Creators: Sara Alfageeh, Nadia Shammas
Genres: Comics, fantasy
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Review copy: Library
Availability: Available now!
Summary: 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.
Review: Between Messy Roots by Laura Gao and now Squire by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas, I feel like I’ve been spoiled by all the incredible graphic novels I’ve been reading lately. I’ve been looking forward to Squire for quite a while — I absolutely love Sara Alfageeh’s art, so you can imagine my delight when I learned about Squire. It’s been on my TBR pile since it was announced. I mean, just look at that cover!
Going in, I actually had no idea what the plot was, but reading this graphic novel was a delightful and thought-provoking journey. Squire follows young Aiza, who dreams of a life beyond the constraints and taunts of her everyday life. Specifically, she wants to be a Knight. To become a Knight, she must train and qualify to be a Squire. As she trains, she must confront who she is, who she’s becoming, and the dissonance between the stories she’s heard growing up and the narrative the empire pushes upon her.
First of all, the art is simply stunning. I paused quite often to admire the gorgeous details and vivid expressions. It’s a fun and rich visual experience. What I love most was the lighting and color — there was a detail that struck me that if you read, I hope you’ll look out for, which was the golden glow of the evening light cast unevenly across people of different heights. It felt so real and so beautiful to see.
Aiza is a character you want to root for right from the jump, and it’s hard to put this book down once you start reading. Her struggles, the friendships she makes, and what she learns about herself all weave together into a gripping story. What was most striking was the skillful way that the cruel legacy of empire and war is tied into the story.
I have no idea if there will be a sequel, but my only disappointment was that there wasn’t even more to the story — I would love to see what happens next to everyone in this cast of characters. I can’t recommend Squire enough. I think it deserves to win all the awards, and hope to see it on many bookshelves. It’s such an incredible and thoughtful and delightful read. Definitely go pick it up!
Recommendation: Buy it now!