The City with a Thousand Names

The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks. First Second, 2016. 9781626721562. 240pp.

The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks. First Second, 2017. 9781626721586. 256pp.

There’s a great city that’s called by different names by different peoples. The City has a thousand names but it doesn’t really have just one. It’s also got an impressive feature called The Hole in the Sky, a hole in a mountain through which the river joins the ocean, and which shows the power the original founders of the city, The Northern People, must have possessed.

The Dao are the city’s current rulers, having conquered it 30 years ago. Kaidu and other young Dao have just come to the nameless city from their homelands. They are surrounded on all sides by those who would like to conquer the city for themselves, so Kaidu and the others are being trained to fight. Kaidu’s father, General Andren, introduces himself to his son (they’ve never met) and takes him into the city, which he clearly loves.

Later, after a tough day of fighting lessons, Kaidu tries to return to the market he visited with his father. Lost, he asks for help from a young girl called Rat. She takes his knife and flees to the rooftops. A friendship slowly develops as Kaidu meets Rat for lessons in how to race across the rooftops of the city, despite their differences. After Rat overhears Dao soldiers planning to assassinate The (Dao) General of All Blades and his son (the soldiers want to return home instead of occupying the city), things get complicated. General Andren’s proposal to put a council of nations in place to oversee the city gains a bit of momentum, which leads to plot developments in the second book.

Hicks clearly put a lot of thought into the cultures and design of the city and its people, which shows in the story and the concept art in the back of each book. It’s amazing how each page showcases the setting without getting in the way of the characters. And I love the way she uses motion lines whether characters are running or fighting for their lives.

Full disclosure: My daughter and I are huge fan of Hicks’ graphic novels, especially Friends With Boys and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong. (Dad’s note: my daughter could be a character in either book.)

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