Nameless by Lili St. Crow – Review


Book Jacket:

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.

New York Times bestselling author Lili St. Crow thrilled legions of fans with her dark paranormal series Strange Angels. Now she has crafted an evocative update of Snow White, set in a vividly imagined world and populated by unforgettable new characters.


Once upon a time, fairy tale retellings weren’t a dime a dozen – these days you can hardly turn around without tripping over one, and so for me a certain amount of cynicism, born of many disappointed hopes, has set in. And yet, for all of that, I do still rather love the genre, and so – having enjoyed St. Crow’s Bannon & Clare series – I decided to give yet another one a go. And by and large, I’m glad that I did – Nameless may be imperfect, but it has genuine originality; I just wish the leading lady had been a bit less of a victim.

So I should probably admit, as far as fairy tale standards go, the helpless princess awaiting rescue trope drives me nuts. I was always more a Mulan kind of girl; I like the girls who save themselves. And so, while Camille and I got along perfectly well at the beginning – I had no problems reading her stutter, and felt a lot of sympathy towards her social awkwardness and sense of dislocation – as the pages went by, I just kept waiting for her to take action, to stand up and DO something (aside from struggle to breathe and reel away), and instead she remained firmly passive and helpless throughout the entire story. The few moves she does make to figure out what’s going on are rather lackadaisical at best, not to mention always initiated by someone else – I hate to say it, but the girl is fairly useless – and by the time she graduated to full blown martyr, essentially giving up and giving in without a fight, I was seriously peeved. And while it all never completely eroded my sympathy for the character – I could feel for her, with everything that kept happening to her – it did seriously undermine my interest in her plight, because how can you root for someone’s happy ending when they don’t do a single thing to earn it, to deserve it? She didn’t even try! And in the end, when good triumphs over evil (yes, this is a fairy tale, people), it’s essentially due to pretty much everyone BUT Camille taking action. Argh.

And yet, even as Camille became more and more irksome, I simply could not tear my eyes away from the strange and marvelous world she lived in. St. Crow has created a mesmerizing landscape of magic, secrets and  dark corners of the mind – it definitely has a Robin McKinley gateway drug kind of feel (and after finishing this, I can’t wait to re-read Sunshine) – and I just LOVED it. The ambiance, the strange other-worldly quality to it all, the mysterious secrets, the deathly expectations of Family society, the bizarre magic that leads to Twists and Minotaurs, the surreal dangers of Camille’s dreams and the mysterious nature of her origins – it was all gorgeous, unique, and utterly original. In short, it was fantastic – plus I also massively enjoyed how St. Crow just throws us in the middle of it all and trusts us to figure it out, no info-dumping required, not to mention the way she incorporates Cinderella and Red Riding Hood as well as Snow White. Oh, there’s just so much richness to this world – the magic, the families, the mystery, the social order – and I enjoyed every bit of it.

So in the end, Nameless makes for an imperfect but fascinating read – and while this book did somewhat annoy me (oh, Camille), I also found a heck of a lot to like. So yes, I would love to come back to this world someday, I just hope next time around we get a new heroine, someone who’s far less hand-to-brow.

Byrt Grade: B+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Kirkus Reviews says:

This ambitious work makes a couple missteps: The prose aims for lush but sometimes stumbles into decadent, and the love interest is generically dark and sexy. More than compensating, the ambitious worldbuilding and alternate history are fully thought out and well-realized, sure to enchant readers patient enough to let them coalesce.

Joyous Reads says:

Complicated, dark and gothic, shockingly beautiful and irrevocably unique. But I must warn you that the writing takes a bit of getting used to.