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Squire

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Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It's the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training progra Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It's the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training program. It's not how she imagined it, though. Aiza must navigate new friendships, rivalries, and rigorous training under the unyielding General Hende, all while hiding her Ornu background. As the pressure mounts, Aiza realizes that the "greater good" that Bayt-Sajji's military promises might not include her, and that the recruits might be in greater danger than she ever imagined. Aiza will have to choose, once and for all: loyalty to her heart and heritage, or loyalty to the Empire.


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Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It's the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training progra Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It's the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training program. It's not how she imagined it, though. Aiza must navigate new friendships, rivalries, and rigorous training under the unyielding General Hende, all while hiding her Ornu background. As the pressure mounts, Aiza realizes that the "greater good" that Bayt-Sajji's military promises might not include her, and that the recruits might be in greater danger than she ever imagined. Aiza will have to choose, once and for all: loyalty to her heart and heritage, or loyalty to the Empire.

30 review for Squire

  1. 5 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    ‘-This isn’t the way the world works, girl. -Maybe not. But the world is only how we make it. How will you make it?’ If you are looking for excellent adventure, look no further than Squire from author/illustrator team Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas. This is an exciting fantasy in an absorbing world detailed through it’s intense political climate and features a lot of women with swords battling for truth and justice. All of this is brought to life through Sara Alfageeh’s really lovely artwork and ‘-This isn’t the way the world works, girl. -Maybe not. But the world is only how we make it. How will you make it?’ If you are looking for excellent adventure, look no further than Squire from author/illustrator team Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas. This is an exciting fantasy in an absorbing world detailed through it’s intense political climate and features a lot of women with swords battling for truth and justice. All of this is brought to life through Sara Alfageeh’s really lovely artwork and lush colors. Squire tackles a lot of really important and complex issues of colonialism and the propaganda that perpetuates imperialism, as well as the struggles for identity living under a conquering empire, but the excellent storytelling and engaging narrative make this a fast, fun and really rewarding experience. Nadia Shammas dedicated Squire to the great Edward Said, whose books such as Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism are foundational texts critical of Western depictions of ‘The East’ and shows how empires persist through colonizing stories as well as land. The influence of his work is present here and Shammas and Alfageeh are able to tell their own stories of their own culture—the world of the war-torn Bayt-Sajji Empire in Squire is heavily influenced by Arabic nations and history—instead of being told through the white gaze. In this way they are able to not only tell and celebrate cultural heritage but also critique politics of war without it being written for the purpose of weaponizing the stories for the sake of Othering Islamic nations, as Said explains the history of literature tends to do. The story follows Aiza, a girl from the recently conquered Ornu people, who enlists to train to become a Squire in order to gain full citizenship in the Bayt-Sajji Empire as well as to become a hero as she seeks adventure and glory. Having to hide her ethnicity, Aiza meets friends along the way in the grueling training camp and we see how complex identity is for each of these various characters in a world full of conquering and an insistence of patriotism and upholding honor. Yet deception lurks in every corner and while Aiza trains under the tutelage of a disgraced Squire now working as a one-armed janitor she also begins to understand how the stories of the Empire are just that: stories. The myth making of patriotism becomes a way to weaponize fear mongering against others—such as the Ornu—and keep an army ready to fight and die for the Empire at any costs. The book does well by looking into ideas of complicity and questioning the myths that we are told to instill pride in a ruling government. This is an exciting book and many of the training scenes made me get that song from Disney’s Mulan stuck in my head. There is a lot of set-up which is really rich with lore and politics that I quite enjoyed, and though the second half of the book feels almost too quickly paced at times, it makes for a really action packed and fun read. I also enjoyed how long it was as I tend to fly through graphic novels too quickly and this made for a multi-sitting read to be more immersed in the world. Plus this is a great book for those hoping to have a more inclusive reading list with a predominantly brown-skinned cast of characters and cultural references based in the Middle East. The illustrator writes that the color palette, which is extraordinary, is influenced in the colors she saw in Turkey and Jordan and there are some phenomenal shades of blue used to great effect here. This is a wonderful book and I would love to see a sequel. 4/5

  2. 5 out of 5

    Alix Harrow

    the graphic novel that has it all: girls + swords, girls + swords realizing their heroes were manufactured imperial propaganda, girls + swords fighting their way toward a different kind of heroism alongside a ragtag band of empire's exiles. i read it out loud to my 5yo. twice. in one day. the graphic novel that has it all: girls + swords, girls + swords realizing their heroes were manufactured imperial propaganda, girls + swords fighting their way toward a different kind of heroism alongside a ragtag band of empire's exiles. i read it out loud to my 5yo. twice. in one day.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lex Kent

