Skip to main content

The Nameless City

Review

The Nameless City

THE NAMELESS CITY is Faith Erin Hicks’s newest graphic novel. It is a departure from the types of stories she has told in the past such as FRIENDS WITH BOYS and THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERHERO GIRL, which tend to lean toward contemporary realistic fiction with a dash of the supernatural. THE NAMELESS CITY, on the other hand, is historical fiction and is the first of a planned trilogy. Before I get too much further I want to say that my review is based upon an advanced reader’s copy of the book, which is in black and white except for about fifteen pages at the beginning of the book. While I certainly enjoyed THE NAMELESS CITY I know that the color in the final full color version will contribute a great deal to the story and will no doubt make it even better.

THE NAMELESS CITY is primarily a story of friendship, but it is much more than that, as it explores issues of conquest and colonialism on a level that is relatable and understandable to young readers. The Nameless City is “named” as such because it is continually being conquered by different groups and renamed. Although this constant cycle is not based on any specific city or place, Hicks did do a lot of research into central Asia and the Silk Road as she wrote and drew THE NAMELESS CITY. In fact, much of the look of the Nameless City, such as its buildings and layout, is based on 13th-century China.

The story of the conquerors and the conquered is important as one of the main characters comes from the former and the other main character comes from the latter. Thirteen-year-old Kaidu, better known as Kai, is a member of the Dao people, who are the most recent conquerors of the Nameless City. The graphic novel begins with Kai’s first days in the Nameless City as he has been sent here from the homeland to receive military training. Kai is the son of the Dao General Andren, but, unfortunately, Kai doesn’t have any of his father’s prowess in combat or military strategy. In fact, he is more interested in books and exploring and learning about his new home than he is in learning how to fight.

"THE NAMELESS CITY is primarily a story of friendship, but it is much more than that, as it explores issues of conquest and colonialism on a level that is relatable and understandable to young readers."

Rat, our other main character, is a native of the Nameless City. She knows every corner and detail of the city and has learned to traverse most of the city by running on and jumping across its rooftops. Readers only get glimpses into Rat’s history, but Hick’s has said that more of Rat’s story will be revealed in the second volume of THE NAMELESS CITY.

Because of their backgrounds and differences, Kai and Rat shouldn’t even meet, let alone become friends. However, Kai’s interest in the Nameless City and his desire to develop at least one physical strength leads him to strike a deal with Rat: in exchange for Rat training him to run and jump like she does, especially across the city’s rooftops, he will bring her food. Their relationship starts off as a business deal, but it quickly develops into a friendship. And their friendship, like many of the best ones, leads them into shenanigans and eventually they stumble upon a nefarious plot against the leaders of the city.

I liked THE NAMELESS CITY for many reasons. First, I like that the main characters defy gender expectations. Rat is a strong female character who is shown to have a superior physical skill over the male main character. Kai indicates a preference for books and is more introspective than the rest of the male characters in THE NAMELESS CITY. Second, I like how Hicks provides a simple, yet nuanced, view of conquest. She doesn’t present either side as all good or all bad. She also explores some of the intentions of players on both sides. Finally, in this vein, although the Nameless City is fictional, she strives to preserve the culture of both the conquered and the conquerors. Lastly, I like THE NAMELESS CITY for its combination of action and storyline. I believe that there is enough action to keep action buffs entranced, while there is also enough of a complex storyline to keep those readers who are more interested in plot and character development intrigued throughout. And I would bet that both parties will be eager to read the second and third books in this trilogy.

Reviewed by Aimee Rogers on April 19, 2016

The Nameless City
by Faith Erin Hicks