Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson

I had good feelings about Noelle Stevenson's Nimona from the first page. I liked the warm colors and distinctive character design, I always enjoy stories about unconventional families, and I instantly fell in love with the title character, who reminded me strongly of an evil-doing Yotsuba. As the book progressed, however, the initial offbeat silliness began to feel like a bait-and-switch.

Nimona is set a vaguely medieval fantasy kingdom, where there's an ongoing conflict between professional supervillain Lord Blackheart and his former friend Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, the golden-haired (and dim-witted) champion of the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. Blackheart and Ambrosius have been half-heartedly attacking one another for years, but when Nimona—a cheerful villain-in-training with a mysterious past—volunteers as Blackheart's sidekick, her enthusiasm throws their largely toothless battle off balance.

There is plenty to admire about Nimona, even after the charm of the first few chapters is replaced by steadily increasing melodrama. I liked Stevenson's nuanced characters, the ongoing mockery of villain/hero stereotypes, and the familial bond between Blackheart and Nimona. Unfortunately, I was less engaged by the rest of the story, which focused heavily on Blackheart and Ambrosius's damaged love affair and Blackheart's pseudo-fatherly angst over Nimona's strangeness. Both of these storylines are handled beautifully, but I didn't sign up for a story about middle-aged romantic pining (seriously, Blackheart and Ambrosius's story reads like particularly soppy Harry Potter slashfic), or a melancholy exploration of the difficulties of being the adoptive parent of a troubled child. I signed up for an adorable story about a monster girl, and I'm sincerely hoping future installments of Stevenson's series deliver said monster girl in larger doses.
Posted by: Julianka


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