Nimona has been in the ever-growing pile of “need to read” books on my shelf, and it finally came up next in my queue. I purchased it last year after hearing it was written and illustrated by the highly esteemed Noelle Stevenson (see: Lumberjanes) and that it would be made into an animated film. That is all I knew about the book when I cracked open the cover. Based on the cover art I assumed the story would contain the following: fantasy, strong female protag, comedy a’la Lumberjanes, and a dollop of sisterhood for good measure.
Does it have some of these elements? Yes and no. Nimona took me completely by surprise in the best possible ways. It is refreshing and truly delightful to read. Here’s how it performed on the Her Story Arc Scale:
- Not offensive to women 1/1 points
- Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character 2/2 points
- Passes the Bechdel Test 3/3 points
- Artistic and/or entertaining 4/4 points
- Above and beyond general media 5/5 points
Total points = 15/15
Nimona delivers our entire feminist wishlist on a silver platter. The title of the book is our protagonist’s name, and Nimona herself is a prickly, vicious, whimsical, and complicated young woman who, for better or for worse, has been imbued with magical powers that exacerbate her understandable personal problems. The strength of her abilities ensure that no one can physically stop her, and it is only emotional appeal that will maybe sorta kinda work. Maybe.
Set in a sci-fantasy world where science and magic intertwine, the story opens with Nimona knocking on the castle door of villain Ballister Blackheart. She wants to be his apprentice, but the dynamic between them develops into part odd-couple and part parent-child relationship.
The story is fun, the ending is poignant, and the growth of the characters is meaningful. Stevenson achieves a beautiful balance of deep story-telling and dark comedy. Where the story really earns points for being “above and beyond general media” is with Nimona’s characterization. Her origin story is tragic, and she is strong because she needed to be strong in order to survive. Like the abused animals you see in ASPCA commercials, you just want to reach out and nurture her back to emotional health.
That being said, I didn’t like her; after all – she is a villain’s apprentice! Nimona is not a role model, and that is exactly what makes her such a fascinating character. Stevenson takes complex villain writing to the next level.
You can find Nimona online, at your local comic book store, and even at Barnes & Noble. You can also download the audiobook on Audible. That’s right: a graphic novel audiobook. According to rave reviews, the 2 hour 16 minute audio adaptation goes more in-depth than the comic and adds another layer to the story. Several reviewers recommend listening to the audio book while flipping through the novel itself.
Have I convinced you yet? Maybe this list of awards will:
- Indies Choice Book of the Year
- National Book Award Finalist
- New York Times Best Seller
- New York Times Notable Book
- Kirkus Best Book
- School Library Journal Best Book
- Publishers Weekly Best Book
- NPR Best Book
- New York Public Library Best Book
- Chicago Public Library Best Book
Have you read Nimona already? Share your review in the comments.