The Unnamed Land

This is the first book in a series that’s been out for a while, but I only had a chance to get it recently when I found out the local library had it. So let’s take a look at The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks.

The setting is extremely important in this book. The City is a center for trade and commerce, a gateway to the rest of the world, one of the most important locations on this world. And there are frequent wars fought over it. Different nations take control over it every few years, and they always change the City’s name to something completely different. But the people who live in the City — not the visitors, not the conquerors — they never accept the new names. To the people who live there, it’s just the Nameless City, the greatest city in the world.

So we start out meeting Kai, a boy from the Dao nation, which currently rules the City. The Dao are warriors, but Kai really doesn’t care for fighting, just for books, which leaves him alienated from the other Dao boys. Kai is here to visit his father, General Andren, who serves the ruler, the General of All Blades. Andren loves the City and encourages Kai to explore his new home.

And then there’s Rat, a girl who lives on the street. She doesn’t like the Dao — or any of the other outsiders. She challenges Kai to a race over the City’s rooftops, and when he later begs her to teach him to run, in exchange for food from the palace, there’s the beginning of a friendship between the two kids.

But there are political intrigues going on behind the scenes that hold dangers for Kai, Rat, the people they love, and the entire City. Can the save the Nameless City and help bring its people stop hating each other?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Listen, Faith Erin Hicks is just the best. Do I need to say anything more in a review? She’s just the best.

Okay, I guess I do need to say a little more. I love the heck out of all these characters. Kai and Rat are brilliant and lovable and complex and precisely the kinds of heroes you need to anchor a book and series like this.

But there’s also Kai’s father, the drill sergeant Erzi, the unstoppably badass bodyguard Mura, and the General of All Blades — not a tyrant, like we expect, but a book-loving man willing to listen to strange ideas to improve the city he runs.

Hicks’ art has always been wonderful, but I feel like she really leveled up with this book. She creates a whole, massive city, intricately detailed — and as much time as Kai and Rat spend running over the rooftops, that means she had to draw so many of the City’s tiny roof tiles!

Her characters are always charismatic and fun, and with the City as a character just as important as the humans here, she makes almost every image of the City and its people just as appealing.

It’s a downright fantastic book, and you should absolutely go pick it up.

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