November 19, 2018

The Divided Earth: The Nameless City, Book 3

Written and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
Color by Jordie Bellaire
First Second
269 pp.
Ages 8-13
September 2018

The Nameless City, Book 1 in Faith Erin Hicks's graphic novel series, introduced young readers to the Nameless City, a metropolis of Ancient China conquered repeatedly and changing names with each new occupation. Currently the Dao people, under the rule of the General of All Blades, are in power. Young Dao Kaidu arrives to take his warrior training at the palace and meets a roof-jumper Rat who lives at the Stone Heart monastery after her parents are killed. Learning of the divided nature of the people of the Nameless City–the conquered and the conquerors–Kai and Rat try to help make things right, especially after the General of All Blades is assassinated by his own son, Erzi, and a struggle begins to possess an ancient text in The Stone Heart, Book 2 of the series. The conclusion of that struggle for the power over the city and of that text is the story of The Divided Earth.
From The Divided Earth by Faith Erin Hicks
The ancient manual which harbours the secret of Napatha, the sacred fire which was used by the Northern People to tunnel through the mountain to create the Nameless City, is now in Erzi's possession. He has had the document translated and has his right-hand person, the formidable Mura, begin preparation of the formula. Meanwhile, outside the city, Kaidu's father, Andren, and monk Joah are attempting to enlist the help of the Yisun people, those who ruled the city before the Dao took it. With their help, Andren and his wife Kata, hope to compel the current General of All Blades to form an alliance amongst all peoples in a council of nations, a premise his father had supported before his murder. Kai and Rat are also at work, but within the city, determined to retrieve the book that Erzi stole from the Stone Heart monastery.
From The Divided Earth by Faith Erin Hicks
The Divided Earth is resolved via a series of altercations, including one in which Erzi surprises the Yisun army with weapons enhanced with Napatha, extraordinary chase scenes and some tricky negotiations, leaving the fates of the city and the ancient text settled fittingly.
From The Divided Earth by Faith Erin Hicks
I know The Divided Earth and all books in The Nameless City series are fiction but the history embedded within make it compelling text for teaching everything from ancient civilizations and the development of gunpowder to the nature of conquest and class structure and struggles. That's very impressive for a graphic novel. But that's me wearing my teacher hat. Young readers won't care about that.  They'll be too enthralled with Faith Erin Hicks's illustrations, coloured by Jordie Bellaire, that take them to an expansive city in a formidable mountain landscape where battles are for survival and land occupation, for power and for control, are the order of the day.

Though Faith Erin Hicks's The Divided Earth is a fast read, even as a graphic novel, its life lessons are long-lasting, impressing children with the need to get along and find room for all. There may be knife fights and arrows flying, all with the intention of subduing the enemy, but the message that we all deserve a place in the world is clear.
Please, stop the cycle of war and invasion. We can all live here side by side. (pg. 228)
No one needs to be nameless. We all belong.

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