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Before the Fairytale: The Girl With No Name

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Banished from her village, a young shape shifter sets out on a journey to find her place in the world...

The first of four "Before the Fairytale" stories, "The Girl With No Name" is told in a deceptively simple storybook style with the flavor of an original Grimm's fable, but don't expect your typical once upon a time scenario. This is a coming of age tale humorously interwoven with social commentary.

This story is recommended for older children to adult readers (9 & up) but may not be suitable for younger children.


First published May 29, 2013

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About the author


4 books26 followers
Iscah is too young to be called old and too old to be called young. It is rumored that Iscah was born, and it is prophesized that Iscah shall one day die. Despite a couple near misses, the prediction goes unfulfilled...

Iscah reads a lot and has read a lot but decided to only add 5-star books to this list.

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5 stars
16 (43%)
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10 (27%)
3 stars
9 (24%)
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2 (5%)
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Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews
Profile Image for Pauline Ross.
Author 10 books296 followers
November 2, 2016
This short book is a delight from start to finish. It’s written in traditional fairytale style, beginning with ‘Once upon a time...’, with a charming simplicity which hides a great deal under the surface. The heroine of the story, who never has a name throughout the book, is a shapeshifter and magic-user, in a land which doesn’t understand or respect magic. Orphaned and raised by a kindly old man, she is forced to leave her home village when he dies, and sets off to find her place in the world. Her travels, the people she meets and the answers she finds to her questions about her missing father and her own magic, form the body of the story.

This is not your conventional fairytale. At every turn, the author neatly sidesteps the traps and tropes of the genre, so there are plenty of wonderful surprises in store, and a nice line in humour too. Every town or village or country the girl visits is a little different from the others, with its own customs and peculiarities, and exploring these differences is one of the highlights of the book, for me. There’s a prince, of course, and a witch, but they’re not at all as you’d expect. The prince is possibly my favourite character in the book, but even though it seems things are set fair for a little romance, things take a different turn. It’s so much fun when a book refuses to toe the boringly predictable line this way. I do like to have my expectations subverted.

If there's a grumble at all, it's that the girl seems a little mature for her age, given her rather sheltered upbringing. She accepts whatever comes her way with equanimity, judges people quite well and isn't really bothered at having to travel around on her own. But then I suppose that being able to turn into a bear or a bird or something small enough to hide behind a bush is rather a good self-defence mechanism, plenty good enough to deal with most of the little difficulties that a not entirely law-abiding country can throw at her. I liked the way she grows over the course of the book, finding out what works and what doesn't and using her talents not for power or glory, but as a low-key way to survive so that she can do what she really wants to do (mostly haunt the libraries and bookshops, which I can relate to).

This is the first of four novellas relating the beginnings of four characters to feature in a full-length fantasy novel later. [1] The book is intended for any age reader from 9 upwards, and it would work brilliantly with an adult reading it to a child, whether to draw out the subtleties and provoke discussion, or just to enjoy the subtext. It would be a great communal read for schools as well. Whether it works so well as an adult-only read is less certain. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as a refreshing change of pace from grittier adult fantasy, but despite the subtleties it felt very child-oriented at times. Not childish, but perhaps lacking some of the multi-layering of the best adult fantasy. This is not a criticism, just a comment and a matter of personal preference. An entertaining read, with deceptive simplicity and an unexpected degree of humour. Four stars.

[1] At the time of writing (June 2013) this is the only one of the four published, and the second novella, ‘Horse Feathers’, is currently being posted a chapter at a time on the website, which is at Amoeba Ink.

Profile Image for Nikki in Niagara.
3,854 reviews122 followers
February 11, 2022
Lovely modern fairytale. After the elderly man who looks after her dies a 12yo girl is told to leave the village. She is a shape-shifter and sets out on a quest to find the father she has never known. Beautifully written in the style of fairytales. Suitable for ages 9+
Profile Image for Elien.
198 reviews
November 30, 2014
This review and more on So Bookalicious

The Girl With No Name was quiet an interesting read. A young girl that never knew her real parents, ushered out of her village by everyone thanks to her shape shifting abilities.

The book began like every fairytale style, with ‘Once upon a time…’. The main character of this book really is the Girl With No Name, since her parents never were in the picture she never received a name. She’s a shape shifter and magic-user and that’s hard in a land that doesn’t understand or respect magic. After her guardian dies she sets off to find her place in the world but mainly to find her father. Her journey takes her through many countries and she meets many new people from booksellers to princes. Throughout her journey she gets answers to her many questions. About her family, about her magic and about the world itself.

