cover image Squire


Nadia Shammas, illus. by Sara Alfageeh. Quill Tree, $21.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-294584-6

Shammas and Alfageeh draw inspiration from their respective Palestinian and Jordanian backgrounds in this epic fantasy graphic novel. The Bayt-Saiji Empire is recruiting soldiers from among the peoples of conquered territories to fight ongoing wars at the empire’s expanding borders. Lured by the promise of escape from her dull life—and of citizenship and glory should she rise through the ranks—Aiza enlists, concealing her Ornu heritage to avoid discrimination. Enduring grueling squire training under charismatic General Hende, the teen grows stronger while making friends from across the empire. But when a training mission goes wrong, she must reconcile her dreams of acceptance within the empire and the reality of its treatment of its citizens. Alfageeh’s arresting visuals conjure a richly detailed, sun-drenched world in which impressive architecture fills open landscapes populated by visually diverse and complex characters. Shammas uses Aiza’s determined voice to examine themes of assimilation and passing privilege through the ways in which the Bayt-Saiji Empire simultaneously divides and homogenizes its peoples. Aiza’s pursuit of her goal, along with her genuine struggle to overcome the cycle of violence into which she has unknowingly entered, carries the reader to the story’s cathartic resolution. Ages 14–up. Agent: Charlie Olsen, InkWell Management. (Mar.)