    3.75 Stars. This was a well done graphic novel. I’m a graphic novel fan, but with so many books on my to read list, I don’t find the time for as many graphic novels as I would like. When I saw this particular new graphic novel, it immediately caught my attention and I knew I would happily make time for it. I love fantasy stories about young women who are underdogs in training to become squires and knights. And of course seeing the tittle of Squire, caused me to instantly think of a favorite seri 3.75 Stars. This was a well done graphic novel. I’m a graphic novel fan, but with so many books on my to read list, I don’t find the time for as many graphic novels as I would like. When I saw this particular new graphic novel, it immediately caught my attention and I knew I would happily make time for it. I love fantasy stories about young women who are underdogs in training to become squires and knights. And of course seeing the tittle of Squire, caused me to instantly think of a favorite series of mine, Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce. I was hoping for a similar feel with this comic and I did get a little of that. I must admit that I was not crazy about the art in the first few panels. I don’t know if overdone is the right word, or not, but something wasn’t clicking for me. However, that soon changed and I found myself really enjoying the art, especially the colors. The color choices are wonderful and this graphic novel really stands out because of it. I enjoyed the story and found it very easy to get sucked into this world. If I am totally absorbed by any type of story, my reading pace picks up. That is not always easy to do with graphic novels since you have to be more careful how you read them. In this case, I was happy that the bubbles were easy to follow so I didn’t find myself reading text out of turn, and it kept the story flowing and allowed me to read at good speed. My only slight issue is that I was not crazy about the ending. Not the actual story, but that I felt like the ending was a bit too rushed. There is a lot going on in this graphic novel, so I get it, but I feel like the climatic ending wasn’t as exciting as it should have been for me, since certain things felt like they were happening too quickly. It did not ruin my overall enjoyment, but it’s why I didn’t give this a full 4 stars. TLDR: A beautifully colored graphic novel. I’m a YA fantasy fan, so this was right up my alley and I enjoyed the story. The ending was a tad rushed, but everything else was well done and I would absolutely read another volume if there is one in the future. P.S. Since I read a lot of LGBTQ+ content, I just want to mention that while I wondered about one character, this graphic novel has no obvious LGBTQ+ characters. An ARC was given to me for a review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨

    Come for the gorgeous illustrations and a story about knights, stay for an incredible story about a young girl confronting the fact that her dream of becoming a knight is built on imperialism and subjugation of the oppressed (and yes, do stay for its gorgeous illustration too). This graphic novel is absolutely brilliant and I loved this. Read my full review on my book blog, The Quiet Pond. I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Come for the gorgeous illustrations and a story about knights, stay for an incredible story about a young girl confronting the fact that her dream of becoming a knight is built on imperialism and subjugation of the oppressed (and yes, do stay for its gorgeous illustration too). This graphic novel is absolutely brilliant and I loved this. Read my full review on my book blog, The Quiet Pond. I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sakina (aforestofbooks)

    OH HI THERE. THIS IS THE BOOK I DREAMED OF WHEN I WAS A WEE LITTLE THING DISCOVERING THE WORLD OF KNIGHTS THROUGH TAMORA PIERCE’S WORKS. NOW I GET TO SEE MYSELF IN A STORY AND MY HEART HURTS WITH HOW HAPPY I AM This book really makes you think, and the entire time it kept reminding me of Palestine. I loved the illustrations the most and Aiza’s facial expressions were the best 😂 I wish it was longer though! Or hopefully we get a second book to see what happens. I think the one thing about graphic OH HI THERE. THIS IS THE BOOK I DREAMED OF WHEN I WAS A WEE LITTLE THING DISCOVERING THE WORLD OF KNIGHTS THROUGH TAMORA PIERCE’S WORKS. NOW I GET TO SEE MYSELF IN A STORY AND MY HEART HURTS WITH HOW HAPPY I AM This book really makes you think, and the entire time it kept reminding me of Palestine. I loved the illustrations the most and Aiza’s facial expressions were the best 😂 I wish it was longer though! Or hopefully we get a second book to see what happens. I think the one thing about graphic novels is that they feel so short and I always want more

  6. 4 out of 5

    Para (wanderer)

