The Nameless City (The Nameless City #1)

by Faith Erin Hicks (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Every nation that invades the City gives it a new name. But before long, new invaders arrive and the City changes hands once again. The natives don't let themselves get caught up in the unending wars. To them, their home is the Nameless City, and those who try to name it are forever outsiders. Kaidu is one such outsider. He's a Dao born and bred--a member of the latest occupying nation. Rat is a native of the Nameless City.

At first, she hates Kai for everything he stands for, but his love of his new home may be the one thing that can bring these two unlikely friends together. Let's hope so, because the fate of the Nameless City rests in their hands.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
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.


Starred Review
With comprehensive worldbuilding, well-rounded characters, and entertaining action, this expertly executed story will find a home with a wide variety of readers.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Hicks (Friends with Boys) sets this trilogy opener in an imaginary city whose architecture and dress have a Tibetan air. The city has been conquered by successive nations who grind its native inhabitants underfoot; it's now ruled by the Dao. Kaidu, a Dao boy, arrives for military training and befriends a street girl named Rat. Despite her resentment ("I don't want to know the name of any Dao," she snarls when he introduces himself), she agrees to teach Kaidu how to traverse the city's rooftops in exchange for food. Their secret forays expose Kaidu to the city's darker truths, while Rat struggles with a sense that their friendship betrays the memory of her parents, who were killed by the Dao. When the two learn of an assassination plot, loyalties shift and the pace vaults from brisk to blazing. Hicks's sequential artwork is polished, and though males hold nearly all the political power, the female characters are mighty warriors the men respect (and sometimes fear). An emphasis on the way geography can determine political fate gives Hicks's saga significant depth. Ages 9-up. Agent: Bernadette Baker-Baughman, Victoria Sanders & Associates. (Apr.)

Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 4-6--Rat and Kaidu meet on the streets of the Nameless City. They are from different worlds: Kaidu is from the Dao clan, the current occupiers of the city, and Rat is a girl living on the streets and struggling to survive under Dao rule. But they form a fast friendship traversing the city using parkourlike exploring. As they get to know each other, they delve into the secrets of the Nameless City's history and come to realize that the only chance the city might have to survive is through unity instead of endless conquest. Though this is a visually appealing, action-packed story from a talented graphic novel artist, the seemingly deliberate lack of any cultural context is distracting and problematic. The story seems to take place in a Chinese-inspired world featuring Chinese junk ships, Chinese-style clothes, and words such as Dao, Yisun, Liao, and Yanjing, yet there is no further evidence that the setting is indeed China or anywhere in Central Asia. This appropriation of disparate elements of Chinese culture comes across as opportunistic; the author's fictional world borrows specific cultural aspects and ignores others strictly for the purpose of storytelling. This makes for a hollow and unsatisfying read on place and culture, and it keeps readers at a distance. Even the name of the book hints at a historically fraught practice: the continued occupation of the city is cited as the reason it is "nameless." Readers will be left wondering which people first named the place. VERDICT The borrowing of vaguely Asian-influenced cultural markers without deeper engagement or authenticity is too troubling to overlook. Not recommended.--Angie Manfredi, Los Alamos County Library System, NM

Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Included in School Library Journal's and Kirkus's "Best of 2016" list, and NYPL's "Notable 100 Best Books for Kids."

"The artwork is breathtaking...lending each panel a richness that appropriately reflects a multifaceted culture." —New York Times

"Faith Erin Hicks breathes life into her characters with gale-force winds. The Nameless City makes you feel everything its heroes are experiencing inside and out, from adolescent angst to the scrape of terra cotta tiles under a leaping boot." —Bryan Konietzko, co-creator of Avatar: The Last Airbender

"Faith Erin Hicks is one of the best creators working in graphic novels today and The Nameless City is a fantastic introduction to an exciting new series. Looking forward to reading more!" —Kazu Kibuishi, author of the Amulet series

"This tale of unexpected alliances has everything: winning characters, a sumptuous setting, and sharp observations about power and history. Hidden depths abound in The Nameless City." —Scott Westerfeld, author of Uglies and Zeroes

"The beauty and construction of the Nameless City will leave you breathless. Faith has created a world so detailed and believable, it makes me want to explore the back alleys to see what is there." —Jeff Smith, author of the Bone series

"Historical fiction fans will likely find this a gripping narrative about how people adapt to, quietly fight against, but mostly just endure lives under the control of others." —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Suitable for middle school but sophisticated enough to appeal to older readers, this title belongs in all libraries serving young people." —VOYA Magazine, starred review

Faith Erin Hicks
Faith Erin Hicks is a writer and artist in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her graphic novels include the Nameless City trilogy, Zombies Calling, The War at Ellsmere, Brain Camp (with Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan), Friends with Boys, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong (with Prudence Shen), the Bigfoot Boy series (with J. Torres), The Last of Us: American Dreams (with Neil Druckmann), and the Eisner Award-winning The Adventures of Superhero Girl.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
First Second
Publication date
April 20, 2016
The Nameless City
BISAC categories
JUV008000 - Juvenile Fiction | Comics & Graphic Novels | General
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV001000 - Juvenile Fiction | Action & Adventure
Library of Congress categories
Graphic novels
Cities and towns
Cartoons and comics
Comics (Graphic works)
Action and adventure comics
Fantasy comics

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