Keywords: fiction, graphic novel, Year 7+, fantasy, politics, good vs. evil, action, fights, humour, bittersweet, villainy, fun!
Graphic novels have a bad reputation. Some people say that they aren’t ‘real books’ or that they aren’t as complex as ‘real literature’. Well, let me be the one to tell you that that’s all poppycock, gobbledygook, and just plain nonsense!
Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona is more than a graphic novel. This is a book about heroes and villains; it is a story where you choose who is a hero and who is a villain. Technically, the main characters – Ballister Blackheart and his spunky sidekick Nimona – are the ‘villains’. That’s what the whole city calls them anyway (and it doesn’t help that Blackheart has a black goatee and a secret science lair, while Nimona is literally a murderous shapeshifter). Blackheart is a loner who never planned to get a sidekick, so imagine his surprise when some random girl who calls herself ‘Nimona’ comes into his lair and tells him she is his sidekick now. For some reason.
Although Blackheart isn’t too excited about having a sudden sidekick, Nimona begins to grow on him. After all, she’s a shapeshifter! Imagine how much her powers would help with Blackheart’s evil schemes! There is a bit of a problem, though. You see, while Blackheart is technically the boss and supposed to be evil or whatever, Nimona is…actually way more violent and malicious. Like, take a look at this scene in Chapter 2:
(Page 1 transcription: Blackheart, “We’ll attack the city using my genetically modified dragons. The king will be attending the parade downtown. Our dragons will swoop down and kidnap him. I’ll announce our ransom demands from the top of the tallest tower. Then we’ll fly off with the king, detonating the tower behind us for emphasis.” Nimona, “Hmm. Not bad. Nice touch with the explosion. However, I do have a few suggestions. Here, I’ll show you.”)
(Page 2 transcription: Nimona, “We could do with more general chaos. I’m talking fire everywhere. We’ll murder the king in front of everyone. Then you crown yourself the new king. And since Goldenloin is sure to try and stop us, I’ll disguise myself to get close to him and take him out before he knows what’s happening!” Blackheart, “No. That is not how I work. You can’t just go around murdering people. There are RULES, Nimona.”)
What do we find out from this scene? Well, Nimona has no problem murdering people, while Blackheart – the guy who’s supposed to be incredibly evil – has ‘rules’. He doesn’t find joy in murdering people. Doesn’t sound too evil to me.
As the story continues, we find out more about Blackheart and Nimona’s different kinds of evilness. It’s actually really interesting how both characters are considered villains and yet they have such different ways of showing it. Meanwhile, there are also ‘heroes’ who fight against them. The main ‘hero’ is named Goldenloin: a blond guy who used to be Blackheart’s best friend when they were both training to be knights. He works for the government who are supposedly the ‘good guys’. Whether or not they’re actually nice people is up to you. Personally, I’m not a big fan.
The book itself is a lovely read! It was very easy to get lost inside the story and read the whole thing in one sitting. But don’t get me wrong: it was easy to read, but that doesn’t make the story simplistic. Actually, the story and its characters are some of the most nuanced and fascinating I’ve encountered for a long while. I read the book a few times in a row to really grasp all the themes and concepts it tackles. Honestly, I think this would be a great book to study in class – maybe in a Year 7+ class about war and politics. There’s some great stuff in this book to explore academically: the concept of good vs. evil, morality, political corruption, protests, what it means to work for ‘the greater good’, friendship, and, of course, love. Because isn’t every great story about love, in the end?
Also, here was what I was thinking when I finished the book: WHAT AN ENDING. WOW. Reading through the climax genuinely made my heart race. I was so scared for everyone’s safety! I don’t want to spoil anything though, so just know that it’s a wonderfully fitting ending for the story. It’s the type of ending that makes you admire the author’s writing skills while also inspiring you to write a story just like it! It’s not sugar-coated and overly sweet, but it’s not horribly depressing either. It strikes the perfect balance of bittersweetness!
So. Can this book be recommended? Well, I know that Jenny is 100% obsessed with this book and will gladly tell the whole world about how much she loves it! And Felipe is a huge fan of it too, especially the magical elements of the story! With these two kitties recommending it, I cannot help but recommend it too. (But is it really that surprising after I’ve written a whole review talking about how great this story is?) So go ahead and read it if it sounds like your cup of tea!