The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
“Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things. Things like forbidden, ancient stories. It didn’t matter that the old stories killed her mother. It didn’t matter that they’d killed many before her. The girl let the old stories in. She let them in eat away at her heart and turn her wicked.”
How on earth did this book stay on my shelves, unread since October 2017? Have I lost my mind? And oh wait, I completely forgot that I had a pre-approved e-arc copy from Harper Teen on my Kindle. *slaps-myself* THE NERVE I HAVE! However, I believe that this book called out to me from between millions on my shelves in the exact right moment. The moment i deeply needed something truly good and rich to read. This book was like finding gold just lying around in my room. The Last Namsara is officially on the very top of my 2018 favorites. (Right up there with Children of Blood and Bone)
I’d like to start my review with a huge Thank You to Harper Teen for my free advance e-reader copy. (Excuse my super late review)
The Last Namsara is a young-adult fantasy novel with tales, stories, myths to be told and dragons roaming the skies and badass females fighting for their voices to be heard, their strength to be reckoned and their presence and rights to be acknowledged.
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.
The Last Namsara, Kristen Ciccarelli, Harper Teen, October 3rd 2017, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780062567987
I’m a sucker for fantasy novels where the lead female character is badass, who’s not the usual type of representation of a very, conventionally pretty girl who’s a goody-goody. No! I love it when they’re fierce, strong and close to our reality. Especially when they’re DRAGON SLAYERS. A freaking dragon slayer guys, one who believes herself to be the villain, the bad person of the story, the one with no mercy whatsoever. Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy!
“Iskari let others define her because she thought she didn’t have a choice. Because she thought she was alone and unloved.”
The world in the Last Namsara is built on so many layers; it’s politically rich, historically full and with all the dragons and magic aside, realistic and relatable to an extent. You can’t help but lose yourself in the vastness of it, and the similarities Kristen threw here and there between the world of Firgaard and our world – the social classes, the inequalities, the injustice, the tyranny of rulers, the racism, the oppression and underestimation of females, slavery of those not in power or with wealth, the corruption of those ruling …etc. I could go on for a long list but Kristen missed nothing, it was all there under the layers of this fantastical world she created. We didn’t only experience the story from the present moment, but we experienced the past and the history from the stories of the ancestors, the memories of the main characters and the flashbacks to what happened before.
“The old stories drew dragons the way jewels drew men. No dragon could resist one told aloud. But the stories didn’t just lure dragons. They made them stronger. Telling such stories was forbidden, dangerous, even deadly.”
Who thought that such a plot is possible? … I could assure that it never even crossed my mind. Upon reading this synopsis on the back cover, I gasped, my eyes twinkled and I saw stars and gold confetti thrown in the air. My most beloved things in one place, stories and tales … THAT DRAW DRAGONS TO YOU WHEN YOU TELL THEM!! (Did I ever mention that I used to beg my mother for a dragon when I was a kid? No! Well, now you know a story of mine, can I please have a dragon now?) *sigh*
Dragons are my absolute favorite mythical creatures; fierce, beautiful and deadly. In The Last Namsara, they’re somehow fiercer, deadlier and a million times more beautiful. Divine is what they are, a force of power born from the words of the tales told, the stories spoken and the singing voices of the raconteurs.
“The old heroes were called Namsara after a beloved god, he said. So she would be called Iskari, after a deadly one.”
In between the plot, many layers to the story unravel and in between gasps, more came and the plot blew wide open to a point I was stunned at how magnificent and detailed it was. In between the words and chapters, we understood the bloody history of the draksors and the slavery of the skrals. We got to know the myth of the Old One and Kuzo the deadliest dragon of all. We saw inequalities and violence against women in the ruling family itself. We saw what thirst for power could do ones soul and heart.
Our leading character is now one of my absolute favorites, Asha. The fierce, the girl who wore her horrifying scars proudly and never with shame, who walked the streets with her head high and chin higher, not faltering or cowering at the horribleness the people threw at her. Swamped with grief for her mother, guilt at the consequences of her actions as a child, thirst to prove herself, she believed in the cause and mission her father – the dragon king – lay before her and devoted herself to it blindly, a mission that led her to discover her true self. Her mission led her to her true heart, deepest parts of her soul and to her other-half who’d face death itself and not let anything harm another hair on her head.
