Desert Isle Keeper
I love reading series of all types, but sometimes, I find myself in the mood for something that stands on its own. If this is what you’re looking for, and if you’re a fan of young adult fantasy, look no further than Rebecca McLaughlin’s Nameless Queen. It’s a fast, absorbing read that wraps things up quite nicely and doesn’t appear to need a sequel.
Our narrator is a seventeen-year-old girl who survives by picking pockets and running various cons. She’s part of the lowest class of society, a group known only as the Nameless. As you might expect, these people live pretty much invisible lives. They have no rights, and as their collective title suggests, they don’t even have name, although many of them have given themselves monikers of sorts. Our heroine calls herself Coin, and she has a good friend who goes by Hat. Life is pretty grim for the Nameless, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to improve their lot
When the king of their land dies, things are thrown into turmoil. Before his death, he spoke the name of his heir, but no one knows who he chose to succeed him. You see, the title of ruler is bestowed on one person who can only be identified by the crown tattoo that suddenly appears on their skin. The new monarch can technically be anyone at all, but everyone expects it to be a member of one of the upper classes, so imagine their surprise when Coin shows up in public with the crown tattoo.
Coin never wanted to be queen. In fact, she never knew such a thing was even possible. She’s so used to existing under the radar of the royal class, and she has no idea why the king would have chosen her as his heir. She is determined to hand the job and title off to someone more deserving just as soon as she can so she can get back to her life of crime, but fate seems to have other plans.
Coin is required to move into the palace while the royal counsel figures out how to transfer the tattoo to a more worthy candidate, and the more time she spends there, the more she learns about what it really means to rule. As queen, Coin would be in the perfect position to improve the lives of her fellow Nameless, but is she strong enough to stand against those who would rather banish her back to the city’s underbelly?
When I first picked this book up, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish it. I’m not at all a fan of books with unnamed narrators, but Ms. McLaughlin managed to draw me into the story right away, and Coin is a quick-witted, scrappy heroine I could relate to almost immediately. She’s selfish at times, and a little too sarcastic for her own good, but these flaws added an extra layer of authenticity to her character. She’s the kind of underdog I love pulling for, and her lack of an actual name kind of faded into the background of my awareness.
The story is chock full of court intrigue. Everyone Coin meets has an ulterior motive for their actions, and I loved watching her figure out who to trust. Being queen is a dangerous business, but Coin’s time on the city streets has given her a great deal of insight into the way people think and react, and this knowledge serves her well as she attempts to come to terms with her new station.
When we first meet Coin, she’s determined to live life on her own terms without accepting assistance from anyone, but as the story progresses, she comes to realize there’s value in having allies. She slowly begins forming relationships with those around her, and she actually begins to blossom once she realizes there are people in the world who have her back.
There’s so much to unpack as you read Nameless Queen. The author draws parallels between many of Coin’s struggles and those we’re dealing with in today’s society without making the reader feel as though they’re being preached to. Ms. McLaughlin has created the kind of heroine I would have loved reading about when I was a teenager, a strong and resourceful young woman who is sure to appeal to anyone who has ever felt like a misfit. This book was a joy to read, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more of this author’s work.