The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli was undoubtedly one one of my most highly anticipated books of Fall 2017. This debut fantasy explores an intricately woven world of deception, inner darkness, and dragons that fantasy fans won’t be able to resist. I received my copy – a gorgeous silver version of the book – in my November 2017 FairyLoot box, and I simply couldn’t wait to dive in!
In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer. These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl. Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.
Before I even started reading \the Last Namsara, I knew I would love it. The book’s summary promises action, dragons, romance and a badass female lead, so how could I not? And while I did have a few minor issues with the book (mainly the slower than average start to the book, then the rushed end – aka the pacing), I really did enjoy it!
The Last Namsara tells the story of Asha, a princess of the kingdom, and a dragon slayer – the Iskari. Feared and reviled by the people she is sworn to protect for a terrible mistake she made as a child, Asha has been forced into the life of the Iskari, forever slaying to redeem herself for the errors of a heart-broken child. Ciccarelli crafted a truly remarkable character in Asha – she is fierce and scarred and a truly outstanding protagonist. And I truly adored her personal journey through the novel – she starts the novel as a hated warrior, feared by all with no love for anything besides her brother and cousin. She has no respect for the dragons or slaves, yet as the story progresses she begins to warm to others and realize that she might have more in common with these people and creatures than she first thinks.
But this is not only Asha’s story – it is also the story of a nation on the tip of a sword, tipping towards inevitable change. No – being pushed towards inevitable change by key players, such as Asha’s brother and cousin, Safire, and her betrothed’s slave, Torwin. Each plays their own role, although I would be amiss if I didn’t acknowledge the absolute importance of Torwin’s role to Asha’s character development and to the overall plot. He shows Asha what it means to live and what it means to know your truth – rather than the truth that others have thrust upon you.
Together, Asha and Towin navigate a seemingly impossible web of lies, deception and power. Betrothed to the high commander, trapped in a cycle of death and hate from all around her, when Asha’s offered the chance of freedom by destroying the First Dragon Kozu, she seizes the opportunity. Forming an unlikely bond with her commander’s slave, Towin, Asha comes face to face with the beast that haunts her dreams, and uncovers some truths along the way. This all seems fairly standard – but what stands out from the rest of the YA Fantasy genre is a princess falling in love with a slave. It’s always the contrary it seems: the powerless woman ends up with the all-mighty man. But Ciccarelli crafts a relationship wherein her heroine holds all the power, and her love interest very little – at least in the beginning. As the story progresses, they slowly find themselves more and more equal, at least in their own eyes. I enjoyed seeing their relationship evolve – initally, Asha has no intention of getting involved with him, but he proves himself to be valuable and loyal, and soon the two are inseparable partners in crime.
One last point – I don’t always enjoy the telling of old stories told within novels, but in the case of The Last Namsara, it adds something more – a new depth to the book. I loved the interjections of the old stories throughout the text which interweave and support the main story. They felt almost lyrical in their presentation, and I was actually craving for more of them – something that does not happen often for me!
This YA fantasy book will blow you away – I can almost guarantee it. Ciccarelli has upped the bar on dragon fantasy – while this may at first seem like a story about a badass girl slaying dragons, at it’s heart The Last Namsara is about a girl overcoming the beliefs and prejudices instilled in her by her father and her society. It’s about a fight for the rights of the slaves and people of her county. It’s really about freedom. And I cannot wait to read the next chapter in the Iskari trilogy (4.5/5).