Series: Tales of Beauty and Madness #1
Found in the snow at six years of age and adopted by a powerful branch of the Family, Camille has no memory of her past. She only knows that she is human, not a true member of the Family, even if they treat her as one of their own. And her past is about to catch up with her.
Nameless puts an original spin on the story of “Snow White”, replacing the dwarfs with branches of a powerful Mafia-like family and shrouding the past of the protagonist in shadow. The result is a compelling paranormal romance set in an alternate universe where magic entered history sometime after the Industrial Revolution. The world building can sometimes be confusing and the protagonist bafflingly oversensitive, but, overall, Nameless is an engrossing read.
Initially I found myself somewhat overwhelmed by the world of Nameless, which is never explained in-depth. The protagonist Camille simply names creatures, historical events, etc. when they occur and does not provide much background. Eventually one may surmise that the Family are vampiric, that something bad called Twisting can happen to people with something called Potential (which seems to be magic), that things can be charmed, and that names here are somewhat randomly based on our own names–the Renaissance, for instance, is now the Renascence, or something like that. But it takes time to build up this knowledge and even now I am not entirely sure what a jack is or why Twisting occurs.
Eventually I just accepted that the book was not going to explain anything, which left me with the dilemma of the narration. Camille does not speak much as she has a stutter and worries about people becoming impatient with her. This means that much of the narration is her thoughts. The other narration could be her thoughts or could be the third-person narrator. The line is blurry, which is all the more confusing because it curses so much. Camille herself curses verbally once, I believe. And she seems pretty demure in general, a quiet girl who goes along with whatever her bolder friends say and whose main desire seems to be to avoid any trouble. So the narration calling everything g—d can be jarring.
Camille herself is a sweet and engaging protagonist, though oddly concerned with “not fitting in.” The narration suggests that the Family girls might bully her, but Camille never interacts with them so we’ll never know. She also implies that her school mates don’t like her or think her odd. She only interacts with her two friends Ruby and Ellie, so, again, we’ll never know. But one suspects no one really cares about her, other than the run-of-the-mill gossip you might expect when you’re a member of a prominent vampiric-immortal-Mafia Family. After all, she’s always moping about how she’s not Family and they plan to cast her out, even though she’s accepted as Papa’s daughter and having a years-long flirtation with the Family heir Nico. But, sure, Nico’s going to cast her out one day when he suddenly remembers that she’s adopted. Oh wait. He’s known that since they met.
Camille’s desire to learn her past makes sense, but her insistence that she “doesn’t belong” and “isn’t wanted” does not when you consider how lovingly her Family treats her, how she is an integral part of the household, how she attends important functions for the Family, how she is finally indisputably and publicly announced as a member of the Family. This insistence could make her annoying, but somehow I only found Camille a bit odd and maybe a tad wearying. Her weird decision to “make everything right” by doing the dumbest thing imaginable was more frustrating to me in the end and I was willing to overlook whatever emotional hang-ups she had.
These issues plagued me throughout the novel, but the plot itself is so compelling that I chose to wave them aside while reading. Plot-wise, the only things that bothered me were an extraneous shirtless scene with Camille (because she just forgot a guy was in her room when she decided she didn’t need a shirt anymore?) and, again, the weird decision to “help” all her friends and family by getting herself killed. But, hey, the premise of this retold tale was original and I liked the characters. So I’m willing to pick up the sequel.