Review: Squire by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas

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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
Not recommended to: those easily bothered by pacing issues

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