“Wow” was all I could say as soon as I finished Noelle Stevenson’s “Nimona.” Very few books manage to surprise me these days, and I must say Nimona blindsided me — I wasn’t expecting to fall completely in love with this book!
Nimona is a young girl with the ability to shapeshift, and she signs on to be the sidekick of the evil villain Lord Ballister Blackheart. Nimona and Blackheart scheme to expose the treachery of the kingdom’s champion (and Blackheart’s nemesis) Ambrosius Goldenloin and the Institution of Law Enforcement.
Nimona, the antiheroine, is a spunky, smart-mouthed girl with no respect for authority (well, except for Blackheart’s, on occasion) and I like that she isn’t your hackneyed manic pixie dreamgirl. Just manic. With a generous figure. And a shaved head. Cute but not cutesy, brave, and fiercely loyal — Nimona’s definitely one of the most memorable characters I’ve encountered in all my readings.
Blackheart is your quintessential wounded villain (totally rocking that Severus Snape vibe!), forced into the role by circumstance, but with a whole lot of moral fiber and a soft spot for his pint-sized sidekick, not to mention his nemesis Goldenloin (insert cheeky romantic backstory / slash fiction prompt).
This is a book that breaks down constructs: good and evil, hero and villain, magic and science, even traditional gender roles — how there isn’t a clear demarcation line between them, and how the world can’t be defined in such stark black and white terms.
It’s quite a thick graphic novel, but the fast paced action, Nimona’s antics, and some truly hilarious deadpan humor keep you from feeling its length. The art is amazing, too, with a muted color palette, dramatic use of light and shadow, and a comic style that’s hard to resist. Ultimately what keeps this book from being your typical antihero story is that it’s got so much heart, and I was moved to tears by the end.
I voted wholeheartedly for ” Nimona” in the YA graphic novel category in our Cybils panel, and I’m glad it won the prize (it was also named finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in the US) — we need more books like these for young readers! It’s also one of the few books for Cybils that I was able to purchase here in Manila (I think it’s more readily available now than earlier in the year when I purchased the last existing copy on the system), so go pick up a copy!
Nimona, softcover, 5/5 stars