Every town or village the girl visits is different than the others. Every place has its own rules and culture. Like in every fairytale there is a witch and a prince but they are different than the ones I’ve read about. The prince is one of my favorite characters in this book, he’s kind and funny. And it’s here were the book took a different turn than in other fairytales. And it’s always fun when a book takes by surprise. I liked how the girl grows throughout the book. She is just a young child when she set off on her journey but at the end of the book she is a young woman. She found out what she was best at and she used her talents to help others and not for power. And she didn’t forget the ones who had been kind to her on her journey throughout the years.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book. It was well written and it had a nice pace. The Girl With No Name is the first of four novellas later the main characters of these book will come together in a full-length fantasy novel. I’m looking forward to read the other books in this series.
Profile Image for Angie.
2,849 reviews12 followers
August 1, 2013
Synopsis: "Banished from her village, a young shape shifter sets out on a journey to find her place in the world...

The first of four "Before the Fairytale" stories, "The Girl With No Name" is told in a deceptively simple storybook style with the flavor of an original Grimm's fable, but don't expect your typical once upon a time scenario. This is a coming of age tale humorously interwoven with social commentary."

My Review: So when the author requested I review this book, I wasn't so sure, the cover didn't do much for me but the name kind of caught my eye and I figured it was a Middle Grade so it wouldn't take much time to read. Boy was I pleasantly surprised! I fell in love with The Girl. It was such a unique story, it moved along nicely and the pages kept turning. I really couldn't put it down and kept reading at work until it was finished. Not much really was happening and you kept waiting for a big event but you never really felt disappointed, just kept the curiosity up. I really would like to know where this series of stories are going and will continue to read them.
Profile Image for Randall.
Author 12 books9 followers
May 23, 2015
I was absolutely enchanted by this book, It is a small book and reads quickly. Iscah's style of writing is crisp and clear. I picked this book up as part of a Kickstarter. It is a prequel to the author's Seventh Night. I doubted it would be a book I would ever read as I assumed it was a fairy tale type story written for the young adult crowd and it could certainly be read and enjoyed by that audience. But once I opened it, it was almost impossible for me to put it down. It had definitely made me an Iscah fan and I look forward to reading more from this talented author.
Profile Image for Amy.
1,208 reviews4 followers
June 24, 2022
This is a nice story with a very simple, straightforward writing style. It would be a good intro-fantasy novel for younger readers. That being said, I really liked the character; I found the girl to be interesting and believable (though I did question her never giving herself a name). I am curious about Seventh Night now and hope that I would see the girl, as well as some of the other characters she met along the way, again in that story.
Profile Image for Bret James Stewart.
Author 7 books4 followers
June 11, 2015
Seventh Night: Before the Fairtytale: The Girl With no Name by Iscah is a lovely book. This is one of the prequels to Seventh Night, but you don’t need to have read that book to enjoy this one. I have written a review of Seventh Night which is available here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1192315213?book_show_action=false.

First off, the book is well-done. The cover art is great. Interior art along the pages adds a touch of class. Further, the texture of the book is noticeably pleasant. The tome scores a 100 for aesthetics.

The story is written in a fairytale style. It is simply written, but don’t confuse simple with depth of meaning. Reading the text created a sense of nostalgia for me as it reminded me of the fairy stories I first read as a child and continue to dip into on occasion. The book is like an old familiar friend you haven’t seen for a while, especially if you’ve read Seventh Night. The book is also clean, with no profanity or anything else to make it unsuitable to readers of all ages. I like reading such works.

The book chronicles the early life and travels of the eponymous girl (later named Andomare in Seventh Night) from her village home with her foster father to the Gourlin Desert, which is where she is living when she is first encountered in Seventh Night. She wanders to many different places and encounters different creatures and types of people. Morality is incorporated into the story, but it is done so in a soft way. One of the interesting things about the girl is that she is a shape-shifter, and, although she is definitely human, she is unaware of her original appearance as she shifted as an infant and lost her initial form.

Prequels are a little tricky. Often, they do not stand up well as individual works. Iscah, though, has given us a stand-alone tale. I appreciate the complete feel of the book. You do not necessarily need to read Seventh Night to enjoy it. Regarding the reading order, I also don’t think it really matters. I assume most people will have read Seventh Night and become invested in the character to be moved to begin with a prequel, but, since this books stands up so well on its own, I think you would enjoy it if you read the prequel first—what a novel concept!

I am a big fan of Iscah’s work, and I recommend her Seventh Night collection of books. The collection, by the way, is growing as she continues to add to the overall storyline, which is another reason to check them out.
Profile Image for Sandra Lopez.
Author 3 books318 followers
July 9, 2013
If you had the ability to transform into anything, what would it be? This is the fate of the girl with no name, a shape-shifter.

While the townspeople seemed frighten by the child that can turn into cats and cooking pots, her keeper is the one that comes to her defense and stays by her side until his death, which forces her to flee the town.

