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The Nameless City, by Faith Erin Hicks

Review copy provided by First Second Books.

This is a graphic novel that I think should be reasonably entertaining for anyone who likes its type of story from age about 7 or 8 up. It has fighter training and moments of violence, but not more than you would see on, say, Avatar: The Last Airbender–it’s not a graphic graphic novel, if that makes any sense. Nobody is having smoochy time. The main characters are kids, but their concerns aren’t trivial or mired in the kind of jokes that a friend of mine used to call “sixth grade fart poop penis jokes,” where the entire punchline is that body parts and functions exist. So basically I don’t see an upper age limit on the appeal to this book.

Older readers will spot that the multicultural city of the title is drawing many of its visual elements from East Asian cultures, but I don’t think that the mishmash should be any kind of detriment to enjoyment–rather the opposite. The two young main characters, Kai and Rat, are from different cultures within the city, very different backgrounds and lives, and while the arc of their friendship won’t be a new one to anyone much over 7, it’s a classic for a reason. They have things to learn from each other and things to share as equals.

And contrary to my initial fears from the first few pages, there areĀ not interminable training sequences–just enough to whet the appetites of fantasy fans who like that sort of thing. Whew.

This is the first in a series, but it’s also a self-contained story, so people like myself who prefer an actual ending will not be frustrated by a complete “to be continued…” cliffhanger. Cheerfully recommended; good fun.

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