Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Swirling story and swirling Arabic calligraphy interweave in Thompson's masterly follow-up to his multi-award-winning Blankets (2003). Child bride Dolola is sold by her impoverished parents in the Middle East to a clumsy but well-meaning older man who teaches her to read and write. When slavers kill her husband and kidnap her, she manages to escape carrying the dark-skinned baby of another captive. She finds refuge in an abandoned ship stranded in the desert, where she raises little Zam to adolescence, telling him stories and teaching him literacy. Further adventures separate them but reunite them later. As escaped harem prostitute and escaped eunuch, they forge an intimate bond and move into the future. ("Habibi" means "my beloved.") Hopping back and forth in time through an epic landscape encompassing desert, harem, urban slums, and modern industrial clutter, the plot draws on and includes stories stemming from Islam, Judaism, and Christianity that evoke universal themes. Verdict The exquisite beauty and deep magic of this Arabian Nights-style love story cannot be overstated. More mature and psychologically nuanced than Blankets, it's a sure bet for as many awards. With extensive nudity and sexual themes, it is highly recommended for adult collections.-Martha Cornog, Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Thompson's (Blankets) first graphic novel in seven years is a lushly epic love story that's both inspiring and heartbreaking, intertwined with parables from both Islam and Christianity. Sold into marriage as a young girl, Dodola endures life as the wife of a scribe until she's captured by slave traders and brought to Wanatolia to be auctioned off. But before she can be sold again, she escapes, taking with her an abandoned toddler named Habibi. The pair runaway to the desert, taking refuge in an abandoned boat, where they survive for nine years, with Dodola teaching Zam the ways of the world through stories from the Qur'an and the Bible. When Zam is 12, he secretly follows Dodola and realizes that she has been prostituting herself to passing caravans in order to acquire food. They are separated when Dodola is taken against her will to become part of a sultan's harem, leaving Zam alone in the desert. Six long years pass as the two struggle to find their way back to each other and, overcoming enormous odds, eventually end up far from the ancient desert landscape in a contemporary metropolis that underscores Thompson's subtle ability to blend the timeless and the current. In addition to richly detailed story panels, the gorgeous Arabic ornamental calligraphy makes each page an individual work of art. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Thompson's follow-up to the landscape-altering Blankets (2003), one of the generous handful of important comics of the past decade, shows that he has done anything but rest on his laurels. At root, this is a love story about two have-nots in a desert society: Dodola, a young woman whose only currency is her body, and Zam, a slave boy she rescues and tries to shelter. Passages from the Qur'an provide reflection on Dodola's and Zam's lives as they connect, break apart, and find each other again. Arabic lettering and magic-square mysticism offer rich foundations of visual symbolism and theosophical inquiry. And, not least, the fictional state of Wanatolia, where you can travel in time thousands of years simply by stepping from the midden slums to the sultan's palaces to the rapid encroachment of high-rise development, provides a polarizing backdrop of social conflict. The character depth, plot complexity, and storytelling in this lyrical, sexual, and scholarly epic would make any novelist proud. But no graphic novel lives on narrative alone, and through it all, Thompson strings compositions that are often more tapestry than comics and that balance graphic design, illumination, calligraphy, and cartooning in steady alignment. It is unfair to expect two masterpieces in a row from anyone, but here Thompson sits securely in that rarefied air.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Thompson (Good-Bye, Chunky Rice, 2006, etc.) returns after a five-year absence with a graphic novel that is sure to attract attentionand perhaps even controversy.Slavery exists in the modern world as much as in the ancient. As Thompson's long, carefully drawn narrative opens, we are in a time that seems faraway, even mythical: A 9-year-old girl is married off to a scribe who introduces her not just to sex but also to the mysteries of Arabic letters, which seem to take life on the page. "When God created the letters," Thompson writes, "He kept their secrets for Himself"though he shared them with Adam while keeping them from the angels, a source of considerable friction in the Muslim heaven. The scribe is killed, the young girl kidnapped, and from there the story opens into a world that might well have come from theTales of a Thousand and One Nights, if, that is, industrial machinery and the teeming ports of the Arabian peninsula are introduced into the backdrop. Dodola and Zam are two children, one Semitic, one black African, who brave a hostile world, taking up residence in a ship marooned in the desert sands, selling what they have and can in order to survive. As they grow older, they find themselves feeling things that are not quite appropriate for the siblings they seem to have become, and now their paths part, destined to cross again as sure as the letters loop over one another. Thompson draws on elements of classical Arabic mythology and, a touch dangerously, Islamic belief; he also takes the opportunity to address modern issues of ethnic tension, racism, the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and the clash of civilizations, sexism and other modern concerns. Though in the form of a comic book, Thompson's story is decidedly not for youngsters: Rape and murder figure in these pages, as does sex between minors.A maturein all its meaningsglimpse into a world few Westerners are at home with, and Thompson is respectful throughout.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.