Book Review: Marisa J. Bunton Reviews Brandi George’s The Nameless

The Nameless by Brandi George | KERNPUNKT Press | August 8, 2023 | $18 ($14 if you pre-order the book right now!) | 200 Pages

Poetry: Occult, mental health, possession, mortality, religion, love & sexuality


“Poetry yokes together opposites.”


I first came across KERNPUNKT Press on Instagram and saw that they posted a small piece of The Nameless, Brandi George’s newest poetry collection and memoir in verse. On the post, it read: “Interested in reviewing Brandi George’s The Nameless? Please DM us for a copy!” So, I did. I just had to reach out to KERNPUNKT when I saw that post.

As a fan of Brandi George’s work, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this, so long story short, I decided that I wanted to write a book review. Here it is!


The Nameless is part poetry, part story. The story aspect focuses on Thumbelina and the trials that she goes through before she finds paradise (which comes in the form of poetry and her husband, Michael). Brandi uses “Thumbelina” as the face of her story. I believe this is because:

1) Thumbelina is a fictional (yet admirable) character AND

2) By having a character that goes through the same trials the author does, it either makes the main character be the one who goes through these rough patches OR the main character becomes the reason an author feels accompanied. In other words, the main character creates a “sense of belonging” for the author. That way, the author does not feel alone when she goes through these rough patches. That’s what I felt when I read The Nameless.

The primary figure of Death is commonly seen throughout the story (and often appears when Thumbelina suffers throughout a great deal of her life). Brandi’s concept of death is so fascinating to me. Thumbelina “dies” multiple times, but does she actually die? And, if so, how often? What if “death” was symbolic for something else, like a change in form? Was she reincarnated? Did her spirit change in the process? Only the author knows!

A great example of this cry of help for transformation (which can also be seen in other works from Brandi George, such as Faun, for example) can be seen within the first poem, “After We Are Molested, Our Family Tells Us to Forget.”

On page 4, it reads:

Death take this body for Your own

because we want to become something else   
the doll thing that we were

             porcelain prey   virgin petal
                           pearl baby   is dead

because                 damsel corpse
            princess bait                 is dead


As I reach towards the end of the book, I discover some questions that really speak to me (questions that I wish to answer myself):

                                                               why do we want to be a Great Writer?

what’s the point in being a Great Writer?

         no really     what’s the point?

                            what’s the point?

                            what’s the point in being a Great Writer? (p. 174)


The answers are actually quite simple. The point to being a “great writer” is to be able to execute a literary idea and tell a story in the meantime. When it comes to The Nameless, Brandi George did not just come up with a story – she came up with a story within a story. The story that takes place within The Nameless is about her, yet, at the same time, it’s not – it’s also about Thumbelina.

Another thing that makes a writer “great” is by having the writer convey raw emotions into their story. I describe The Nameless to be “grotesquely beautiful.” Does that sound like a contradiction? Maybe; maybe not (it is an oxymoron I created). Now, why would I use those terms to describe The Nameless? This is because Brandi George exposes the deep dark ugliness behind many earthly abominations – rape, abuse, broken and dysfunctional families, divorce, exorcisms, etc. – instead of fabricating these topics with glitter. While most people refrain from talking about them altogether, she screams in rage.

The beauty of The Nameless is life itself. Throughout Part 1 of The Nameless, Brandi George talks about many wondrous things – horses that appear to be like angels (in the eyes of a two-year-old Thumbelina), a moon arachnid that repeats, “All is Illusion,” a rainbow jellyfish named Shalloch, and Sun-Bird & Moon-Bird, the bird with two heads. These creatures remind me of a section from “Poems Burnt in a Trash Pit,” a poem in Brandi George’s first book, Gog.

On page 50 of Gog, the poem reads:

Mother sings me to sleep, and the prisms

above my bed sing with her,


but she sees shadows where I see beauty,

and she would burn me, shave my head and drag me


down Main Street for Jehovah […]


The Nameless showcases that the world, despite its ugliness, can remain beautiful.

As of July 26, 2023, Brandi George’s Faun is available in The Chamber’s bookshop.

Marisa Jade Bunton is a recent graduate from Florida Southwestern State College. She absolutely loves to write and aspires to become an independent self-published author. One thing she loves to do, besides reading and writing, is helping other authors reach success. She is currently working on her first novel. You can connect with her on LinkedIn at @marisajade, where she shares her poems and insightful comments on books. You can also read her testimony on The Heart of Flesh Literary Journal.

Road of Bones: Review by Ryan Tan

Welcome to Ryan Tan’s Review of Christopher Golden’s novel Road of Bones.

In “Road of Bones”, Teig creates a documentary about the eponymous highway in Siberia. More than a thousand miles long, the Road of Bones derives its name from the forced labour used to construct it, which caused as many as six hundred thousand deaths. As a film producer, Teig has a history of failed projects and unpaid debts. He owes seven thousand dollars to his cameraman, Prentiss, who accompanies Teig to Siberia because he needs the money, and because he and Teig are close friends. They reach the town of Akhust, where wolves attack and chase them. Forced to speed along the Road of Bones, they risk crashing and becoming part of the road itself.

