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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Nameless City, by Faith Erin Hicks with color by Jordie Bellaire. First Second, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2016. $17.50 ages 10 and up

"A leg of lamb, two loaves of bread,
and an onion. That enough food for you?

For now, put it there and let's go.

So how do I do this?
Do what?

Run. Like you."

This is the first in a new series about Kai and Rat - two young people who meet and become friends despite the fact that they are members of opposing sides in a conflict that has lasted for generations. Many nations have taken control of the City over the years, changed its name, and tried to control the only way to get through the mountains to the ocean. The City settles, and then another nation advances, takes control and rules for a time. The new rulers never last long, nor does the name they have given the City. Those who live on the inside call it The Nameless City.

Its inhabitants have lived in peace for thirty years. Despite this, they are always training for battle. Kaidu, whose father is one of the ruling Dao, has journeyed from his home to the city to begin that training. He is not committed to it. He wants to get to know his father, a strong and fair leader who does not always agree with the others in power. Kai is content to read, rather than take part in the training that is his lot for now. On the first night he reads a letter from his mother, leader of the their tribe in the homelands. She encourages him to find his own way.

While wandering the streets with his father, they encounter a young girl named Rat, an orphan and a resident of the Nameless City. The two are often at odds, and very compelling characters. Kai is curious to learn all that he can learn. Rat is a sassy street girl who can, if she is willing, teach him what he needs to know. She agrees to teach him to run free on the city rooftops if he will make sure she has the food she needs to survive. He agrees to her terms.

Their adventures show Kai the truths about the city, exploring important questions of history and identity. Together the two learn of a plot to assassinate the General of All Blades. They must work together to stop it. The pace quickens, and it is a race to a satisfying finish.

You know that I have little experience with reading graphic novels, and make no pretense concerning my knowledge of this genre. I can tell you I love the art, the characters, and the setting that Ms. Hicks gives such life. The action scenes are fully realized, held my attention and had me turning pages as quickly as I could manage it. I went back again and again to certain scenes. I will be as keen as other fans to read the second book planned for this trilogy!

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