    ARC received from the publisher (Quill Tree Books) in exchange for an honest review. I’m pretty sure I’ve been looking forwards to this graphic novel for a few years now, having first heard about it back in my webcomic-heavy era – the concept and the art were an immediate draw. I was delighted when I got a chance to give it a try. Why did you come here? Money or food? Citizenship…or honor? They dangle the prize of status, mobility, a better life. They use your bodies and train you while their s ARC received from the publisher (Quill Tree Books) in exchange for an honest review. I’m pretty sure I’ve been looking forwards to this graphic novel for a few years now, having first heard about it back in my webcomic-heavy era – the concept and the art were an immediate draw. I was delighted when I got a chance to give it a try. Why did you come here? Money or food? Citizenship…or honor? They dangle the prize of status, mobility, a better life. They use your bodies and train you while their sweet rewards stay in the future while you toil here, now. Aiza, a member of the oppressed Ornu people, captivated by propaganda pamphlets, dreams of joining the army of the Bayt-Sajji Empire occupying her homeland and becoming a knight. Dreams of adventure, glory, full citizenship. When she finally convinces her parents to let her join, she’s delighted. But of course, it’s not going to be as easy or clear-cut as that. I absolutely loved how this graphic novel interrogates imperialism, militarism, and prejudice, the way different characters are shaped by their backgrounds, which influences their biases and opinions, it was all very well done. It reminds me a lot of The Unbroken, if YA and less dark. The basic plot is classic school setting coming of age with a plucky heroine, it’s fun and it works, but it’s the themes and the art and the setting that really make it shine. However, there is one major flaw: the pacing is extremely rushed. It felt as if it should have been at least two, perhaps three times its length to give some events their proper weight. Especially near the end, too many things happen too quickly, with what feels like not enough reason. In particular when it comes to characters changing their minds. There is a good plot and a good ending, but with some more space to breathe it would have been an excellent one. Regardless, I’d generally recommend it if it sounds good to you. Enjoyment: 4/5 Execution: 3.5/5 Recommended to: those who want a story that manages to be fun and deal with some heavy issues at the same time, those looking for something without a romance subplot or fantasy without magic Not recommended to: those easily bothered by pacing issues More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vee_Bookish

    Loved the concept of this, a young soldier becoming a Squire for her country's army, but the execution offered nothing new for me. I've read this trope of the young girl finding a tough mentor who makes her a better warrior many times before, and I wanted this book to do something new but it had nothing to offer. It's also upper middle grade, not young adult as I thought. I felt that the last few chapters were very rushed, which made me realise that this is likely a standalone graphic novel, and Loved the concept of this, a young soldier becoming a Squire for her country's army, but the execution offered nothing new for me. I've read this trope of the young girl finding a tough mentor who makes her a better warrior many times before, and I wanted this book to do something new but it had nothing to offer. It's also upper middle grade, not young adult as I thought. I felt that the last few chapters were very rushed, which made me realise that this is likely a standalone graphic novel, and it would be better as a series. I'd love to see Aiza as a young adult / adult in the future, and this story would be an okay start to the series, but as a standalone it's very weak. -------------------------------- Disclaimer: the ARC I got was almost entirely in black and white and it was so muddy I could barely tell what was going on, I may have had a different opinion if the publisher could be bothered to send a decent copy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    aarya

    Beautifully illustrated graphic novel set in a Middle Eastern-inspired fantasy world without magic. It's long (compared to most graphic novels), but I hardly noticed because I was so engrossed. The central idea of complicity in an empire's subjugation of oppressed populations, especially when you've been fed lies about so-called "greatness"... oof. Difficult (but necessary) to introspect, and the themes will resonate with folks. One selfish request: I hope there's a sequel because Aiza's adventu Beautifully illustrated graphic novel set in a Middle Eastern-inspired fantasy world without magic. It's long (compared to most graphic novels), but I hardly noticed because I was so engrossed. The central idea of complicity in an empire's subjugation of oppressed populations, especially when you've been fed lies about so-called "greatness"... oof. Difficult (but necessary) to introspect, and the themes will resonate with folks. One selfish request: I hope there's a sequel because Aiza's adventures seem unfinished.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Geoff

