The first part of this new graphic novel fantasy series is a fun, quick read. The art is colorful and full of movement; combined with the story it is wholly engrossing. Kaidu is a 13-year-old boy who meets a girl named Rat, who must be around the same age as him, in a city he calls Dandao but that Rat and the other natives know as The Nameless City. There are a lot of lessons and messages to be gleaned from this story; Kaidu's people, the Dao, look down on the natives of the city and believe them to not even be "real people" like themselves, and the indigenous people hate them for it. Yet Kaidu is different, and is interested in the people of the city. In spite of the odds, Rat and Kaidu manage to form a friendship, and it's a good thing, too, for they are going to need to work together to save the city from danger. The characters are all diverse, and one of the early scenes is slightly reminiscent of Mulan and "I'll make a man out of you." This author can hardly wait for the second installment, due to be released in April 2017.
Kirkus★ 02/02/2016 Eisner winner Hicks (The Adventures of Superhero Girl, 2013) launches a new graphic fantasy series about two friends from opposite sides of a generations-long conflict. Over the years, many nations have invaded the City in order to control the only passage through the mountains to the ocean. Conquerors always give the City a new name, but like their victories, those names never last. Thirteen-year-old Kaidu is a son of the City’s current rulers, the Dao, and has just arrived in the City to begin his military training. However, Kaidu doesn’t get along with his Dao peers, perhaps because he’s more interested in books than fighting, and he instead befriends a girl named Rat, who is an orphan and city native. Their strong characterization and the vibrant Asian-influenced setting make this a satisfying series opener. Kaidu’s curiosity and Rat’s street-wise sass are immediately appealing, and the titular city is almost a protagonist in its own right, especially when Rat and Kaidu are freerunning across its rooftops. The warm palette, courtesy of colorist Bellaire, complements Hicks’ illustrations and highlights the diversity of the cast. Offer this winning graphic novel to fans of Fullmetal Alchemist and Avatar: The Last Airbender, who will appreciate its mix of fun and adventure and its exploration of questions of identity, belonging, and history. A superb beginning.(Graphic fantasy. 12&up)