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Release Date
March 08, 2022
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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.

Editor review

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SQUIRE by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas is a beautiful graphic novel that follows young Aiza, who, because she’s an Ornu, is treated unkindly by those currently in power, the Bayt-Sajji. One day, the military comes through and offers Knighthood as a path to citizenship, glory, and acceptance, which makes Aiza determined to do it. Though Aiza’s parents don’t want her to join, she promises them that she’ll keep her background a secret, so she’ll be safe. After enlisting, Aiza is challenged in every way possible, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to be successful. However, when it becomes clear the lengths her superiors will go to, she becomes unsure whether this actually is her path to redemption.

The illustrations in this novel are fantastic. They help tell the story, create the setting, and evoke characterization. From a technical side, the colors and print are so rich, and I especially love the chapter headings. In addition to the visual component, the dialogue between the characters feels authentic and natural, with each character uniquely represented. I’m particularly fond of Doruk, the grizzled war veteran who begrudgingly agrees to train Aiza.

The plot itself isn’t original, but I really love the journey Aiza goes on. In fact, the realization she comes to during her time in the military is not just specific to her circumstances, but could arguably be transferrable to any military, or even more generally, anyone who is working for someone other than themselves. What Aiza does next is completely open-ended, so there’s a huge opportunity for this story to expand and grow. I also appreciate how the authors invite the readers into their creative process in the final pages.

Overall, SQUIRE is both a timeless and new adventure that’s perfect for readers who want sword-wielding heroines. It’s also great for those who like rooting for the underdog, and those who care about how the work they do will affect the world.
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