While this may be Mercedes Yardley's debut novel, she has built quite a reputation with her short story collection, Beautiful Sorrows, and novella, Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love. Mercedes blends the fantastic with the weird, often with the budding of a romance or journey through a mother's love and loss. Simply put, she writes some of the best fiction out there because of how she can wow and peel open the emotions of the heart.
Nameless: The Darkness Comes seems like a perfect type of story to craft for her debut novel. Luna is a young woman who has seen demons since her childhood. She's got a bit of an attitude about this burden, but there is kindness under her shell. Nameless is the story of her encountering forces strong enough to break open her shell and how she'll respond, either to become more hardened or to find a way to let the loving person out without becoming weak, as she fears.
Mercedes wields her gift for strange and fantastic imagery to show us her version of the demon world and combines that with her sensitivity to multiple forms of human relationships, each striking open strong emotional reactions. Luna lives with her brother and his very young daughter. His wife left him years back and Luna has helped him take care of her. They have a troubled past because their parents are dead and father killed himself. Luna meets a troubled guy with attractive green eyes and begins to fall for him. Around this time, the demon world interferes, pushing them apart and threatening the lives of everyone she loves.
The story starts out with everything I wanted from Mercedes, touching moments of loving people facing the darkest our world has to offer mixed with her unique narrative voice that blends humor and attitude seamlessly. I knew right away that I loved the world she was revealing, with its demons that slither around like snakes only she can see. I enjoyed how her and her brother have some animosity over him not taking seriously her claim of seeing demons, as well as how she loves on his child as her own. When she meets Green Eyes, I was already reading with a constant grin at the snarky humor, and often laughed out loud.
As the story unfolded, however, the meat of what I enjoyed so much in the beginning thinned out into minimal interest. Part of this may be because of how Luna became separated from the characters, taking away the exchanges that made the first part so enjoyable and stealing opportunity to strengthen my empathy for whom she cares for. Her snarkiness also lost its humor. There were action scenes with demons and a haunted house, but they just weren't as powerful as her best and seamed to hold back at times for a grand finale. This could also be because she was chasing after people I hadn't developed enough sympathy for.
Around the 75% mark, the story turned around and ended very well. The pieces laid by scenes I marginally enjoyed ended up having significant impact on her journey and struggle. An event around the 60% mark really made her relationship with her brother take hold. Another made me feel her connection with the girl. Really, from 75% on there is wave after wave of strong emotion and fantastic imagery in the action.
Nameless is the first book in a trilogy that promises to uncover the rest of the iceberg of this war with demons. The heroine, Luna, is strong, funny, and rooted in empathy through all the emotions we experienced with her in this first installment. I'm hoping for the second and third books to more consistently display the kind of unrelenting story elements and narrative voice that made the beginning and end of this book so memorable and enjoyable. Mercedes is so gifted, I have total faith that she can.