Goodreads: The Nameless City
Series: The Nameless City #1
Publication Date: 2016
The city on the mountain pass has been conquered innumerable times. Each new conqueror gives the city a new name. But its own people give it no name. Kaidu, son of a prominent Dao, the latest to rule, has just arrived and has much to learn about the political tensions in his new home. However, through an unlikely friendship with Rat, one of the Named, Kai will have the chance to help stop yet another political overthrow.
The Nameless City will delight readers of middle-grade fantasy. Set in a city conquered over and over again because it links the mountains to the sea, the story focuses on the tensions that arise when the son of a prominent Dao conqueror meets a city girl who lives on the streets. Initially unsure of how to relate to each other, they eventually find a way to work together to attempt to stop the cycle of violence that plagues the city. The Nameless City is a compelling story about finding strength in differences.
Art is important to me when I read a graphic novel; if I do not like the illustrations, I will experience difficulty being drawn into the story. The Nameless City gripped me from the start with its bold illustrations, often focusing on the characters and their experience of the world around them. I found it a delight to experience the city through Kai’s eyes, marveling at the marketplace, seeing the view from the rooftops, suddenly understanding the reality of the native city dwellers. The city comes alive through its inhabitants and their conception of it.
Since readers do see the majority of the story through Kai’s eyes, it was interesting to see how he initially approached his new home with wonder and delight, only later realizing that the native dwellers despised him. Having just arrived in the Nameless City, Kai does not understand why they hate him, or how they see him as a symbol of violence and conquest. He does not understand that Dao like him too often treat the original inhabitants as less than human. So he has to readjust his worldview in order to bridge the gap that separates him from Rat, the city girl he wishes to befriend.
Politics, of course, is a little more complicated than people wishing to be friends. Even as Kai and Rat’s friendship promises to help them save–and change–the city, they must navigate the political reality that means the city is repeatedly conquered and that the current ruling class resists any attempts to curb or share their power, even if doing so could bring a more lasting peace. Their friendship brings hope, but there is still much work to be done.
The Nameless City is a gripping start to a fantasy trilogy focused on friendship, inclusion, and possibility. What a thrill to be along for the journey.