Squire is a Young Adult fantasy graphic novel by illustrator and author duo Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas. Born a member of the ostracised and recently colonised Ornu people, Aiza has always dreamt of rising above her ranks. With Bayt-Saiji ravaged by famine and mounting tensions between the different provinces, Aiza finally has an opportunity to improve her station by enlisting in the Squire training program. But it’s not at all how she imagined it to be. Forced to hide her Ornu status, Aiza must navigate new friendships, rigorous training and the ruthless General Hende. As she and the other recruits begin to realise, they are in more danger than they ever imagined as they must reconsider what Empire means and if it is truly worth all the bloodshed.
Squire is well-paced and engaging, making for a fast, fun and enjoyable reading experience, heightened by Alfageeh’s lush artwork. The novel has a stunning colour palette and is filled with beautiful arrays of blue. At the end of Squire, Alfageeh mentions that the colour palette was influenced by the colours she saw in Turkey and Jordan. The extreme amount of thought and detail put into the artwork makes the story feel deeply authentic.
In addition, although the story is a fun and exciting read on the surface, it tackles many complex and important issues. More specifically, Squire explores colonialism and the effects of imperialism on the colonised, as we see with the struggling Ornu population’s depleted food reserves and their struggle for identity. Moreover, Alfageeh and Shammas dedicate Squire to Edward Said, whose works are foundational texts critiquing Western depictions of the East and the persistence of Empire in literature. His influence can be seen throughout Squire as Bayt-Saiji bears a resemblance to the history of many Arabic nations and to the authors’ cultural heritages as Palestinian and Jordanian-Americans. In this sense, the novel allows Alfageeh and Shammas to explore their cultures without painting the East as ‘Other’, or glorifying war.
Overall, Squire is an exciting novel that delves into the heart of colonialism in a straightforward yet thought-provoking way.