Monday, May 27, 2013

I Do Have A Name and I Am Someone

Published:  April 4th, 2013
Nameless (A Tale of Beauty and Madness # 1)
By: Lili St. Crow
ISBN-13:  9781595143570

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.

     Camille Vultusino isn't really one of the New Haven royalty, a daughter of the most powerful of the seven Families that rule the city.  She is just a little girl, found by Enrico Vultusino, head of the family, wandering in the snow broken by abuse and unable to speak.  Now she is on the verge of turning sixteen years old and Cami is starting to ask questions about who she really is, and where she appeared from as a child.  With Papa Vultusino making the change into full-fledged vampire and her adopted 'brother' (with not so brotherly feelings) is busy taking the reigns of the family and his place among the Seven, Cami is feeling lost and alone.  When Tor shows up with sacrs like hers and a mysterious past, she starts taking dangerous risks to get some answers.  But the truth may be far more horrifying than she ever could have imagined.  With a secret that might consume them all can Cami, Nico, along with her friends Ruby and Ella, avoid total destruction in the face of pure evil?  Or will it take them over completely?
     I have seen so many negative and lukewarm reviews of this book that I really was unsure what to expect.  But when I began to read it, I was immediately sucked into the story and found myself attached to the characters.  Cami might be taken by some readers to be whiny, manipulative and annoyingly weak.  I found her to be just another human being, struggling to heal from hurts in her past and become a better person.  Yes, she plays the victim and the martyr in this book which got on my nerves.  But I thought the author also managed to give her quite a good sense of humor in the internal musings and narrative that belong to Cami for the most part.  I think pretty much everyone can identify with feeling like you don't fit in and wanting to find somewhere that you do.  But Cami does do some pretty stupidly-impulsive things while trying to accomplish this very common goal. 
     The dystopian/steampunk type world that the author creates did get slightly confusing at times, as the world build wasn't slowly and carefully done - as a reader, you get tossed into the deep end immediately.  The supernatural aspect and alternate history (focus on Tesla versus Edison being one point, of many) was fascinating.  The world in the novel retained an almost Victorian aspect due to the Revolution of the supernaturals shortly after the first World War.  There is a mixture of magic and technology that for the most part is hinted at, but never really focused.  The only history the author really ever focuses on is Camille's.  Romance when it is well done can really add to a novel, especially in a fairy tale retelling and that floats my boat when it happens.  But this was not one of those times.  Honestly with a confused and volatile 'hero' like Nico and his competition being Tor who turns out to being something COMPLETEY DIFFERENT from how he is initially represented, I felt like it was just a convenience romance build on the part of the author.  Just because Camille and Nico have known each other forever doesn't mean they have to end up together and that Cami has to make the choice she does in the end of the book.  It made sense for her character, but still felt like the easy way out.  The truth of  Cami's birth and early childhood is truly horrific and the stuff of nightmares.  It was some of the best horror writing that I've encountered in the YA world since I finished reading The Devouring series by Simon Holt which terrified the Hell out of me, incidentally! 
     But my favorite characters in this novel with the most promise were Cami's friends Ruby and Ellie.  They were most obviously the incarnations of Red Riding Hood and Cinderella.  I am super excited to read their individual novels, because the author managed wonderfully rich characterizations in this book for them, which rarely happens with secondary characters in YA fairy tale retellings.  It made me happy!  Ruby made me laugh and smile with her rebellious, smart ass but loyal as a tiger ways.  Ellie made my heart bleed with the abuse she was suffering and the haunted life she was living.  Overall, this was an inventive retelling of a classic fairy tale (even with some flaws).  Rarely is a book 'perfect', or even close so I can honestly say that there was nothing overwhelmingly annoying to me as a reader in any of the flaws listed above.  It's a fairy tale and the characters in the originals weren't exactly 3-D and living color either.  I would highly recommend this for hardcore fairy tale fans and people who want something fresh and new.

VERDICT:  4.25/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

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