under his watch. Joined by his trusty side-kick, Richie the Powerbeagle, the Masked Avenger protects the people of Franklin Street by drawing on a multitude of powers so potent that even he cannot fully comprehend their extent.

Never mind the fact that he’s 12-years-old.

The Masked Avenger can make things happen.

No danger is too great, no injustice too small, but the Masked Avenger may have met his match in the most mystifying opponent of them all, unhappiness, which seeps through the walls of the house at the end of the street.

The simplistic view of the world, that everything can be neatly put in the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ pile, is recognisably child-like. As we grow older, we come to see the grey, often to the extent that it’s all we see. Everything is complex and no decision is easy. In seeing all that we have seen, we complicate, over analyse and confuse, and then something or someone will come along to remind us that it doesn’t always have to be that way. Sometimes things really are just that simple.

“Mild-mannered boy-genius” Liam McKenzie serves as that catalyst, the hero of our story, the Masked Avenger whose greatest power proves, ironically, to be, not his impressive understanding of geo-alchemy or his aptitude for conjuring lightning, but his ability to unmask the convoluted and expose a situation for what it really is.

Craig Silvey’s writing is beautifully stripped back and funny; striking the perfect balance of humouring Liam and his antics without patronising them. In Liam, he captures the naivety and wonder that’s simultaneously so familiar and so alien. Reading, we can’t help but celebrate and admire Liam’s capacity to see things as more than what they are, to take an idea and run with it. He sees the possibility in the everyday mundane, something we all once did – but have since, in the drama and strain of growing up – forgotten how to do. Thankfully, author Craig Silvey remembers.

It feels real and entirely plausible that this only child would monologue his own crime-fighting escapades. Of course, his bedroom would be his secret lair and his dog, his partner-in-crime. And not once, does Liam drop the pretence. Under pressure, one would understand his giving up the ruse, but he never falters. Liam is made of tougher stuff.

The Amber Amulet is a truly endearing novella, punctuated perfectly by Sonia Martinez’s scrapbook-like illustrations and I for one, cannot wait to see what Silvey, a superhero in his own right, pulls out of the bag next.

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