    Gorgeous art; really interesting worldbuilding; and nice themes of the importance of duty, fluidity of patriotism and citizenship, and morality. On the down side, the plot is a pretty standard training/coming of age story, and the twists are both simultaneously somewhat predicable and not explored enough. That said, I would read a lot more in this universe especially with these characters. **Thanks to the artist, publisher, and NetGalley for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    All her life, Azia has dreamed of being a knight of the Bayt-Sajji Empire. Never mind the empire is not as great as it once was, or that she is a member of the Ornu people, who have been turned into scapegoats for the Empire's woes. Azia is going to do be a hero. But when she joins the other recruits, she discovers that being a hero is not necessarily what she had thought...and that there are many layers of complicity within an empire. No more orcs. No Chosen One. Just people learning how to unlea All her life, Azia has dreamed of being a knight of the Bayt-Sajji Empire. Never mind the empire is not as great as it once was, or that she is a member of the Ornu people, who have been turned into scapegoats for the Empire's woes. Azia is going to do be a hero. But when she joins the other recruits, she discovers that being a hero is not necessarily what she had thought...and that there are many layers of complicity within an empire. No more orcs. No Chosen One. Just people learning how to unlearn the justifications of colonialism and finding their way. Ooooooh I really like this one. The artwork was fantastic. The storyline was tight (although I wanted more), and I liked the cast of characters. I did want more background on the empire and the world and the rest of the peoples making up the world, but I understand why the authors didn't go into as much detail—there was a lot to get through and what they portrayed was enough to get the point across. There is so much joy here, even amid the suffering and hardship, and I had so much fun following Azia as she bounced and leapt and fought her way through training—and beyond. And the commentary on colonialism, empire and complicity was also very well done. Overall, a solid graphic novel, and I'm not just saying it because there were girls with swords trying to be knights! I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

  11. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Larson

    This is such a gorgeous looking graphic novel, but the story is convoluted and rushed. I wish it could have been developed better.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Josalynne Balajadia

    A well-done comic about a young girl's dream of becoming a squire. The two big differences being the middle-eastern setting and the willingness to show the complex morality of knighthood. The graphic novel was written universally enough that I feel like any age could pick up and enjoy it (love of lady knights is not age-specific). The art was cute and felt related to the theme of the story and the landscapes and extra details were beautiful. The only thing I wish I could have had more of are thos A well-done comic about a young girl's dream of becoming a squire. The two big differences being the middle-eastern setting and the willingness to show the complex morality of knighthood. The graphic novel was written universally enough that I feel like any age could pick up and enjoy it (love of lady knights is not age-specific). The art was cute and felt related to the theme of the story and the landscapes and extra details were beautiful. The only thing I wish I could have had more of are those sweet training montages. While I mostly read novels with LGBTQ+ rep, I will mention that this book does not have any canonical representation within the community. That being said, there is diversity in the terms of body and skin types. If you have a soft spot for the "girl wants to be a knight" trope then this could be a good fit for you especially if you are tired of the euro-centric representation of knighthood. I would also recommend it to any younger readers that are okay with violence (gore is implied offscreen).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Heaven

    first of all let me just say how much i love the art style of this graphic novel. it’s so fun in terms of characters design and so beautiful when it comes to the settings and backgrounds they’re in. the story we see the aiza go through is one that i find resonates with a lot of people today and tackled serious themes such as identity, war and colonialism that is still very present today, through a graphic novel in a way that i found very engaging. seeing the characters finding out what they’d be first of all let me just say how much i love the art style of this graphic novel. it’s so fun in terms of characters design and so beautiful when it comes to the settings and backgrounds they’re in. the story we see the aiza go through is one that i find resonates with a lot of people today and tackled serious themes such as identity, war and colonialism that is still very present today, through a graphic novel in a way that i found very engaging. seeing the characters finding out what they’d believed to good actually being the opposite and a complex matter really highlights the themes of growing up as they start to see things as they truly are. whilst i always knew from the start what would play out, it was still heartbreaking to see aiza’s ideas of heroism shattered. honestly, i really recommend you go get yourselves a copy of this wonderful piece of art and literature, whether you preorder (which would be better) or once it comes out in march. it’s so worth the read

