By Ekta R. Garg
January 8, 2020
Genre: YA fantasy
Release date: January 7, 2020
Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars
A peasant is named the heir of a kingdom that doesn’t even recognize her. Despite her uneasiness with her new status, she must navigate court politics as well as the mystery of how she became the heir in the first place. Old friends and new allies come forward to help her in her cause as she struggles to make a name for herself. Debut author Rebecca McLaughlin gives YA readers a new heroine to cheer for in her terrific novel Nameless Queen.
All her life, Coin has known one fact for sure: she can only count on herself. As part of the class of citizens known as the Nameless, she’s missing a key part of her identity: her actual name. In the city of Seriden, the Nameless are the lowest class. The Legals represent the working middle class. The Royals rule the city and the kingdom.
Coin grew up without her name and also without a family, but she’s done all right for herself. She’s a skilled thief and con artist and has made her way through life by using both traits to her full advantage. Recently, though, another Nameless girl who goes by Hat has taken to following Coin everywhere. Coin doesn’t want the responsibility for anyone else. It’s hard enough to take care of herself. Then the unbelievable happens.
According to the magic that rules Seriden, when the ruling Royal is on his or her death bed that person names the heir to the throne. The announcement of the heir is made known by a crown tattoo that appears on the heir’s arm. In the middle of what seems like an ordinary day, Coin experiences the strangest sensation and discovers the crown tattoo on her skin.
She’s horrified and fascinated all at the same time. How in all the world can she be named the heir? She has no connection to the Royals. She’s a Nameless, after all. Yet no one can deny the appearance of the tattoo, and in the midst of a scuffle in the market Hat gets arrested and whisked away. Coin has no interest in the throne of Seriden for herself, but she won’t let Hat rot in a Royal prison. Add to that the fact that other Nameless have been going missing for months now and no one knows why, Coin makes a decision. Against her better judgment, she reports to the castle.
Coin discovers there are people on the court she can rely on as confidantes, and she needs them. Other factions within the castle are actively bidding for the crown that has been named hers. She figures out soon enough that she’ll need to rely on her new friends if she’s going to get out alive.
Author Rebecca McLaughlin will delight readers with the world she’s presenting: a world based on a caste system that abides by rules of magic. Coin is plucky and resourceful, everything readers expect in a heroine today. Her friend, Hat, will also endear herself to the target audience. Hat is sweet and funny and the perfect model for a younger sister, and Coin’s irritation and affection for her balance Hat’s admiration as only an older sister could.
The book could have used better world building, and Coin seems to settle into her new role in court with a little too much ease. Had her struggle endured further into the novel, she would have become a fully three-dimensional character. Also, at a key moment in the book other Nameless come to Coin and make a request of her. The request seems odd and out of step with the events in the scene in question.
That being said, McLaughlin must be applauded for the variety of ways she’s used the concept and even the word “nameless.” She’s set up the end of the book for a sequel and indicated in her author’s note that one is forthcoming. Given the last few lines of the story, readers will certainly be waiting to find out what happens next with Coin and her bid for the throne.
Those willing to give a new fantasy author and novel a chance will most likely enjoy this novel; I recommend readers Borrow Nameless Queen.