One of the scariest scenes occurs from the point of view of Prentiss. His guide, Kaskil, finds a stranded girl in Akhust and needs to take her to a safe place. As they move towards Prentiss’s truck, he notices something “wrong with the picture”. The vagueness of this phrase creates suspense, conjuring a “picture” of petrified humans. Like the abandoned town of Akhust, the characters are still and silent; they have become part of Akhust and may never truly escape. The word “picture” also has connotations of attractiveness, generating irony and increasing the reader’s sense of unease.

In an equally haunting scene, Prentiss embraces Teig because he thinks he is going to die. The “chill” felt by Teig shows that expressions of love have been corrupted with the implication that death is near. Love has become synonymous with surrender — the decision to let go of what life one still has. Ludmilla, an old woman who prays for the ghosts under the Road of Bones, literally experiences this coupling of love and death. As she runs out of strength and falls to the ground, she feels the ghosts “wrap around her in a beautiful embrace”. What I find more disturbing is that fear and anguish replace love because they represent a struggle for survival. Teig shivers when Prentiss hugs him, but not when Prentiss screams or curses. Even with their truck intact, the characters are not immune to the Siberian winter, which has extinguished the warmth between them.

The backstories of the characters intrigued me and I wish they had been a little more detailed. Teig feels protective of Una, the girl he finds in Akhust, because she reminds him of his dead sister, Olivia. Teig feels responsible for Olivia’s death and sees rescuing Una as a way of redeeming himself. I found it hard to understand his guilt because he only made brief statements about the circumstances of Olivia’s death, which seemed to dilute its importance. Another character, Nari, reflected on her narcissistic mother, who likewise did not make an appearance in the story. This gave me the impression that Nari’s characterisation was slightly undeveloped. Still, I loved the gulf between Nari and Teig. Despite similar histories, they distance themselves from each other, which makes me melancholic in a wistful way.

Christopher Golden’s “Road of Bones” thoroughly satisfied me with its simple prose and excellent pacing. I look forward to reading more of his works.

Road of Bones is available in The Chamber’s Bookshop. More of Ryan’s reviews can be found on The Chamber Magazine website

This has been a Chamber Magazine production. This review can also be found as a podcast on Spotify and on

Coming August 5: Ryan Tan Reviews “Road of Bones” by Christopher Golden

Ryan Tan Reviews “Just Like Mother” by Anne Heltzel

Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel is available in The Chamber's bookshop.

In Anne Heltzel’s “Just Like Mother”, Maeve finds her cousin, Andrea, after two decades of being apart. Both Maeve and Andrea were orphans of the Mother Collective, an all-female cult that exclusively equated womanhood with giving birth. After the cult’s suppression, Maeve was adopted while Andrea fended for herself. This led to their separation and subsequent reunion. When Maeve loses her job as a fiction editor, she has no choice but to live with Andrea, who demands one of Maeve’s ovum as payment. Although she refuses, Andrea does not give up until she gets what she wants.

In the climax, Maeve steals the car keys of Andrea’s husband, Rob, and escapes in his car. Just before this chapter, Maeve describes a flashback in which she steals the car of the Mother Collective staff, driving against traffic and colliding with a truck. The juxtaposition of this flashback with Maeve driving in the present primes me for a similar ending, and indeed, Maeve finds herself in a hospital room in the next chapter. Considering the number of twists in the novel, the predictability of this development is a bit surprising. Even so, I find it effective because the chapter in which Maeve crashes is unusually brief, accelerating the story’s pace in a fresh and distinctive way. I also love the parallel between the shortness of the chapter and the abruptness of Maeve’s collision. This symmetry between plot and form increases my engagement with the writing.

When Maeve’s boyfriend, Tyler, expresses a desire to blindfold her while they have sex, she agrees, describing her response as “Pavlovian”. She downplays her abstract, “intellectual” desire for gentle sex while validating her “primal” need for punishment. There is cruel irony in the way she recognises the pull of the blindfold but cannot resist it. The inevitability of her fate is referenced in an earlier scene, in which she places a doll on a chair in her bedroom so it can “preside over her sleep”. This image evokes Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, whose button-eyed doll watches her day and night. Just as Coraline cannot escape the Other Mother’s apartment, Maeve repeatedly finds herself back at Andrea’s house, no matter how many times she leaves. Both Maeve and Coraline are trapped by a “Mother” who is anything but.

Many of the characters die offscreen, which is unsettling because we don’t know how they die. Even when Maeve learns about the deaths of her boyfriends, their corpses remain invisible, insulating her from a shock that might have alerted her to Andrea’s schemes. The subtlety of these deaths accentuates the violence that Maeve does see. “Just Like Mother” combines unexpected twists with graphic scenes of brutality, inducing dread as well as a more explicit terror.

Ryan Tan studies English Literature at the National University of Singapore. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Straylight, Grimdark, Bone Parade, Bristol Noir, and The 13 Days of Christmas.

Just Like Mother is available in The Chamber’s bookshop.

If you like this review, you might like to read more of Ryan’s reviews in The Chamber’s Reviews Department.