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karina

    ― Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★ Squire is a grand fantasy YA graphic novel that while on the surface is about a girl's dream to become a knight, delves into nuanced discussion of imperialism, loyalty to an empire that conquered her people, alongside themes of war & the cycle that maintains it! Through a scrappy, enthusiastic heroine named Aiza, the reader gets pulled into the world of Bayt-Sajji and the grander ideas it presents. A compelling graphic novel with great artwork & a story that leaves you w ― Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★ Squire is a grand fantasy YA graphic novel that while on the surface is about a girl's dream to become a knight, delves into nuanced discussion of imperialism, loyalty to an empire that conquered her people, alongside themes of war & the cycle that maintains it! Through a scrappy, enthusiastic heroine named Aiza, the reader gets pulled into the world of Bayt-Sajji and the grander ideas it presents. A compelling graphic novel with great artwork & a story that leaves you wanting to know more. ↠ SQUIRE Book Review ⚔✨ When I first heard about Squire, it contained everything I feel like I don't often see in YA Fantasy: Knights, grand epic world and grander themes tackled within the story. From the very beginning its clear that Aiza's Ornu background makes her discriminated against and with little opportunities, both for her and her family. Then when hearing about the recruitment to become a Squire and its supposed benefits, she leaps at the chance to join! From there, she meets new friends (Husni, Sahar, & Basem) and undergoes training and exams to become a knight. While she struggles to keep up, she gets help from the groundskeeper Doruk, trying to keep her place in training and avoid failure. The artwork is colorful ranging from reds to oranges, browns, and other earthy colors to present the vibrant architecture, clothing and setting of the Bayt-Saiji Empire. With a lot of night training scenes and a character with their own ulterior motives, the artwork transitions to dark hues of red and blue across the novel. The paneling is wonderfully presented to tell the story and helps to deliver a great pacing. There's also dynamic action scenes, wonderfully constructed backgrounds and overall the details to the characters or particular elements in a panel highlight a lot about the scene. Despite the obviously planned out & intended themes that are explored through Aiza's journey, they did feel vert overt and heavy-handed in terms of execution in the dialogue (the subjugation, realities of war, etc.). That's not necessarily a bad thing but then it felt like then, there's no room to explore the themes at greater length. Additionally, despite having a great cast of characters I never felt like I knew too much about them, we get some background as to Husni and Basem but again there's never additional details that make them feel more developed. I did enjoy Aiza, Doruk, and Husni, etc. but again all these dynamics / characters have that familiarity but are never given more page-time to delve into their stories. I just left the world of Bayt-Saiji like there was so much more to discover... The military and training to be a Squire becomes a large portion of the plot, yet were some of the most fascinating parts of story for me! While it so clearly establishes a grander idea about how the Empire utilizes the youth & naivete of the recruits to further expand their reach, it still manages to feel like a very close, tight-knit story about these recruits and their experience in training which gives it a more light-hearted feel to the story coupled with Aiza's charm, the banter and humor woven into the narrative. Not sure if there is a sequel planned (that would be amazing!), but I would not mind returning to this world again to explore what's next for the characters and the empire. Squire excels at presenting and examining a variety of themes from loyalty, imperialism, & more! The artwork is lively with a gorgeous palette of colors, unfolding the story in such a way that elements of mystery and adventure are always present. Alfageeh and Shammas excel at bringing that personal depth to the different layers and themes in this book. Aiza's story is not just that of becoming a knight, what this graphic novel does is offer fantastic explorations into grander ideas about the impacts of war, knighthood, and the cost of dreams that doesn't want to include her!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Azrah

    CW: blood, violence, injury, war, racism, xenophobia -- I have been excited for Squire ever since I first heard about it and it was so good! Set in a Middle-Eastern inspired world Squire follows a young girl from an oppressed background, who’s dream of becoming a hero comes at the cost of hiding her identity. I don’t want to give too much away about it but with a wonderful group of characters at its core this is an inspiring story about following your heart and being brave enough to stand up for CW: blood, violence, injury, war, racism, xenophobia -- I have been excited for Squire ever since I first heard about it and it was so good! Set in a Middle-Eastern inspired world Squire follows a young girl from an oppressed background, who’s dream of becoming a hero comes at the cost of hiding her identity. I don’t want to give too much away about it but with a wonderful group of characters at its core this is an inspiring story about following your heart and being brave enough to stand up for what is right, no matter the cost. The commentary on the weaponization of history, imperialism and complicity in such regimes was also so well addressed. And of course the artwork is STUNNING! It enhances the story further by beautifully portraying the characters and the setting and I absolutely loved Sara's note on how the colours were chosen and inspired by photos she took when she was in Jordan and Turkey. I did find the ending a little rushed compared to the rest of the story and I wish it could have been split into a longer series but I loved it all the same. Though this is for a YA audience, I'd say anyone of any age would definitely take something away from it so definitely check it out! Final Rating – 4.5/5 Stars

  16. 4 out of 5

    Katey Flowers

    ‘The world is only how we make it. How will you make it?’ A captivating graphic novel with a strong message about complicity and doing what’s right even when it’s hard. I only wish this had been a bit longer (or even a series!) and the ending was a bit more fleshed out. Overall, a really compelling and well told story with plenty of action and heart. Highly recommend.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Described as "a mix between Avatar: The Last Airbender, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Mulan"? YES PLEASE. Oh and the concept art is SO GOOD. Described as "a mix between Avatar: The Last Airbender, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Mulan"? YES PLEASE. Oh and the concept art is SO GOOD.

