Published by HarperCollins on May 12th 2015
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Fantasy, Humorous, Young Adult Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Reviewed by: Kim
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson.
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.
If I am the first person to recommend NIMONA to you, drop whatever you’re doing and check out the three first chapters, available as an excerpt. If you don’t fall in love with Nimona and Lord Ballister Blackheart, there is possibly something terribly wrong with you - or your sense of humour.
This graphic novel features a strange mix of tech and fantasy I found automatically endearing. Dueling knights and dragons share the pages with supercomputers and scientists, and it works so well that you don’t even blink when these aspects mix. Nimona’s strange powers seem purely magical, but it’s a scientist who comes closest to understanding her - or at least containing her.
Although the book is named after Nimona, the red-headed, hot-headed shapeshifter, the true hero for me was Lord Ballister Blackheart, a villain with a strict moral code. He used to be one of the good guys, until he was betrayed and made to be a scapegoat for the secretly sinister Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. It cost him his arm, but it also cost him his best friend. He is truly horrified when Nimona’s antics cause someone’s death during one of their disruptive attacks; this isn’t how he operates, and although he is a villain, it’s not how he “does things”. Nimona, on the other hand, has morals as shifty as her shape.
It has enough action and humour to appeal to younger teens, and becomes emotionally charged enough to appeal to older readers. As Nimona’s mysterious origins and powers start to create more problems for the Institution and for Lord Blackheart, readers become more conflicted about the morality of the various characters. By the end, it’s almost deliciously heart breaking.
For a book with a truly sharp, unique illustration style and characters that will stay with you long after you’ve reread the epilogue, get your hands on NIMONA. I have yet to find someone who didn’t adore it, regardless of age.More Reviews:
- For quirky art and clever writing with web comic roots, try Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton or You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld.
- For more graphic novel fantasy stories good for teens, check out Lookouts: May We Die in the Forest by Cory Jones or Gunnerkrigg Court by Thomas Siddell.