Camille hails from one of the seven most powerful and wealthy Families that rule over New Haven. It wasn’t always that way. She was found when she was just six-years-old, cold, mute, abused, scarred, and injured in the snow. Vultisino, the leader of one of the Families, adopted her as his own daughter.
Cami is now sixteen and no longer mute, although she still has a stutter that makes it difficult for her to speak. She goes to school, has two friends, Ruby and Ellie, and has grown up as a pampered heiress. Her life is enviable, but she knows she doesn’t really belong there. She has no idea who she was before the age of six, what her real name is, or when her real birthday is. She doesn’t really belong with her Family or with her friends. The plot thickens when Tor, a mysterious boy who works in the garden, has the same scars as her. He is the first clue she’s had to unlocking the secrets of her past, but maybe some secrets are best left alone.
Nameless is a very unique fairy tale retelling that has its own alternate version of our world. Lili St. Crow just throws us into the deep end of her world, with offhand mentions of bizarre things such as Twists, minotaurs, Families, charmers, and mere-humans. It’s quite disorienting and confusing at first, but as the book goes on, things are subtly explained and the picture becomes clear. This world is a magical alternative universe that broke away from our world just after World War I, which is widely known as the Reeve or magic revolution. In 1920, the Deprescence hit. The country and farm land turned into the Waste and money couldn’t save people from mutating into jacks or Twists or being eaten by some nasty creature.
I loved the alternative reality and history of the world and how it shares similarities with our own world, but manages to be so different. I also loved the small fairy tale references, like how Ruby lives on Perrault Street, named after Charles Perrault, the French author who wrote his own versions of folk tales. I haven’t seen a book that has integrated many fairy tales and magic into its pages so well since Bill Willingham’s Fables.
The characters are just as strong as the world building. Cami, although timid and soft spoken, is a strong, smart character. She has been through a lot in her life and has the scars to prove it. Unlike a lot of other YA protagonists, Cami isn’t self pitying or annoying, although the potential to be so was there. She just wants to know where she truly belongs, where she came from, and who her real family is. It’s completely understandable to want to know those things and feel like an outsider if these questions aren’t answered. She ventures into danger sometimes, but with a real decision to do so instead of stumbling into it obliviously. I think her self awareness and strength to make decisions like that, even if I disagree with them, make Cami one of my favorite YA protagonists.
Nico is another character that really surprised me. For much of the book, he’s the stereotypical vampire bad boy popularized by recent fiction. He leaves Cami often to party with his friends and holds a lot of anger at the world. Underneath it all, he truly cares for Cami and uses that anger as a shield. I was relieved to see a real, complex character rather than the abusive, annoying shells that are usually written about.
Nameless is one of the best Snow White retellings I’ve ever read. It has it all: twists and turns, mystery, alternative reality and history, magic, love, and self discovery. I highly recommend this to fans of fairy tale re-imaginings and dark fantasy.
Elizabeth is a student at Cal State Long Beach. She laughs a lot, loves cats, and lives for music and books. You can read her blog here: http://titania86-fishmuffins.blogspot.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Razorbill. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.