  18. 4 out of 5

    TL

    Beautiful artwork and a good story, too tired to write more than that haha

  19. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Shepard (Between-the-Shelves)

    Thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this to review! Always on the lookout for new, diverse graphic novels to read, and this one fits the bill. Bonus points for it being fantasy and filling a hole seen in the graphic novel fantasy genre! For the most part, I thought the writing throughout this was well done. There a few times where I thought it maybe got a little too wordy for a graphic novel, but sometimes it was necessary to ensure the readers are on the same page. Espe Thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this to review! Always on the lookout for new, diverse graphic novels to read, and this one fits the bill. Bonus points for it being fantasy and filling a hole seen in the graphic novel fantasy genre! For the most part, I thought the writing throughout this was well done. There a few times where I thought it maybe got a little too wordy for a graphic novel, but sometimes it was necessary to ensure the readers are on the same page. Especially since this is a fantasy world that needs some explanation at times. The writing also partners well with the characters to truly bring them to life. The art makes the characters incredibly expressive, supported by what’s going on in the text. We are also able to see a diverse representation of characters throughout this world, which better reflects the real world. You can see the characters changing as they learn more, which is so important in a book like this. I also really liked the art in this. There are some really great panels in here, especially depicting the overall world. The overall color palette also helps in bringing this fantasy world to life. My only qualm with this book is that the ending felt a bit rushed. I think it could have been expanded, and this honestly could become a series. I would totally read more!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

    I LOVED this as someone raised on Tamora Pierce! It reminded me of the Alanna or Kel books, but what if they were set in a fantasy Middle East instead of fantasy Europe and were actively anti-colonialist? I found the ending a little bit rushed, but was so happy to see this story told in a new setting and with a sharper lens on the glory of heroics. I read an ARC, but would love to reread a finished copy in color when it comes out. Would definitely recommend for fans of Pierce, Nimona, Avatar: the I LOVED this as someone raised on Tamora Pierce! It reminded me of the Alanna or Kel books, but what if they were set in a fantasy Middle East instead of fantasy Europe and were actively anti-colonialist? I found the ending a little bit rushed, but was so happy to see this story told in a new setting and with a sharper lens on the glory of heroics. I read an ARC, but would love to reread a finished copy in color when it comes out. Would definitely recommend for fans of Pierce, Nimona, Avatar: the Last Airbender, or Mulan.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gretal

    This was just so good. I loved it, and I'm definitely going to preorder it. This was just so good. I loved it, and I'm definitely going to preorder it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel S

