Book Review – Nameless
Another Wednesday and another book review. This time I am delving into the young adult section – fantasy still.
A general reminder that as I review the following work, I may give away details you would prefer to discover through actually reading the book. Be warned.
Today’s book review is on Nameless: A Tale of Beauty and Madness by Lili St Crow. This book wins for not having zombies. Also, following hard on the heels of several really unsuccessful reads I found the young adult fairy tale surprisingly good.
It is a successful merge of modern world building (cars, private schools, and high-security mansions) and magic. They come together in the town of New Heaven which is supposed to be part of a larger world. Though the town ends up feeling isolated in a world not that big, I didn’t find this a problem. Most fairy tales take place in isolated kingdoms, so the setting fit for me. That the story is clearly a retelling of Snow White was another positive. It was actually interesting the manner in which the author took elements of the classic fairy tale: the seven ‘dwarves’, the huntsman, the apple, mirrors and the beauty-obsessed queen with her hunger for hearts and twisted it into something fresh yet familiar.
Snow White comes across as a princess – not a spoiled brat, rather a young woman who is well protected. Her roles in life are small and lean towards the domestic – in the manner of smoothing relations between people, calming tempers and other ladylike things. I suppose her character arc is that of growing confidence, for she physically does very little in the narrative. Mostly she quakes in fear and watches the world around her through anxious eyes. A platoon of friends and family (adopted family) actively fight to protect her from the dangers (largely physical) that threaten the Snow White’s life. Yet, while I was reading about this princess character, I was not immediately struck by how men jump to protect women; particularly Snow White. I think this had to do with the supporting cast of strong female characters; including a fierce Red Riding Hood and determined Cinderella (how do you spell sequel?).
Being a fairy tale – granted one that incorporates the modern love of vampires and other supernatural beings – the story ends much as you would expect. The path is littered with a few unexpected interpretations to keep the reader (me) interested. The writing balances carefully between engaging narrative and teen angst which can often overwhelm and destroy a YA novel. While following the typical trials of teenagers (not the most exciting of material choices) the author creates a present day world of magical possibilities. Here magic is anchored in the world and used to accomplish much of what our technology does. I like that. Never does the supernatural feel overpowered.
So, for creating a teen book that doesn’t drag, whine, or become over the top angsty, for subtly incorporating current vampire and fey trends, and for creating an interesting retelling of a classic fairy tale, I would give Nameless a solid pass. It is a good young adult read.