The Nameless City: A Graphic Novel Review

The Nameless City by Faith Erin HicksThe City has many names. Every time a new nation invades, they give the city a new name. Only the natives know that the city is impossible to keep and name. They call it the Nameless City.

The latest group of invaders, the Dao, have held the Nameless City for close to thirty years–longer than anyone else. Kaidu is a Dao who comes to the City to meet his father and to learn more about his own people. Kaidu isn’t sure he’s cut out to join the Dao’s military guard but he does know that he loves everything about the City he is now calling home.

Rat is a native of the City, one of the Named who call this place home regardless of its name or who currently claims it. She hates the Dao and everything they stand for as occupiers of her home. But in spite of herself, Rat starts to like Kaidu as he trades her food in exchange for lessons on how to run across the City’s rooftops.

Kaidu and Rat are unlikely friends. Unlikelier still, they might hold the City’s future in their hands in The Nameless City (2016) by Faith Erin Hicks.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Nameless City is the first comic in a proposed trilogy.

Following both Kaidu and Rat, The Nameless City thoughtfully explores the thornier aspects of colonialism as part of the City’s larger story. The City is populated by a diverse group of people comprised of natives as well as the many conquering nations. The tension between these groups is nearly palpable as Hicks moves the story toward a climactic conclusion.

This larger arc contrasts well with the smaller but more charming story of Kaidu and Rat’s fledgling friendship. Witty, thoughtful dialogue and carefully drawn illustrations work together here to convey the two protagonists’ complex and changing relationship.

Faith Erin Hicks delivers another stunner with The Nameless City. Her signature illustration style and a unique premise come together to create a delightfully engrossing story. Great for veteran comics fans and readers eager to try the format for the first time.

Possible Pairings: The City of Brass* by S. A. Chakraborty, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff; Truthwitch by Susan Dennard; Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi; Last Descendants by Matthew J. Kirby; The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag; Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson; Compass South by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock; Bone by Jeff Smith; The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

*Bear in mind that The Nameless City is a middle grade graphic novel while The City of Brass is adult fantasy so while both books explore similar themes the intended audiences are vastly different.