Nameless by Lili St. Crow

Series: Tales of Beauty & Madness (#1)
Read: April 19-22nd
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: April 4th, 2013
Genre: paranormal, fantasy, fairytale retelling
Rating: ★½

 In short: An enchanting world and slow pacing—but an ending that left me fuming

Goodreads: When Camille was six years old, she was discovered alone in the snow by Enrico Vultusino, godfather of the Seven—the powerful Families that rule magic-ridden New Haven. Papa Vultusino adopted the mute, scarred child, naming her after his dead wife and raising her in luxury on Haven Hill alongside his own son, Nico.

Now Cami is turning sixteen. She’s no longer mute, though she keeps her faded scars hidden under her school uniform, and though she opens up only to her two best friends, Ruby and Ellie, and to Nico, who has become more than a brother to her. But even though Cami is a pampered Vultusino heiress, she knows that she is not really Family. Unlike them, she is a mortal with a past that lies buried in trauma. And it’s not until she meets the mysterious Tor, who reveals scars of his own, that Cami begins to uncover the secrets of her birth… to find out where she comes from and why her past is threatening her now.

I’m going to try and frame my thoughts about Nameless in a coherent manner, because I really liked it up until the climax. Then I was raging as I read to the end. I so so badly wanted to like it, because Lili St Crow has a way of writing addictive stories and this was no exception. Just…THAT ENDING. I feel like it would have sat better with me any way except the way it actually went.

I’m not gonna lie, this book is very slow going. Little to nothing happens for most of it. Nameless follows the life of Camille, a teenage girl who was left in the snow as a child. She was saved off the streets from certain death, and luckily for her, her saviour was Enrico Vultusino, the head of a Godfather-style family that has a serious vampire feel to it. She lives in the lap of luxury, goes to an expensive private school, has a clique of friends, a foster father who dotes on her, and a foster not-quite-brother who loves her something fierce. But Cami still worries about where she came from and who she really is, and shit begins to hit the fan. Very, very slowly. (Just by the way, this is a retelling of Snow White, but that doesn’t really factor into the story much until the big reveal. I feel like if the plot had been original, but inspired by Snow White, it would’ve worked itself out better.)

Again, not gonna lie. The world that Nameless is set in is as enchanting as it is… completely confusing. Are the Families vampires? Seems like it. What is the Reeve? Don’t really know. What exactly is Twisting? Uh…What’s Potential? If I had to take a pop quiz on this universe, I’d flunk. Sometimes it’s frustrating not knowing exactly what every creature is, but mostly the world building is really fascinating. Like a movie you’re watching that’s really aesthetically appealing, only you don’t know what’s going on…but it’s so pretty, who cares.

Cami’s timid, meek, docile, she hates conflict, she’s a dutiful daughter, she’s… almost a mouse. But I have to say I didn’t mind it for the most part. Stress on most. Yes, she was a doormat at times. Yes, she was pretty passive. And yes, the whole privileged rich girl with the heavy dose of self-pity got irritating at times. It wasn’t too bad though—when she wasn’t making TSTL decisions and moping about ridiculous things.

When I say ridiculous things, I mean her friends. Camille’s best friends are two of her classmates, Ruby (clearly Red Riding Hood) and Ellen (clearly Cinderella). Their dynamic was really nice to read—girls who will stick up for each other and have each other’s backs, no matter what the cost. I thought that meek little Cami was actually the one holding boisterous Ruby and sensible Ellie together, balancing out their personalities. I enjoyed them so much that I was willing to overlook the fact that their threesome consists of one loud ‘slutty’ fight-me friend, one sensible, talented, smart friend, and the MC. But then Cami reveals her crippling insecurity about her friendship. She constantly frets about being the third wheel, a feeling I could certainly empathise with her for, but it seemed to come so out of nowhere that I was confused. She didn’t seem to be the tag-along friend to me—she did things with Ruby and Ellie separately, they pretty much adored her. I figure this was supposed to fit in with her feeling like she never belonged anywhere, but it came off contrived.

I actually really liked this cast of characters. Cami aside, there’s the entire Vultusino household, Emilio’s son Nico (*heart eyes* I hated the parts where the narrative was turning him into a bad boy), Ruby and Ellie, Tor, and Ruby’s enigmatic, super-powerful grandma (and the nod to the French origins of the Red Riding Hood fairytale!) I was a bit eh on Ruby and Ellie being the overused two friends, but other than that I think the characters were done really well.

The thing that kind of weirded me out about the romance was that it kind of blurs the lines between sibling and romantic relationships. And…that makes it sound really creepy. Nico is sort of Cami’s brother, though she thankfully never refers to him as such, but they clearly have a little somethin’.

I just really liked Nico, though, so it’s all good. No, kidding. The reason I wasn’t supremely disturbed by this is I just never really got the sibling vibe from the two of them. I always thought they had that…little somethin’.

Nameless has a fascinating setting and several characters that I loved. But I think it failed as a retelling in that it didn’t seem to fundamentally alter any aspect of the original fairytale—including the way that matters most to me. That climax really beat down my enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I think I do want to read the rest of the series, just to live in this world for longer!

Spoilers below! And trigger warnings for suicide.

Here’s the thing: when it comes to the big reveal, I want there to be some amount of clues. Yes, I knew, because of the fairytale and the dreams/flashbacks, that an evil queen and heart-eating were involved. Nasty. But…a weird cult? That was kind of way out, and I wish it had been better foreshadowed.

But my real problem with the ending?

Cami goes into the evil queen’s lair like a prisoner to the guillotine. Like Harry to the Forbidden Forest during the Battle of Hogwarts. Except with one crucial difference, a difference that makes all the difference. She doesn’t choose to confront the queen so she can, like, free her slavish followers and liberate Tor or whatever. She does it because she thinks she can’t resist the hunters forever so she might as well turn herself in because no one will miss her anyway. No. NO. I cannot emphasise how wrong that felt. The attitude she had facing certain death was almost suicidal, and it made me nauseous. It felt too much like romanticisation to me, and that did not go well. Her sacrifice was pointless; it didn’t make her seem brave.

And yet she’d been nothing but a problem since she’d run out in front of Papa’s car. An extra puzzle piece, a snarl in the yarn, a break in the pattern. 

She was going to fix the problems she’d made for everyone. Take the extra piece out of the puzzle, and throw it into the trash where it belonged.

Tor. He’ll live, I guess. Marya, though she won’t miss me for long. Rube and Ellie, poor Ellie. They’re be okay. Ruby will take care of it. Nico… he’ll be fine. They’ll all be fine really.

Tell me that doesn’t sound off to you.

But, okay, Cami eventually comes to the realisation that her friends and family do need her. A little late, but she does. And then what happens? She does a dramatic turnaround, kicks butt, and escapes? No. Well, that would’ve been pretty unbelievable. But she’s rescued. By her friends and family. And…I guess that was the clincher, that they do need her and care about her, but I was disappointed that she never saved herself. Yes, that’s in keeping with her nature, but I expected some kind of growth (e.g. growth of a spine). The opportunity to rewrite fairytales means that princesses don’t have to wait on their saviours. Screw that, they can save themselves! But Cami doesn’t, and that’s what annoyed me. Other people can do a lot to up our self-esteem and confidence, but what’s seriously important for teenagers especially to understand is that you don’t really need anyone else to make you feel good about yourself – you can do it on your own, whether that means breaking out of a glass coffin or feeling confident about your appearance or your identity. So yeah, I was annoyed that Cami’s pretty much a damsel in distress at the climax scene when I really hoped she would finally do something for herself.

And then her stammer disappears. Because other people save her. -_____- Just…no.


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