Gourlin was an interesting place; I like how it had a policy of teaching kids to read –now, that’s my kind of country! One thing that was irksome was that the story was full of unknown characters, which I thought detached the reader from the plot. There were characters like “bookseller” and the “black-bearded man”—no one really had a name, except for the prince. And, although I am not really into tales about castles and princes, this book still isolates itself from the traditional “happy ending,” which I thought was rather unique.

This was like reading one of Grimm’s fairy tales combined with Shelley’s Frankenstein. It is all about a search to discover who was “the girl with no name” and what was her purpose. Her quest seemed to take a rather long time as she consistently kept asking people questions about the father she never knew. She was smart and courageous, and learned to protect herself well. It’s a cute, well-written story. Fascinating cover, too!
Profile Image for Jessica Bronder.
2,015 reviews22 followers
May 11, 2015
A young girl learns that she is a shape shifter and can use magic. Since she had no parents she was never given a name. But she did have a caregiver that did his best to raise her with what he had. But upon his death the villagers learn about her secret and banish her.

The girl goes on a variety of adventures throughout her travels. She meets all kinds of people and has many adventures. She also learns many things from magic, her family, and most of all what people want and what they are will to do to get those wants. Some of this journey is hard but in the end these lessons guide her to find a place for herself.

This is one of those stories that kind of rambles from one point to another. The girl has some hard times and she has some good ones. But all of these shape her into the young lady she becomes in the end. Wasn’t really a fan of the ending but I did understand her choice. This is not one of those happily ever after endings.

This is a good story. It is geared toward mid grade readers. I think that kids would like it because it teaches them to embrace their differences and to make their own path.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Cathi Shaw.
Author 9 books92 followers
January 6, 2015
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. When I first started the book, I was skeptical as to how I would like it. The tone was old fashioned, much like a fairytale, which was the point as I soon discovered! And the main character has no name, which I thought would be awkward. However I was pleasantly surprised.

I wasn't two pages into the book before I was enthralled by it. This is a wonderful tale, beautifully told. The main character, while nameless, is endearing. I was hooked on following her story. The reader gets to see her grow from a young girl of 12 into a young woman. She goes on a myriad of adventures through far off lands. But what I enjoyed most about this book is the focus on a strong female character. She is independent (at first due to circumstances beyond her control and later because she chooses to be) and strong.

Beautifully written, I strongly recommend reading this book.
Profile Image for Hemant Jain.
313 reviews25 followers
February 5, 2014
A very interesting story ...

Through the story, Iscah gives a worldly view to the young readers. The plot and story are not remarkable, but the journey is indeed something i would ask the young ones to read.

Iscah shows the value of knowledge and earning your living. Even a magician or sorceress needs to earn her living while she could easily do magic and live off comfortably.

Iscah shows the 'role' and 'job' of the king ... almost making it sound like the role of a Manager .. to ensure that the right person is allocated the right job.

Iscah also shows that different cultures value different things and we humans have to adapt !!

Definitely something I would recommend people to read. And i also look forward to reading the others stories by Iscah as well as her novel .I am sure I am very much going to enjoy her writing.
Profile Image for Lizzy Lessard.
327 reviews88 followers
June 23, 2013
Considering that the main character has no name, I was very attached to her story. With the distant narrative, more telling than showing, and clean storyline – the story fits well in the MG age range. I feel that the author could of extended the story easily by another 50 pages by adding more descriptions and more character development. However, it is a very solid story. By 80% through the book, I was worried that the book would end in a cliffhanger because there was so much more left to be resolved. There is some closure, but the ending feels anti-climatic and ambiguous. Overall, a quick story worth reading.
Profile Image for Rebecca Russell.
Author 4 books174 followers
July 26, 2013
I found "Before the Fairytale" enchanting and enthralling. I'm a pretty picky reader and mostly stick to MG and YA Fantasy. I also am dubious of some Indie books since so many have grammatical and typographic errors. So to say I was delighted to find this story well-written, well-edited and thoroughly enjoyable is a complete surprise. The Girl with No Name is a delightful, engaging character and I loved the adventures. The story flowed perfectly from one adventure to the next and her interactions were interesting and believable. Middle Graders would especially enjoy this read. I look forward to the next book in this series.
September 1, 2015
Found this book at comic-con, Iscah was there promoting her books. I have to say, one of the best books I have read in awhile. He writing style is easy to read, yet keeps you interested throughout the entire book. After enjoying this book so much, I am going to read other books written by her as well.
Profile Image for Dee Dodgson.
40 reviews4 followers
January 19, 2015
Although this is a pleasant enough story, and has it's good points, I found it had too much narration and not enough dialogue.
I would read it again and I would consider reading any further books by Iscah.
Profile Image for Suanne Laqueur.
Author 26 books1,495 followers
November 13, 2016
A quiet, charming and smart little story that can stand all by itself, but it's made me want to read more by Iscah and more about these characters. I like knowing they're there for me to return to.
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews

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