The Nameless City
Wwhy do I love it so much?
A lot of it has to do with the characters but also the world building. I am an absolute sucker for creative world building and Faith Erin Hicks does an amazing job with it. She imagines a land where the bulk of trade done by a series of small, presumably landlocked nations is dictated by whoever controls just one city. The Nameless City remains nameless to the native inhabitants because it changes so often. Every conquering nation and triumphant ruler gives it a new name. But none of them ever stick.
The city rests at the end of a common river and opens out on to the city and so everyone wants to control it. The native residents become resentful of whoever holds the city – and you can’t blame them. They suffer just as much at the hands of the new rulers as they did the last. Their lives are constantly being uprooted by conflict, war, and the prejudice of their current ruler’s armies.
In The Nameless City the latest conquerors are the Dao nation. For thirty years they have ruled the Nameless City. The story focuses on two very different characters. Kaidu is a young Dao who has come to the city as a young soldier in training. But he’s really there to meet and spend time with his absent father – as well as to find a place for himself in the world.
He is captivated by the new city he calls home and after sneaking out on his own he meets a young girl named Rat. Rat grew up in the Nameless City and she has suffered at the hands of Kaidu’s people. She’s understandably distrustful of them but after spending time with Kaidu they become close friends and she begins to start questioning her own prejudice.
Eventually, Kaidu and Rat have to work together to save the city in a spectacular finale that tugs all the right heartstrings. Their relationship is a huge part of why I love this book.
Both of them come from these very particular world views. Kaidu is told that his people are valiant warriors and that they have created this thirty-year peace in the Nameless City. But as he begins to explore the city and he spends time with Rat and others who live there he begins to learn the truth. His own father is an idealist who sees past the Dao nationalism and realizes that they could be doing so much more to benefit not just themselves but the people of the city – and all the nations around them.
And Rat – who has suffered and lost so much because of the Dao – begins to realize that they aren’t all necessarily bad. She finds herself questioning some longstanding beliefs and at the same time embracing her own sense of compassion and what’s right and wrong.
And then there is the artwork. I am a huge fan of Faith Erin Hicks’s work and Jordie Bellaire’s coloring is phenomenal. Together they have created a really fantastic look for this book. They truly bring the story to life. The city itself comes alive and almost feels like a real place. It’s so incredibly well designed and vibrant.
The city becomes a background character. It’s not just some generic, underdeveloped setting. It’s a place that these characters live, a place for them to explore by running across rooftops and vaulting over rivers while bringing us along on their adventures. It’s a place we can see for ourselves that flourishes with color, culture, and people.
The Nameless City is such a wonderfully put together book that I was a little surprised that there was going to be a sequel. The story wraps up the story so well and feels so complete that a part of me almost wishes that it was a standalone book.
At the same time, I love it so much that the fact that I have to wait until April to read that sequel is agonizing. It’s one of those books that you can read six times from cover to cover and love all on it’s own. But there’s also so much potential for a follow-up that I can’t want to see what Faith Erin Hicks does next.
I highly recommend this book. I’ll even go so far as to say this may be one of my favorite – if not my favorite – graphic novel from this year. Seriously, folks. I just love everything about. There are few books that you can recommend to pretty much anyone and this is one of them. If you’re thinking about reading The Nameless City just stop thinking about it. Pick it up at the first chance you get and just do it!