“Then may Death send his worst. Cold to freeze the love in my heart. Fire to burn my memories to ash. Wind to force me through the gates. Time to wear my loyalty away. I’ll wait for you at Death’s gate.”
As strong of a leading character Asha is, her brother and cousin were equally powerful in their own personalities. Her brother Dax bound his time to reveal his true colors and I believe we’re yet to see more depth to him. As for Safire, oh boy that girl is a force to be reckoned. I’m excited to see more of that boldness and loyalty.
“No one needs to ask for a woman’s opinion. It’s expected that she gives it freely.”
If Asha is one side of the coin – the darkest side – Torwin is light on the darkest of nights, the starlight shooting across the sky and the fresh ocean breeze swooshing between the smoke and ash. With his gentleness, devotion and kind heart, Torwin won my heart from the very first moments. To grow up the way he did, in the conditions he did, treated as he was and to yet remain capable of kindness and compassion is a true miracle and a statement for how much of human he is. I believe that his character has got so many layers and that we only dealt with few of them, more is about to be unraveled and I couldn’t be more excited for it.
The romance arc in the novel is perfection. Its pace, slow and realistic progress was as it should be, teasing yet of true meaning. It made it all the more credible and easy to fall for right along side of them. No insta-love, but sparks here and there, slow attraction, resistance to the inevitable, comfort and compassion slowly making there way into their hearts, shining light to the darkness they lived in. And I’m beyond pumped to see where that will go in the next book.
“Asha glanced up. The look in his eyes made her breath catch. It was like looking into the heart of a star: bright and burning.”
As for the commandant – can we please refrain from using that title ever again, because it reminds of that horrible woman in An Ember in the Ashes and it gave me the creeps, not that Jarek is any better, haha! HE IS WORST. Cruel, violent, heartless, power-hungry, vicious and sadistic. That boy has no one dear to him but himself, he’s got no problem to stomp on anything and anyone standing in his way, he’d torture his way through the whole city up to the throne without looking back or even a slight regret. As true portrayal of a child who grew up fed the wrong ambitions, lies and secrets, raised to seek vengeance and led to believe he is better than anyone. (Parents, do not do this to your children I beg you, raise them to be humans and compassionate about the world)
The balance between the plot, the events, the stories in between, the characters’ development and the world building is a true masterpiece. Only an author who believes in her story is capable of such magic, and Kristen outstandingly dazzled me with the writing. The flow of the words, the easiness, the strong emotions behind the terms she used, the arc of the conversations, how she introduced the characters, carefully with details one by one, not overshadowing any of them.
I’m beyond anticipating the next book “The Caged Queen” – anticipating is such a small word to how much I WANT IT – I cannot wait to see the development of the world, the war that’s about to erupt, the dragons coming back in powers, the riders soaring the skies, the scrublanders politics unraveling, the romance development and Asha‘s title being acknowledged. I want it all, the richness, the details, I want to know more stories and see more dragons.
If I say that i enjoyed this book it would be an understatement. I fell in love with every word in it, and upon turning the last page I literally broke in tears because it was over. Few books managed to rattle these emotions within me and The Last Namsara is high among those. Whatever you’re doing, I urge you to drop it and pick this book up. You will not regret it, trust me !
Here’s #goodreads synopsis for book 2:
Once there were two sisters born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. When they were angry, mirrors shattered, and when they were happy, flowers bloomed. It was a magic they cherished—until the day a terrible accident took Essie’s life and trapped her soul in this world.
Dax—the heir to Firgaard’s throne—was responsible for the accident. Roa swore to hate him forever. But eight years later he returned, begging for her help. He was determined to dethrone his cruel father, under whose oppressive reign Roa’s people had suffered. Roa made him a deal: she’d give him the army he needed if he made her queen.
Together with Dax and his sister, Asha, Roa and her people waged war and deposed a tyrant. But now Asha is on the run, hiding from the price on her head. And Roa is an outlander queen, far from home and married to her enemy. Worst of all: Dax’s promises go unfulfilled. Roa’s people continue to suffer.
Then a chance to right every wrong arises—an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister. During the Reliquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa can reclaim her sister for good.
All she has to do is kill the king.