Review: The Nameless City

Nameless CityNameless City by Faith Erin Hicks. 9781626721562. 2016. Gr. 4-7.

Nameless City is the first book in a new trilogy by acclaimed graphic novelist Faith Erin Hicks. The core of the story revolves around Kaidu and Rat. Kaidu is a newcomer to the Nameless City, and a member of the Dao, who are the current ruling class in a city that changes with each successive conqueror. Rat is a native to the city, and her people have lived as pacifists in the many wars; many natives, including Rat, hold deep-seated anger against the Dao for their warring ways. Kaidu and Rat end up becoming unlikely friends, bonding while racing through the city and over the city’s rooftops.

In the meantime, the political powers within the city are meeting and plotting differing plans, one of which may further divide the city, and one which may unify the disparate cultural factions. When Rat happens to overhear an assassination plot, the book’s plot really picks up and proceeds at a breakneck pace toward the conclusion of this first of three installments.

While the story centers on an unlikely friendship between people from two different worlds, there is a lot more here for readers to digest, and many are very timely issues of today, including xenophobia, prejudice, class economics, cultural identity, the importance of literacy, and more. While these may seem overly sophisticated topics for the intended audience, they are explained or inferred logically within the context of the adventure. Those who will read for the adventure will not be bogged down by the deeper issues, but those who wish to think more deeply about the issues will find many opportunities to do so.

While the story is good, it seems to mostly be setting the table for the next installments in the trilogy, but as mentioned, it really picks up in the last third of the book. What really can’t be left unmentioned is Hicks’ outstanding artwork. The detail in the panels is excellent and colored in such a way that is very visually pleasing. I found myself simultaneously wanting to rush through the story during the fast-paced action, but linger on the pages because of the artwork.

This is a graphic novel that is bound to find its way onto awards lists and be a favorite of many. I am excited to see the next two titles in the trilogy!

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