Nameless Queen

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
Nameless Queen Book Poster Image
Clever heroine drives appealing fantasy of politics, magic.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fantasy meant to entertain, but may get kids thinking about class divisions in society. 

Positive Messages

You can't choose the family you are born into, but, if you need to, you can decide who belongs in your chosen family. Use the gifts you've been given to do good in the world. Strive to thrive, not just survive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Coin is spirited, resourceful, clever, with a touch of likable sass. An orphan and outcast, she trusts no one. When she can no longer stand struggling alone, however, she forms a family that she can rely on. Hat, Esther, and Glenquartz, the people she chooses as family, model self-determination, choosing happiness, honesty, vulnerability, and loyalty. A power-hungry villain and a slightly more complicated accomplice to the villain try to stop Coin from inspiring societal change. Skin colors are not mentioned; the focus is on class divisions. Women hold high positions of power without it being noteworthy.

Violence

An execution by beheading is narrowly avoided. Tow people die and many are injured in n act of arson. A minor character uses a rifle to shoot and kill several people in self-(and friend-)defense. The shootings are not graphic ("he crumpled," "he fell to the ground,"). No blood is mentioned. "The life empties out of him" is as graphic as it gets. A stabbing results in lots of blood, but the victim survives and assailant is punished. Daggers are used a handful of times to threaten.

Sex

A minor character expresses same-sex attraction in a couple of passing comments.

Language

Rare use of "hell" and mild expressions of mistrust, dislike (such as "bastard").

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

People drink wine with meals. Main character references drinking: "I've never been that drunk."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rebecca McLaughlin's Nameless Queen is a fantasy novel about an orphaned young woman with no legal status who's chosen to be the next queen. As she learns to use the magic only monarchs can yield, she staves off royals seeking the throne, and begins to think she might be able to make positive change for her people, the Nameless. A tale about the politics of class divisions, this book also pays tribute to the power of chosen family. There are messages about self-determination, vulnerability, and loyalty. Violence includes minor characters shot and/or killed, but very little blood is described outside of a stabbing that results in grave blood loss but not death. Rare strong language incudes "bastard" and "hell." Some drink wine with meals and there's a reference to past drunkenness. The magic system and intriguing politics make Nameless Queen a solid bet for teen fantasy lovers.

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What's the story?

NAMELESS QUEEN begins with a crisis in the kingdom of Seriden: A girl known as "Coin," a member of the lowest class, the Nameless, has been magically branded with the crown tattoo, meaning she is next queen, but the only way this could have happened is if the dying king said her name before he died, and she doesn’t have a name. As the country tries to adjust to their "Impossible Queen," she initially agrees with the Royal Council that she should abdicate the crown to someone who wants it. Yet, as she learns how to use the magic that only monarchs can wield, and uncovers a villain's plans, she realizes she might just be able to make a difference for the Nameless, and everyone else. With her loyal bodyguard Glenquartz, Esther, the dead King's daughter, and her old Nameless friend, Hat, Coin strives to do right with the power she's been given.

Is it any good?

There's much to recommend this story -- an interesting magic system, a familiarly divided country, and compelling characters. Nameless Queen's Coin and Esther, in particular, are smart, complicated women whose uneasy alliance blossoms into a lovely relationship. The other primary characters are likable and admirable. The focus on the chosen family that Coin pulls together, rather than on a romance, is refreshing. There are surprising plot twists that are hard to predict and will keep readers engaged.  

However, the worldbuilding is lackluster -- it feels as though this might be set in any country at any time before the modern era, and readers will be hard-pressed to describe what Seriden actually looks like. The villain is so purely bad that she's not all that interesting. Several instances of trite turns of phrase, predictable dialogue, and one glaring timing glitch are likely to jar readers out of what is otherwise a well-written and fast-paced book. All that said, it's still an entertaining read, and with its attractive blend of magic and politics, this fantasy with a social consciousness will appeal to many teen readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the social class system in Nameless Queen. What are the consequences for society of having an underclass (the Nameless)? How is the class system in this story like and unlike our own? 

  • How does Coin grows as the story progresses? What people or events help her open up to friendship and family? Do you relate to Coin? In what ways?

  • What does the term "chosen family" mean to you? Do you know anyone who isn't related to you but feels like family? What sets them apart from friends?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and magic

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