July 15, 2015

Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Title: Nimona
Author: Noelle Stevenson
Published: 2015, HarperTeen
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Source: Library
Find it: Goodreads

Lord Ballister Blackheart didn’t ask to become the villain of the kingdom, but he’s since accepted -- and even come to embrace -- his role. Neither did he ask for a sidekick -- and certainly not a sidekick quite like Nimona. When Nimona reveals her shape-shifting abilities, however, Blackheart realizes she may indeed become a valuable asset in his vendetta to prove that the ruling Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics -- and its star hero, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin -- isn’t quite as heroic as it claims to be.

On the surface, Nimona appears to be more or less your typical good vs. evil story, albeit one that is told through the perspective of the villains. It isn’t long, however, before all conceptions of good and evil are turned on their head, transformed, and erased; Blackheart and Nimona perform undeniably evil acts, but so do Goldenloin and the agents of the Institution. The people of their quasi-medieval world suffer for the sake of keeping face, personal gain, and self-righteousness. Through the actions and beliefs of the “heroes” and “villains,” Stevenson spins a tale that intelligently examines the morality, responsibility, and culpability of all sides in this conflict.

In the midst of all the moral ambiguity stands Nimona herself, perhaps the greatest enigma of them all. She’s a shapeshifter and a bit too eager in her pronouncements for the destruction of everything. But who, exactly, is Nimona? And what benefit does she gain through an alliance with Blackheart? These questions are as central to the story as Blackheart and Goldenloin’s conflict (and their implied relationship).

From Nimona’s punk-inspired main form (which is wonderfully curvy), to the Inquisitor’s long, serpentine frame, Stevenson’s cartoonish, goofy illustrations generally work well with the text. At times the illustrations feel a bit too cartoony, however, and on occasion detract from the story’s intelligent, thoughtful examination of morality.

The format, illustrations, and emphasis on a heroes vs. villains conflict give Nimona an unsurprisingly comic-like feel, which may dissuade certain readers from this story. Those willing to look past the format, however, are in for a treat. Nimona is a story for those who like their morals gray, their rivalries bitter, and their resolutions open-ended.

4 stars
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.

1 comment:

  1. I recognize the illustrations as being done by the same person who did the illustrations for Fangirl, which I loved! I do see how some of the cartoonish-ness of them might not be the best for telling such a story. Speaking of which, I had had no idea what this one was about until I read your review just now - I'm definitely intrigued!


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