I really enjoyed the first part of the Fable duology, but was really upset that it ended the way it did; not because it was bad, but because I was going to have to wait several months to find out what happened next. Thankfully, Namesake not only carried on this story with these characters I really liked, but it also took it in some interesting new directions.
Picking up where the last book left off, our hero, Fable, finds herself prisoner on the ship of one of her enemies, Zola, where one of the men who raised her, whom she thought was dead, is working with the vicious criminal. Separated from her own ship and her new family, Fable is set to work by Zola, along with a group of other dredgers, to find a supply of gems in a distant reef. With a target painted on her back, Fable has to try to survive the experience whilst also avoiding Zola’s murderous crew, all whilst figuring out a way for her to get back to her friends. But when it turns out this is only the first step in an even bigger, and more dangerous scheme, Fable will discover things that will change her life forever.
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If I was to advise the best way to read Namesake it would be straight after reading Fable. I reread the first book before going into this one, and it struck me how little it felt like a sequel, and more of one continuous story. The first book did a lot of world building, and established the characters well, and whilst the second book takes readers to some new and interesting places, and brings in a handful of new characters, it’s definitely much more story driven. If the two books had been presented together as one complete volume it wouldn’t have felt out of place at all.
One of the things the book does well that I really loved was the way that it delivered some interesting surprises. From simple things such as bringing back a minor antagonist from the first book and forcing him to work with Fable, to travelling to the port of Bastian and showing us a world completely different to the one we got to know in the first book. Things felt more complex here, with more twists and turns and double crosses thrown into the mix.
Namesake changed the way it presented Fable in a lot of ways too. In the first book she was an incredibly strong and confident young woman, despite being in over her head a lot of the time. She knew what she wanted and she went for it, she never backed down or let herself be intimidated, and it was this kind of attitude that won over the crew of the Marigold, as well as myself. This time she’s very much on the back foot, being pushed around by others and used as a pawn in other people’s schemes. Whilst this does give her a few opportunities to flex her more sneaky side, coming up with schemes of her own to get out of things, it was very clear that Fable was playing in games with much more experienced players.
Whilst it was interesting to see this shift in the way Fable had to operate it did show a few of her flaws too, namely that she is just a kid despite her experience, and the people manipulating her are much older and more powerful than she is. But, this isn’t a bad thing, as it took her character in new directions and changed a number of her personal relationships, forcing her to test the bonds of family she’d forged in the first book.
Namesake felt very different to the first book, and I think that it lacked some of the sense of adventure and wonder that the first book had, as it shifted towards political machinations over the swashbuckling sense of adventure. But it never felt boring. It expanded the world, challenged the characters, brought in new people and did interesting things with them (I never thought I’d like Koy, let alone love him). If you enjoyed the first book you’re going to get on well with this one.
Namesake is out now from Titan Books.