by Alfageeh, Sara; Shammas, Nadia

Hiding her status as a girl from conquered lands while training as a Squire on her quest to become a Knight, the only path to true citizenship, Aiza navigates friendships and rivalries until she discovers the military's endgame. 12,000 first printing. Simultaneous and eBook. Illustrations.

*Starred Review* As an Ornu, a second-class citizen, Aiza knows knighthood is her only path to full citizenship in Bayt-Sajji. She hides her heritage by covering her Ornu tattoos in bandages, and then, eager for adventure, she enlists in the Bayt-Sajji army. Life at camp, however, quickly shatters Aiza's glorious illusions of war; if she fails training, she'll be deployed to the infantry, where she will surely die on the front lines. But Aiza is determined to succeed. Armed with her conviction-and an upbeat, headstrong, funny personality-Aiza amasses both enemies and friends, including a bearded, one-armed janitor who is also a retired knight. Grouchy but with a heart of gold, he trains Aiza in secret, and her progress soon catches the attention of the general, a conniving, elderly woman. Alfageeh's effective inking is reminiscent of Fiona Staple's work, while her distinct use of shadow and space intensify the story's drama. Though she is small in stature, Aiza's theatrical gestures make her stand out, and her training takes her to gorgeous pink-and-­orange-tinged landscapes and monuments, such as a lovely rendition of al-Khazneh. This alternative history of the Middle East and North Africa deftly tackles complex subjects such as war, loyalty, and imperialism, all made humane and relatable through a young, compelling protagonist. Grades 8-11. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

Teenage Aiza hungers for adventure and hopes to become a Squire in the Bayt-Sajji army, which would set her on the path to knighthood. Being a Knight means heroism, glory, and-for those like Aiza who reside in conquered territories-the possibility of full citizenship. As an Ornu person, easily recognized by the tattoo on her right arm, Aiza faces discrimination from those who resent her people's hesitation about integrating. Altering her identification papers and covering up her tattoo, she sets off and joins an ethnically diverse cohort that reflects the vast reach of the Bayt-Sajji Empire and the vision of unification held by Gen. Hende, the woman who oversees the recruits' training. After Aiza fails the first set of Squire tests, she finds an unexpected mentor in groundskeeper Doruk, who helps Aiza improve her sword work but warns her about the violent realities of war; he lost his right arm in battle. History as a purposefully crafted narrative is a dominant theme throughout the story, underscored by calls for unity. The setting, which reads as a fantasy version of Jordan, is beautifully and luminously colored, with artwork that emphasizes the interplay of light and shadow. The characters' expressions are another visual highlight, used to great effect for both comic and dramatic impact. An engaging graphic novel that examines the nature of prejudice and the cost of imperial expansion. (character sketches, historical notes, creators' notes) (Graphic fantasy. 13-18) Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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