Fence Vol 1-4. by C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad
CW’s: Mentions of abandonment & Bullying
This review covers my feelings about all four volumes of Fence but contains no spoilers!
Nicholas, the illegitimate son of a retired fencing champion, is a scrappy fencing wunderkind, and dreams of getting the chance and the training to actually compete. After getting accepted to the prodigious Kings Row private school, Nicholas is thrust into a cut-throat world, and finds himself facing not only his golden-boy half-brother, but the unbeatable, mysterious Seiji Katayama… Through clashes, rivalries, and romance between teammates, Nicholas and the boys of Kings Row will discover there’s much more to fencing than just foils and lunges. (Synopsis for book 1)
Nicholas really grew on me! ➽ He’s our primary main character and an aspiring fencer with a lot of emotional baggage. His father was a fencing legend, but as his illegitimate son, Nicholas was pretty much abandoned and forgotten, without any of the resources that his half-brother Jesse (currently ranked first in his age group) had. This means that Nicholas learned fencing on his own, with whatever guidance he could find, determined to make it and succeed. He’s really chaotic, oblivious and outgoing (especially compared to Seiji) but still carries the burden of being cast aside by his father and having to fight for every chance to prove himself.
Seiji is also the type of character I like ➽ He’s ranked second in his age group and one of the best fencers. Yet he finds himself at a fencing school that isn’t as high profile, which is how he meets Nicholas again after beating him at a Tournament. Due to his talent, Seiji was often isolated and doesn’t have a lot of friends, as he also tends to keep to himself. He’s usually more neutral and level-headed, though he also carries the pressure to keep up his success that sometimes gets to him. Though he may come across as brutally direct, he’s still fair and honest. I definitely want to learn more about his background story!
The SLOWBURN ➽ Fence has a few of my all-time favorite romantic tropes: rivals to friends to lovers, omg they were roommates, lots of slow born and yearning, plus characters who are oblivious to their feelings 🥺 It looks like Nick and Seiji’s relationship will be slowly evolving throughout future volumes (so far we’re still at the very beginning), but I really like their dynamic and got really invested in it! Nicholas is so obsessed with Seiji and committed to beating ‘his ultimate rival’, it’s kind of funny, especially as they are forced to be roommates and constantly bickering 😂 I cannot wait to see more of this dynamic in the next volumes!
There are lots of great other characters! ➽ Many of them fellow fencers from Nicholas’ boarding school competing to get a spot on the team. I particularly liked Bobby who was such a kind and lovely person, so it’s not surprise that Nicholas was immediately dragged into a fast friendship! There are other fencers that stood out to me as well, e.g. Harvard, the former team captain, who is the only one of the fencers actually ranked, though of course not as highly es Seiji. He’s a solid, friendly character who is committed to what’s best for the team. Then there’s also Aiden, who I struggled with in the beginning, as he’s a rich jerk who gets away with everything. He’s dating someone new every week and treating them pretty poorly afterwards, as he never commits. I enjoyed him a lot more towards Volume 4, as I liked seeing how good he is at playing mind games and assessing potential rivals!
The Tension was great … and I got invested in the Fencing. ➽ I’m not a sports person at all, but I find that I enjoyed reading about the Fencing aspect, as I found it easy to follow along and learn more about the sport. Plus, I always like seeing competitions play out and here the tension could be felt. Only three people can get on the Fencing Team, so there’s lots of pressure on the boys to win their matches (everyone has to compete against everyone over the course of several weeks). Nicholas is even more determined, because he’s going to lose his scholarship if he doesn’t make the team. Others have been dreaming to finally make it to the team for ages. With tension running high, there was a lot of suspense build up throughout the volumes 👀
IN CONCLUSION. ➽ Fence was a surprise favorite of the year, as I never expected to get as invested in this graphic novel series about fencing. However, I got really attached to the characters, which is always most important to me when I read a book. The dynamic between Nicholas and Seiji ticked off many of my favorite tropes and I cannot wait to see more of that! Sadly, there’s no volume 5 announced yet, but I’m holding out hope for some news 🙏
Have you read Fence ? How did you like it? What is your favorite book featuring sports or your favorite graphic novel? ⚔