Namesake, Adrienne Young’s highly anticipated sequel to her nautical themed fantasy Fable, struggles to stay afloat under the high expectations set by the previous installment.
The story starts off moments after the end of Fable. Fable finds herself abducted by Zola, a rival gem trader of her infamous father. Forced to become a pawn in this gem trading thug’s scheme, she wonders if West (her lover) and the crew of the Marigold will be able to find her.
But it’s not long till Fable discovers that Zola is not interested in her father at all, but rather her deceased mother Isolde—a gem sage. She had many secrets. Secrets that went with her to a watery grave.
Fable must dive into a world of betrayal and politics in order to protect the ones she loves. Old faces from her past appear, and it’s not long till she finds herself in over her head, risking everything in order to win it all.
My favorite book of 2020 was Fable. Young created a world and story I wanted to be part of, and I fell for it—hook, line, and sinker. I adored the dynamic between Fable and her mysterious and notorious father Saint, and the brooding, swoony romance between her and the Marigold helmsman West. Not to mention, the sparkly gemstone, high seas, pirate aesthetic definitely floated my boat.
So you could say my expectations were high for Namesake.
Now, Namesake is not a bad sequel. It does its job. It delivers more of the world, it delivers more of the swoony romance and the seafaring aesthetic. However, I found it to be missing its heart and soul, the emotional drive of the main characters.
Fable, West, and the gang all feel like cardboard cutouts of themselves. Most of Fable’s inner demons have been conquered in the previous book, leaving her feeling emotionally empty, almost like an automaton moving through the plot. Not to mention, for most of the book West is acting massively insecure about his relationship with Fable. This could have been compelling and a great place for character growth and conflict, but instead we get some rocky conversations. Still, ultimately West will do what West does, which is follow Fable around like a kicked puppy, and their relationship is fixed without addressing the heart of the issues.
Now, Young did expand a bit on her world in this installment, and we do learn more about Fable’s mother Isolde and her backstory. While I did enjoy the explanation, I did not enjoy the extensive political rigmarole that came with this information.
Get ready for lots of lackluster exposition about trade deals and the ship trading federation. Also, besides the extensive moments of exposition, the plot moves at a lightning fast speed, whipping you from one location to the next practically every chapter. This made the story feel like its only purpose was to have a plot to follow, rather than explore the characters or profound themes.
Yet, as I say all of this, there is one piece of Namesake that redeems it for me, that urges me to encourage readers to experience this story.
One word: Saint.
Fable’s father is such a fantastic and intriguing character. His charisma bleeds through the pages, despite barely making an appearance, just like in the previous installment. His estranged relationship with his daughter, and their story of healing and reconciliation is what makes me love this duology.
So rarely do we so this kind of relationship is explored in YA, and it makes me crave more. Their scenes together make me tear up. Young knows what she’s doing with this character.
To sum up, Namesake failed to live up to my expectations, with its exposition and plot heavy pacing. But, if you love this world, the characters, and Saint, then please pick up this book. It’ll all be worth it in the end.
Namesake by Adrienne Young released on March 16th, 2021.