Nimona- A sumptuous tale of friendship and shapeshifting

Nimona

Originally published: 12 May 2015
Author: Noelle Stevenson
Publisher: HarperCollins (Print)
Genre: Comedy
Nominations: National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

Nimona is the beautiful, wonderful creation of comic genius Noelle Stevenson. Our protagonist is technically the antagonist in this brilliant tale. Nimona is a fiery young shapeshifter with big villainous dreams, and she teams with the equally loveable super-villain Lord Ballister Blackheart. Blackheart is in a bit of a villainous rut when this whirlwind of a sidekick arrives on his doorstep demanding a job and changing his life forever.

Noelle creates characters you happily fall in love with and she challenges the readers ideas of ‘good vs evil’  and ‘heroes vs villains’. You’ll find yourself rooting for the bad guys and booing the good guy, it is a traditional tale with a modern and charming twist.

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First up lets talk Nimona herself; she is straight up awesome and able to shapeshift.  My personal favourite shifts were the buff ginger chap and the shark with boobs. She is a wonderfully complex character whose bravery and enthusiasm run deep. She’s a fierce friend and an even more fierce fighter. Nimona is a good role model, she doesn’t need Blackheart or anyone else to save her and she can survive just fine by herself, but she still allows moments of vulnerability with those who have earned her trust.

Nimona is a strong alley for Blackheart, she believes in him, his villainy and wants him to be the best villain he can be whilst helping him destroy “The Institution” (the overriding council for the heroes and villains). They begin on their journey just causing mischief and the end changes them both forever.

As much as I adore Nimona my favourite character is Blackheart! The famed villain with morals and a strong, black, heart. Blackheart was a knight-in-training at “The Institution” with his friend Ambrosious Goldenloin. Just before our boys meet on the jousting field, ‘The Institution” gift Goldenloin with a weaponized lance to use against Blackheart. The clash results in Goldenloin becoming The Institution’s future champion but ends his friendship with Blackheart, the blast from the lance blew off one of his arms. Their dynamic changed in that moment and friendship turned to hatred.

Blackheart, now complete with robo-arm, carries the weight of that betrayal heavily through out the novel. He is isolated and alone before Nimona blasts into his life. Blackheart and Goldenloin dance around each other in a way that feels familiar and is driven by regret and a lot of unspoken feelings. The storyline throughout Nimona is that of friendship and betrayal with some mad science and a medieval twist. Blackheart is a good guy, give him the shiny golden armour and you would not think twice. Even with Nimona’s delightful thirst for chaos and fire, Blackheart is always concerned with the welfare of the people living within the Kingdom. Even when their master plan is underway he risks it all to sneak into the hospital and aid the sick. Underneath his anger and pain he is still that Knight.

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Through the twisting and turning adventure we learn that golden boy Goldenloin is being used as a pawn for The Institution. Because of them he wronged his best friend, he put the lives of all the townspeople at risk and misguidedly tried to kill Nimona on quite a few occasions. The point at which he realises he has been so manipulated is quite humbling. By blindly following orders he has caused serious harm to those around him, especially Blackheart who of course he loves infinitely. Their coming together is presented in a wonderful and understated way – there is no overt declaration of feelings, no internal torment where he tries to decipher and defy his feelings. It is just a few panels with a few well written words and the narrative moves on.

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Noelle has created a wonderful, heartfelt world that you can’t do anything but get sucked into. Her writing and art style lends perfectly to this charming novel, it is exactly what a non traditional hero tale should be. We want Nimona to be sympathetic and apologetic in regards to her killing but she isn’t, though she is a young girl in her form, in spirit she is the opposite. She has faced real hardship and seen horrors throughout her life. She is unapologetic and brave to a fault and the ending of her tale is frustratingly perfect! It is completely in keeping with Nimona’s character and even though we would prefer a happy resolution we are left wondering. To a degree we do reach a new equilibrium; Goldenloin and Blackheart have forgiven each other and themselves and have begun their new journey together. Nimona left as she arrived, in a bit of a whirlwind!

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Nimona is a beautiful character and graphic novel. It is one I would heartily recommend to anyone, it is the perfect read if you are just starting out or even if you are a comic veteran. Noelle brings something fresh and new to a well-loved archetype, if you are a fan of magic, dragons, science, redemption stories, evil corporations and sassy AF side-kicks this is the one for you. Noelle weaves an intricate storyline with more than a dash of charm and I eagerly await any further additions to the Nimona-verse!

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