Review: The Nameless City
THE NAMELESS CITY by Faith Erin Hicks is about a city that has changed hands so many times from invading armies that it has several names–so really has no name. The city is a mix of natives, conquerors, and everything in between; currently it’s held by the Dao. Kaidu has traveled to the city from his rural home so he can train to be a solider in the Dao army, and to be closer to his father who is an advisor to the general.
Upon his arrival Kaidu discovers some important things early on: he doesn’t really like fighting, his father doesn’t have much time for him, and the city’s natives don’t much like their conquerors. On his visit outside the palace to the city he meets a girl who calls herself Rat. Kaidu doesn’t understand her hostility, so is intent on getting her to talk to him. Then she steals the knife his father gave him.
All three of my children (ages 17, 13, 11) read this book and liked it. It’s easy to see why. They’re all fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the art of NAMELESS is similar. The story moves quickly and the art conveys emotion in a way kids understand all too well.
Set in an alternate world, the book attempts to explain why the city changes hands so frequently. The city is a water port and acts as a hub of commerce, but the strange arch that connects it to the water is man-made and no one knows how it was done.
Kaidu comes to understand the city, especially as his friendship with Rat evolves. He’s a typical new kid who struggles to understand what he really wants with his life as he nears adulthood. Rat (not her real name) is an orphaned street girl whose world-weary attitude toward the invaders is softened as she gets to know Kaidu and the Dao. It’s a sweet story about acceptance and friendship that I thought was well done.
My two oldest complained that the story felt rushed at the end, and I get that. There’s so much more about the characters, city, and setting that could have been covered, but there simply wasn’t time in this Middle Grade graphic novel. Looks like, though, there are plans for sequels, so hopefully more will be explored.
Recommended Age: 8+
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