    While Squire has great characters, beautiful art, and an intriguing premise, in my opinion it fails to follow through on a lot of the ideas it presents. And most importantly, the world building is very weak. I wanted to root for Aiza and understand her situation. I wanted to get caught up in this world, to understand the stakes and be impressed as I watch her weave through these challenges. But the unfortunate truth is that the world building makes no sense. This is a book about a girl joining t While Squire has great characters, beautiful art, and an intriguing premise, in my opinion it fails to follow through on a lot of the ideas it presents. And most importantly, the world building is very weak. I wanted to root for Aiza and understand her situation. I wanted to get caught up in this world, to understand the stakes and be impressed as I watch her weave through these challenges. But the unfortunate truth is that the world building makes no sense. This is a book about a girl joining the military and rising to the top, so as a reader you want to understand the military system so you can root for her. But the military system feels made up on the spot and is impossible to engage with! Spoilers ahead: the military system is composed of primarily Knights with the Squires and infantry forming a protective barrier. So you automatically think, alright so they need a fair number of Squires since apparently they make up a good portion of this military, so a lot of these kids will be promoted to Squire. Wrong. Only one person becomes Squire. One. Everyone else goes to the front lines. So first off as a reader you're a little bit confused but you ignore it and keep going. The benefits of becoming a knight are citizenship and fame and THATS IT. And only ONE person can become a Squire (Squires are like Knights in training) So if only one person will become a Squire and everyone else will go to the front lines then it makes absolutely no sense to join the military unless you are insanely desperate or 100% certain you can become a Squire. These children are joining on a whim. For money and fame, etc. This makes it hard to understand the stakes cause it seems like everyone just joined for fun and are vibing, then all of the sudden the book wants to make you scared that some of them have to go to the front lines. Also Squire-ship is literally designed to encourage conquered groups to join because the benefits include citizenship (getting to own property, travel outside of designated camps, etc). If you're already a citizen you have very little incentive to join the military and I assumed that was intentional. Realistically a lot of these kids should be desperate Ornu looking for a better life. And yet everyone is shocked and disgusted when Aiza is revealed to be Ornu. Knight-ship is designed to appeal to her people and yet she's the only one in the entire Empire who decides to join? On another note, if squire training is really just an elaborate ruse by the military to bolster their infantry why are these kids receiving history lessons, private horseback riding lessons, and a variety of weaponry training. Why on earth do they each get their own horse? What are the funds of this empire that they can afford to give every dispensable child recruit a horse? On another note, how many knights are there if they apparently make up the power center of this military. We only hear of a few and its a very rare and special thing to become a knight, but there has to be a lot because this is a big empire. On yet another note, in the beginning of the novel the inciting incident so to speak is this grand military procession where it is announced that conquered people groups are allowed to join the army and gain citizenship. And Aiza is freaking out and as a reader you fully understand that this is clearly the military preying on the oppressed populations and she's too dumb to see it. And you forgive her cause she's a kid. Then she goes home to talk to her parents and she's like, "do you guys ever wish you could leave our designated camps." And instead of being like, "yes you dumbass, of course we wish we could leave, but we are literally oppressed by this facist empire so that's not happening." Instead the parents are like, "no, we don't want to leave. Duty and responsibility are keeping us here." So as a reader you're just like, wtf?? How do these full on adults not know they are oppressed? How are they deluding themselves into thinking its their choice? Unless that's the point, that they were born into this regime and they think everything is fine and dandy. But even then, they literally aren't allowed to own land or travel and get mocked and like, spit on for being Ornu, yet they think everything's great?? Then Aiza's like "I want to join the military" and her parents are like "you've said this for years." FOR YEARS?? The announcement happened TODAY that Ornu are now allowed to join the military. Unless there was a time skip that wasn't mentioned? Or does the military just like to throw these grand processions to announce a system they've had in place for years? Then the parents are just like, "alright you can join the military" instead of, oh idk, explaining to their daughter that this horrible empire is literally oppressing them then forcing them to risk their lives in the military for the small chance of being treated like a citizen. It's so incredibly obvious that's what the military is doing, they're literally not trying to hide it, so let Aiza battle with this reality. Let her family battle with this reality, instead of treating them all like idiots who don't understand their situation and think everything is fine and dandy. It just doesn't make the oppression seem realistic when none of the characters actually have to come to terms with the oppression. Also the military is literally fighting the Ornu, that's they're enemy. SO WHY does it make sense that they encourage Ornu to join the military!! Like I said, the military is designed to appeal to them as they are the only characters we see that don't have citizenship. As a empire, why compose your military of the same recently conquered people that you're fighting against. Obviously they're going to be incentivized to leave the military and join the Ornu, they're own people!! Obviously they're going to see the injustice of fighting against they're own people. Obviously there are going to be some moral quandaries, but apparently this empire is just too dumb to see that? Anyway, long story short, the second you try to go below the surface of the world building it just crumbles. And I can't engage with a story that literally requires a surface level reading for it to be enjoyed. I want a fleshed out story, sue me! The characters are great but after being introduced they're barely developed save the main character so they can't even redeem this story. It's a story I've seen done better and this adds nothing new to the table.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ayah

