Nameless Queen: Exploring Social Divisions Through Magic

3.5/5 Stars

Author: Rebecca McLaughlin

Publisher/Imprint: Crown Books for Young Readers

Edition: Paperback ARC, 340 Pages

Hardcover Publication Date: January 07, 2020

A Spine that Shines? Fairly Well

*This review is based on a paperback ARC edition received from the publisher. All quotes used in this review come from the uncorrected proof. These are my honest opinions. Thank you.*

I wake up the same way I fell asleep: knife in hand, boots for a pillow, and Nameless.

Rebecca McLaughlin, Nameless Queen

Initial Thoughts

Greetings, everyone! I began reading Nameless Queen before Christmas, but I wasn’t able to finish reading it earlier due to all the holiday festivities/events and a grad school application deadline that hit me in the face. But my review is finally here!

Overall, I enjoyed this debt novel. It was good, but didn’t quite hit the spot, which is partly why I gave it a middle rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. (This is not necessarily a bad rating.) So, let’s begin with pointing out a few aspects of the book I really enjoyed.

  • Nameless 2FANTASTIC opening line! See the quote above. The first line drew me in immediately.
  • There are some great action scenes in this book, and I definitely looked forward to those parts of the novel. I really enjoyed the final showdown at the end!
  • The concept of a class of Nameless people who don’t have legal rights is a fascinating idea. I admire the author’s intention to explore social/economic divisions through magic.
  • In the city of Seriden, the next heir is chosen when the current ruler speaks the person’s name on his/her dying breath. A magical crown-shaped tattoo then appears on the chosen one’s arm. This, too, is very interesting.
  • I really liked how the Nameless create their own nicknames for themselves, like “Hat,” “Coin,” and “Devil.”
  • The friendships that develop are interesting to watch as they form. Some of these friendships are ones you wouldn’t expect.
  • There is an interesting twist involving Esther, the previous king’s daughter. You’ll have to read the book to find out what it is!

‘When you tell the truth, don’t ever look down. Don’t be ashamed and don’t be afraid. The truth isn’t something you control. It’s something you live with, and if you want to let it make you stronger, it has to be something you own.’

Rebecca McLaughlin, Nameless Queen

Characters & Romance (Or Lack Thereof)

Let’s briefly discuss the characters and the romance.

  • One thing readers should be aware of before reading this book is that there is NO romance. Now, this could be a positive or negative, depending on your reading preferences. Personally, I enjoy a small dose of romance in a book. So, this is part of why I didn’t give Nameless Queen 4 stars. BUT if you are tired of romances in YA fantasy, you’ll probably enjoy this book very much!
  • Instead of romance, the focus of the book is the theme of family/friendship. I liked the family/friendship theme, but still would’ve wished for a dash of romance.
  • The character Coin is the Nameless girl who impossibly receives the crown tattoo that marks her as the next heir. She’s lived on the streets her entire life, and she steals to survive. I liked her, but she does sometimes come across as a feisty, tough girl, stock type of character. Within the first 100 pages, she spends a lot of time in prison, showing off and trying to outsmart the royal guards. By page 100, I was hoping for more plot movement. But it does move eventually.
  • Coin develops the ability to create illusions/hallucinations, and this power is very interesting to watch develop. At first, it seems to come a bit too easily to her? But then she does receive proper training later.
  • The “reveal” about Coin’s identity is a bit predictable. Initially, I had hoped the book wouldn’t go in that direction. But it does, and I managed to accept it later on.
  • I really liked Hat, Coin’s friend from the streets. Hat is always very positive no matter the circumstances.
  • Glenquartz is a royal guard whom Coin manages to befriend. He is somewhat like a father figure in the book. Although I was initially skeptical of how quickly Coin befriends and gains his trust, he grew on me as a character, and I ended up liking their relationship.
  • Esther is the previous king’s daughter. She is surprised when a Nameless individual receives the crown tattoo instead of her. She has a big secret, and she is not truly as cold as she first appears.

‘After everything and despite everything, when we’re all alone and scared, we come together, no matter what.’

Rebecca McLaughlin, Nameless Queen

Final Thoughts

Here are few other things I feel I should mention:

  • Regarding the novel’s pacing, there are moments in which the dialogue actually slows things down. I noticed several places where characters go into what I call “speech mode,” blocks of dialogue that attempt to explain, summarize, argue, or to sound important. But in most of these instances, it is not the character’s intention to give a speech, and sometimes it is information that the reader has previously been given. So, I think some of those passages could’ve been shortened.
  • The world-building is essentially enough for the reader to understand the story, but there could’ve been more about Seriden and the surrounding cities.
  • I also don’t fully understand how magic is able to do what it does in the final chapters of the novel. It is a very big thing and concerns all of the Nameless people, yet I don’t quite understand how it is possible to do what is done.
  • I do think the “villains” could’ve used a bit more character development. The main villain seems one-dimensional due to the goal of overthrowing the kingdom and usurping the throne. And that’s all there is to her?
  • It also seems dangerous for Coin to bring Hat to the palace after Hat is almost executed.
  • Another thing that doesn’t make complete sense to me is the “punishment” of the Nameless. In Seriden, it’s not illegal for the Nameless to steal in order to survive. Yet, they can be imprisoned or executed on the spot – even if it’s technically not a crime for them to do those things. I think it would’ve made more sense if it were illegal to steal; it would provide better justification for the punishment of the Nameless.
  • I also think it is odd that the Royals invest so much time in etiquette training for Coin if they believe she is a worthless peasant who will no longer be queen within a few weeks.

Overall, the ending resolves things satisfactorily, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to read and review this book. These are only my personal opinions, and every novel is the result of an author’s hard work and effort. If you are looking for a YA fantasy without romance, you’d probably enjoy this one. If you’re interested in books about social division and class struggles, you may also find this book interesting. Happy reading!

*Content Warnings: Very mild as far as content goes. No sexual content. Some fantasy action/violence. A version of swearing created for the world in the story; not our modern curse words.*

Copyright © 2020 by Spines that Shine (Caitlin Shaffer)

Up Next on My TBR: Diamond City (NetGalley ARC)


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4 thoughts on “Nameless Queen: Exploring Social Divisions Through Magic”

  1. Another wonderful review. I don’t think the lack of romance will bother me (although I do enjoy romance in books too, I’m definitely not someone who gets fed up of them either). I imagine I’ll probably want to know more about some of the world too though; If I like a world I’m always left wanting more. And I love villains so it’s kind of disappointing if they’re not the greatest in this book. I’m still intrigued though (:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m seeing a lot of 3 star reviews for this, so while I’m curious about the book that is putting me off a lot! 3 stars for me is just ‘ok’, I usually quickly forget about books I give 3 stars to.

    Liked by 1 person

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