December 18, 2017

The Nameless City

Written and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
Color by Jordie Bellaire
First Second (Roaring Brook Press)
232 pp.
Ages 8-13

It's time for me to join the growing fan base of Faith Erin Hicks's The Nameless City graphic novel series before the final book, The Divided Earth, comes out in September 2018.  There is lots to applaud in this first book of the middle grade trilogy (and even more in Book 2, The Stone Heart, which I will review next), not least of which are its diverse cultural landscape and strong characters.  Oh, and did I mention Faith Erin Hicks's vivid artwork inked and coloured by award-winning artist Jordie Bellaire

The Nameless City, the place, is probably the most important character in The Nameless City, the book.  It is an incredible metropolis, albeit one akin to that of 13th c. China, that has many names but all those given by outsiders, hence its moniker by those in the know as the Nameless City. Because of a tunnel, created mysteriously by the long-gone Northern People, through the mountain to the ocean, the city has been conquered time and time again. For the past 30 years, the city has been dominated by the Dao whose warrior leader, the General of All Blades, rules over the city.  Kaidu, a thirteen-year-old boy from the Dao homelands, has just arrived at the city's palace to train as a Dao warrior along with other boys under the tutelage of Erzi, son of the General of All Blades, and Erzi's bodyguard, the strange Myra.
From The Nameless City
by Faith Erin Hicks
When Kaidu gets lost outside the palace, he meets Rat, a spry runner and roof-jumper who, in exchange for food, teaches him to race and climb. Rat, who lives at the monastery at the Stone Heart, harbours much anger towards the city's invaders but she warms to Kai and he to her as they attempt to find a way to bring peace to the city and its people.  Of course, there are plots emerging both to bring the city together and to tear it apart, including an assassination attempt on the General and his son, but Kai and Rat are at the heart of trying to make things right for all the inhabitants of the Nameless City.
From The Nameless City 
by Faith Erin Hicks
Faith Erin Hicks may have used ancient China as an informal blueprint for the setting of The Nameless City, but the book is its own story, both in plot and characters, though some scenarios are all too familiar.  The Nameless City may be rich in cultural diversity but, with the numerous groups within the city and outside vying for place, whether to dominate or to live amicably with others, there comes much intolerance and discrimination, mostly between the invaders and the conquered.
From The Nameless City 
by Faith Erin Hicks
Fortunately, Faith Erin Hicks has created a world of possibilities for peace and tolerance, and she's done it with flair and detail, illustrating a passion against bad and for good.  The Nameless City, nominated for a 2017 Silver Birch Fiction award, could promote itself as historical fiction with the credibility of place and time but, for young readers, it's the composite of story and graphics that have made it a hit which inevitably will sustain it through Books 2 and 3.


Check back for my review of Book 2 in The Nameless City trilogy, The Stone Heart (First Second, 2017).

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