I received my copy of Squire by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas through here. I was excited to read as it was a graphic novel, but also had a look of fantasy and historical, which is a genre I enjoy. However, it was not what I was expecting. I did notice that my feelings of the book changed from “this is new and fresh” to “we do have a new voice, but I know this story.” Also, I was being influenced by having just watch the animated series Arcane (which is a prequel story to the game League of Legends). Girl power, family, friends, loyalty, and hope among the despair play a role in both stories, so it was not hard to make the leap.
This novel has a lot going on. There is a new voice, Aiza, that we know the story of. There are friends we have never seen but are old, comfortable ones. There is an adventure that has never been taken before, but we know how our heroes’ paths will go. Alfageeh has taken a known story of finding oneself and their place in a world that sees them as not equal and given it a modern change. Based in fantasy, realism and the culture of the creators, Squire may not become a classic, but will be a story for our times.
The story of Aiza is too familiar: a girl living in a land that treats her as a second-class citizen, if that. She is marked by tattoos on her right arm to show her heritage. Of course, once people see that, they assume all sorts of horrible things: her people are greedy, selfish, are causing the drought, are a threat to the Empire. When her family allows her to join the service (not without a lot of hesitation), to train as a Squire to the Knights, she only thinks of honor, glory, and the stories of victory. What she does not expect are selfish, corrupt, and even willing to use someone to gain power, people. She and the others who joined (some for glory, some it is their destinies, some for adventure, some to hope to better their stations) never expected how they could be used, used up and discarded. Of course, soon there will be rebellion, the understanding of true honor, and even what nationality and loyalty really means.
I was starting to get a bit bored not halfway through, as I had just had the extreme action of Arcane in the back of my mind and was finding Squire lacking in ADVENTURE! Yet, once I realized the action of this novel is more slowly building up, there to guide you along as Aiza is guided by the characters, the situations and her new understanding, the action starts to take off. Of course, a good-old-fashioned battle did not hurt!
I am excited to see the final product with the illustrations, as what was available in my readers copy were interesting and teased the visual palette. The colors are not muted, but also not boldly presented. The details are minimal, there as needed but do not distract from the story. The influences of the Arabic heritage of the author and illustrator comes alive. I like the mixture of the Medieval/historical and fantasy (without having magic) elements. These characters are soldiers, knights, people of the desert and villages. You can tell that the Arabic influences are first, but there are other influences as well. The modern tone of the characters helps make things flow. It might have slower moments, but it is not stuffy. And this is included with the illustrations.
Now for an odd roundup. I know there will be extras and I am excited to see those when the times come (the drawback to getting a reader copy is they are not always completed as one would like/hope). And, I want to give this book a 5, but the ending makes it sound as if this will be a series, therefore, I want to give it some growing room. I felt this book more than some, less than others. Therefore, saying it is a 3.5; which I feel is a good solid rating. But since I can only do 3 or 4, I’m being generous and going with 4.
And editor note: the cat in the picture is not mine. But the cat of a friend. He is a fluffy baby, stinky butt (Carl, not my friend).