    This is a gorgeously illustrated graphic novel that grapples with deep themes and an epic cast of characters (almost all of them with really amazing character arcs)! It's not explicitly Muslamic, although there are drawings of what look like mosques in the background. The themes it deals with, though, are relatable to what a lot of Muslim Americans face. Young Aiza dreams of becoming a squire and serving her empire. But after realizing that the empire wages war against her own people, and treats This is a gorgeously illustrated graphic novel that grapples with deep themes and an epic cast of characters (almost all of them with really amazing character arcs)! It's not explicitly Muslamic, although there are drawings of what look like mosques in the background. The themes it deals with, though, are relatable to what a lot of Muslim Americans face. Young Aiza dreams of becoming a squire and serving her empire. But after realizing that the empire wages war against her own people, and treats them and other refugees as second-class citizens, Aiza must decide whether to continue her dreams of serving heroically, or embarking on a new path. There were a lot of parallels to the situation today: Arab Americans defining their conflicting identities, the US as an empire waging war against other countries (especially Arab/Muslim ones) back home, Arab Americans enjoying the comforts of living in the empire while feeling guilty and worried about what Arabs/Muslims will be bombed by the US next, the rhetoric of Americans "fearing" the others and feeling as though they must either conquer or be conquered. Overall it was a great read. There are some Muslim American youth who consider joining--and end up joining--the US army (whether it is for a sense of purpose, to become a hero, or just tuition bills). I would definitely recommend it for a young adult audience, and youth considering joining the army in particular—it might prompt them to consider things otherwise unconsidered.

  24. 5 out of 5

    DK

    *I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review* A stirring tale of friendship, martial training, and uprising. I was instantly drawn in by this underdog story featuring Aiza, a small but fierce girl who dreams of becoming a knight and achieving great things. She's bought into the empire's idea of greatness and, despite her parents cautioning her against it, is determined to join the recruits. However, she has to keep her identity as one of the Ornu people a secret. As the sto *I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review* A stirring tale of friendship, martial training, and uprising. I was instantly drawn in by this underdog story featuring Aiza, a small but fierce girl who dreams of becoming a knight and achieving great things. She's bought into the empire's idea of greatness and, despite her parents cautioning her against it, is determined to join the recruits. However, she has to keep her identity as one of the Ornu people a secret. As the story unfolds, Aiza meets recruits from different people groups and social classes, trains with an old soldier haunted by the past, and uncovers hard truths about the knights. The characters are all wonderful and the story kept me engaged and eager to know what would happen next. I love the art and character design - the art is really detailed and the characters have a wide range of body types and expressions. I especially loved the visual contrast between Aiza and her mentor - they're polar opposites in every way and I love their dynamic. Inspired by Arab countries, culture, and history, this story is wonderfully diverse. Reading it was a joy!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Skip

    A 300+ page graphic novel, a collaboration between two Arab Americans. Aiza is a a young girl, born into a family and people (Ornu) destined for poverty; however, Aiza wants more and decides to train to become a squire to better herself and her family. She covers her traditional tattoo with a bandage, and starts her training. Her fellow trainees come from different backgrounds, with different values. Aiza fails her first exam and is assigned guard duty at the armory, where she meets Doruk, who b A 300+ page graphic novel, a collaboration between two Arab Americans. Aiza is a a young girl, born into a family and people (Ornu) destined for poverty; however, Aiza wants more and decides to train to become a squire to better herself and her family. She covers her traditional tattoo with a bandage, and starts her training. Her fellow trainees come from different backgrounds, with different values. Aiza fails her first exam and is assigned guard duty at the armory, where she meets Doruk, who begrudgingly decides to help her train. When she is sent on a reconnaissance mission, her squad is attacked and her best friend wounded so Aiza takes off her bandage, revealing her low caste. She is promoted to squire, but draws the ire of her fellow trainees. Then Aiza discovers some treachery and decides to fight for what is right. Serious themes are addressed, and the artwork is well above average. 4.5 stars, rounded down only because it felt a bit unfinished. I enjoyed it.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brynne

    Such a lovely subversion of genre tropes. I wish there had been more explanation of how the Ornu came to be so hated and how the dominant group came into power, but even without that extra depth, this was an amazing look at the harm that war and imperialism can do.

  27. 5 out of 5

    James

    I LOVE THIS BOOK CHECK OUT ON AMAZON https://amzn.to/3Mdr23b I LOVE THIS BOOK CHECK OUT ON AMAZON https://amzn.to/3Mdr23b

  28. 5 out of 5

    Peacegal

    3.5 stars--A story of adventure, difficult choices, and life lessons learned with impressive illustrations throughout. Some of the jumps ahead in time in the story were a bit jarring, and the ending was rushed. Readers looking for fantasy/adventure will want to check this one out.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Andreia GD

    A simple story with a great message.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cyril

    This was a lovely graphic novel about a young girl who follows her dream path out of poverty and subjugation into the harsh reality of imperialism. Some things stood out to me as a little wonky (some of the lettering, the story pacing at parts) but overall I enjoyed it and would recommend it for high schoolers/young adult readers

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