Ryan Tan Reviews “Hide” by Kiersten White

Hide by Kiersten White reviewed by Ryan Tan

In Kiersten White’s Hide, fourteen people play hide-and-seek in an unused amusement park for a prize of fifty thousand dollars. The players are given thirty minutes to find a hiding spot, where they must remain until dusk. The first two players to be found are eliminated. The rest return to a designated area in the park, where they camp overnight before resuming the next day. Although the novel rotates between different points-of-view, we experience most of the story through Mack, who is the first character introduced.

On the second night of the game, the players gather around a campfire. One of them, Jaden, recites the disturbing backstory of Mack, whom he remembers reading about in the news. Jaden’s version of the story begins in a new section, in which he addresses the others without dialogue tags, while Mack’s private thoughts are indicated by parentheses. I find it ironic that Mack, who survived the incident that killed her family, takes the role of a passive listener who responds to, rather than narrates, the story she knows firsthand. Meanwhile, Jaden’s account is presented as fact, even though it stems from a heartless need to ostracise Mack. There is a sense of unjust wrongness, which amplifies the horror of Mack’s history. The use of parentheses simultaneously weakens Mack’s comments and gives them an added visual prominence. Considering Mack and Jaden’s opposing genders, perhaps this demonstrates that marginalised voices carry more weight than those that dominate the narrative. The “optional” part of Mack’s story is, in fact, the most truthful and necessary.

The amusement park hides a monster, whose behaviour I find a little convoluted. At first, we learn that it eats no less, and no more, than two people a day. Yet, this is later disproved. We also learn that the monster refuses to eat those who are already dead, and that it cannot be seen by those who are immune to its attack. I think these details overcomplicate the plot, especially with more than twenty characters in total. One of them, Brandon, narrates a section of the novel with his distinctive voice, which strongly appeals to me. Perhaps a smaller cast of characters, each with their own style of speech, might have been less overwhelming and more compelling.

Nonetheless, I love the organic development of conflict from a large and diverse group of people. In particular, the shifting points-of-view remove the certainty that any one character makes it to the end. This creates a suspenseful atmosphere that makes “Hide” a fast-paced and engaging read.

Ryan Tan studies English Literature at the National University of Singapore. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Straylight, Grimdark, Bone Parade, Bristol Noir, and The 13 Days of Christmas. If you enjoyed this review, you might also enjoy his review of Road of Bones by Christopher Golden.

Hide is available in The Chamber’s Bookshop in both English and Spanish (as El Escondite).

House of Footsteps: Review by Ryan Tan

House of Footsteps by Matthew West

In Mathew West’s House of Footsteps, Simon Christie visits Thistlecrook House, the home of a recluse named Victor. As an employee of an auction house, Simon performs a professional assessment of Victor’s art collection, which he wants to sell. Due to its sheer size, as well as the remote location of Thistlecrook House, Simon remains as a guest, occupying an unused bedroom. He visits the library to do further research and finds Amy, a secretive woman who evades his questions about her identity. As their friendship grows, Amy drops hints that Victor is her enemy. Despite knowing nothing about their history, Simon promises to help her escape Victor.

I admire the novel’s ambitious choice to keep its explanations vague. As Simon reminds himself more than once, he only has a limited understanding of Thistlecrook House’s troubled history. His acceptance of this cluelessness as his best chance of happiness echoes the Lovecraftian theme of blissful ignorance. In fact, the archaic writing style, which uses formal language and intricate sentences, brings Lovecraft to mind. While the lack of a “big reveal” risks disappointing readers, I think it respects the third person limited point of view, from which the story is told. I also love the prevalence of suggestive details, especially the painting in Simon’s bedroom from the perspective of someone standing in the centre of a lake. The vividness of these details complements the obscure backstories of Amy and Victor, accentuating their mystery.

The romantic scene between Simon and Victor encapsulates the strength of the characterisation. Neither Simon nor Victor acts in a clichéd or oversimplified way. Rather, their interaction gives their personalities a new dimension. Victor tells Simon that “we both knew it was going to happen”, referring to their physical contact as though it already occurred. The pronoun “it” reinforces the bold assurance of Victor’s manner, who takes for granted that Simon perceives his intentions. Meanwhile, Simon’s post-alcohol narration is interrupted by em-dashes and sentence fragments, emphasising the brokenness of his mental state and his struggle to form a coherent thought. Victor’s merciless exploitation of Simon’s vulnerability conveys his power and cunning. In contrast, Simon’s innocence inspires not just pity, but dread of what he has in store.

Although “The House of Footsteps” is slightly slow-paced, its compelling characterisation makes it hard to put down. In particular, Mathew West’s eloquent writing style will appeal to fans of Lovecraft.

Ryan Tan studies English Literature at the National University of Singapore. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Straylight, Grimdark, Bone Parade, Bristol Noir, and The 13 Days of Christmas.

Be sure to visit The Chamber’s bookshop for books similar to House of Footsteps, and visit The Chamber’s Interviews department to find exciting new authors.

Coming August 5: Ryan Tan Reviews “Road of Bones” by Christopher Golden