The Nameless City sits on a port that guards the entrance of a major river to the ocean. This strategic spot has made it a point of contention for various conquering peoples since time immemorial. Kaidu’s people are currently the ones in power, but, that may not be the case for long…
The Nameless City is an excellent first book in, what looks to be, a graphic novel series for middle schoolers. It suffers from what most first books in a series suffer from which is: prolonged setting of the stage and character introduction. That takes up most of the book, so that what little story there is, isn’t all that engaging. But, with the audience that it’s going for, that’s ok.
Actually, the first few pages to The Nameless City is one of the best openings I’ve seen at this reading level. Here’s part of the narration: “Then we asked the children who lived in the streets of the City to give us its name, and they laughed at our foolishness. But as visitors, how could we know that it is only outsiders who name the City? The City is named over and over, and no conquerors can name it for long. We move on in our journey down the great River of Lives, and behind us we leave the City of a thousand names… the City of no name… The Nameless City.” pgs 5-6 Goosebumps!
I loved Kaidu, the main character, a son of the conquerors. This is his response when his father gives him a knife as an arrival present: “I… kind of like books better than knives.” pg 32 A kindred spirit.
One of the messages of The Nameless City is tolerance and acceptance for other cultures. In this passage, Kaidu is learning a derogative term for the natives of the city: “Skral? What does that mean?” “You really are a loser. Skral is anyone foreign. Anyone not Dao. Anyone not a person.” pg 36 It reminded me of the Greek custom of only considering citizens of Grecian city states as “people” and everyone else as barbaroi, which loosely means “all that are not Greek” and the basis of the word, barbarian. Anytime that you create an Us and Them, there’s going to be problems- which is clearly illustrated in this book.
Recommended for grades 4 through 6 and beyond for any reluctant readers out there. If you’re looking for more graphic novels that are appropriate for this level, try the Princeless series by Jeremy Whitley or the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series by Kate Cook (and other authors).
Thanks for reading! ~Heidi