Well I’ve seen Nimona by Noelle Stevenson making its rave review way around the book blog world and it was finally my turn to have a go at it. I expected I would like it very much but there was a little voice niggling just behind my left ear causing me a bit of worry. What if I am that person? The one that hates the book everyone else loves? I didn’t want it to be me.
Well, it turns out there was no cause for concern. From the first page to the last I loved this book. Briefly, it is a graphic novel. Nimona is a teenage girl and a shapeshifter. She shows up at the villain Ballister Blackheart’s lair to become his sidekick. Blackheart is not looking for a sidekick but Nimona gives herself the job anyway, and pretty soon Blackheart couldn’t get rid of her even if he tried so it’s a good thing he takes a liking to her. Blackheart is the nemesis of Goldenloin who works for The Institution. The two used to be best friends but past events changed that and now they are always fighting each other but there are rules and it is obvious the hatred doesn’t run all the way to their cores. Nimona’s arrival upsets the balance because she refuses to play by the rules. She wants to be evil but it turns out the bad guys are the good guys in this story.
The book is funny and fast-paced, the art is fantastic. Nimona is not a little twig-girl, has a mostly shaved head and the hair she does have is pink and then later purple. She makes no apologies for who she is. Sometimes she tells the truth, sometimes not, but she is always trustworthy. She is eager to do and please like a puppy, but don’t cross her or she will turn into a dragon and burn you to a crisp without regret.
The world the story takes place in is a recognizable fantasy world with knights in armor and jousts and swords. But then shake in a liberal dose of rule-breaking and you also get taser guns and electric whips, a science expo, video chat screens, and a zombie horror movie night with popcorn. You’d think such a mash-up would create chaos but Stevenson makes it work without question.
Nimona is a great rollicking good time but there are also some good lessons lurking under it all. But lessons is the wrong word because that makes it seem like the book is didactic and moralistic and it is not. Themes maybe? Friendship most definitely. And what friendship means, like support and encouragement but also accepting someone for who they are no matter what and not trying to turn them into someone else. Also, forgiveness.
The story in itself is complete but it is left open at the end just enough to suggest we might see Nimona again sometime. I sure hope we do!