Do I like Nimona? Honestly? I am not sure.
Let me start at the beginning: Nimona is a girl who invites herself to become the sidekick of Lord Ballister Blackheart, the infamous, has a pretty cool metal arm, villain of the village. Of course, nothing is black and white; there is a side story about Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and why Lord Blackheart became evil but also why Sir Goldenloin is the “hero,” plus our Nimona who is an “impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy.” (According to publisher description.) She also can be loud, bratty and a toddler-throwing-tantrum-thrower (also a shark, cat, dragon). Oh, and she really likes killing people. (I mean really likes it). You love her or not. She might grow on you a little. But then again, so does fungus. The two of them, try to bring down the Institution (and in classic anti-hero style, the Institution is the real “bad guy” and is run by a goblin of a woman) and maybe, in the process, they can patch up Blackheart’s relationship with Goldenloin (then again when your best friend/lover blows up your arm, one might not be so forgiving of that).
Okay, were Blackheart and Goldenloin lovers? I am going with yes. But then again, they just could have had a loving friendship that has no labels. You dear reader, must decide.
You also must decide what parts of Nimona’s story is true. Our fearless author/illustrator Noelle Stevenson does love to spin a tale. And her character Nimona really knows how to spin. Is she a child who helped an incompetent witch (who somehow could turn Nimona into a shapeshifter, but could not magic her way out of a hole) out of said hole or is she something more? Is Nimona evil? What destruction does she have planned? Or is she just, really a scared, little monster-child? And how does a scatterbrained scientist, some lovely ladies attending the joust (which of course is a trap) and a newscaster fit into all of this?
This is one odd, but interesting, story arc. There is modern (said TV newscaster for one; ordering a pizza to the secret lair) mixed with fantasy (magic, dragons) and surreal (just pretty much everything) a lot of science (face-time phone calls) and supernatural. For sure this is not for all readers. Even the illustrations are odd. Maybe it was the quality of them (I had an older library copy) or maybe they really are more faded in the color department. They also never seem complete to me. Something was always missing. At times they were almost blurry (a cat could look like a fox, one creature Nimona turns into is never really defined, but gives of dragon-Maleficent vibes) Nimona’s style is typical 1990s punk with medieval flair. There also are several panels with no text at all. You read the artwork and must decipher what is going on. A few flashbacks are also just tossed in and you will stop and backtrack (at least I did). I felt that maybe my books pages were pasted incorrectly, until I realized you were seeing the real story.
Due to, while not overly graphic, some serious violence, I would not say for under 13. I might even go as far as to say, this is not for teens at all, but should be more of an adult book. It is something that if you read, maybe sure you are comfortable and can spend some time with it. Thankfully there are natural breaks with chapters, but even then, you really need to sit, think and digest. There are extras included for sketch development and more.