The Last Namsara – Kristen Ciccarelli – Iskari #1 – HarperTeen – Published 3 October 2017
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 dark—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 hearing 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 is a stunningly epic fantasy novel, with aching romance, political intrigue, strong characters, the power and magic of stories, and dragons (everything is better with dragons).
Asha is the deadly and feared Iskari. She hunts dragons for her father, the king, but secretly yearns to tell the forbidden stories that give the dragons more power and once caused the destruction of her city. But with the date of her arranged marriage to the cruel and loathsome Commandant Jarek drawing near, Asha knows her only chance of escape would be retrieving the head of the greatest and oldest dragon. But when her brother returns home with a group of their people’s enemies, and a slave boy crosses boundaries and offers Asha the first signs of trust and affection she has experienced in years, Asha knows that her life, her whole world, is about to change dramatically.
The Last Namsara is truly stunning. It just gets better and better, the world building and character development slowly reveal its depth, complexity, and beauty. From an outsider’s perspective there are many things wrong with Asha’s world. The use of slavery, for example. Much of Asha’s city of Firgaard relies on the work of slaves. But Asha doesn’t much notice the injustice of this situation. Though she does not use slaves as personal attendants, this is more for her own convenience and privacy than a sense of social justice. Asha does note, however, the inequality shown to her cousin due to a mixed heritage of a royal father and slave mother. But other characters, including her brother, her cousin, and an intriguing slave boy, very gradually show Asha there is another way of thinking. This change in Asha’s belief system and way of viewing others, the changes she helps to make in her world, shows great character development and makes her later decisions all the more brave and poignant.
The Last Namsara is written from Asha’s perspective, and scattered throughout the chapters are short tales, old stories now forbidden in the kingdom or stories of recent past events. These stories highlight the importance of storytelling for Asha. These stories also fill in the gaps for readers, explaining the history of the land, great events, or segments from Asha’s own past. It gives a greater depth to the world, leaving Asha’s chapters to focus on the action of the story.
It was so easy to be drawn into this wonderful story. The depth of the characters, the strength of the emotions, which endlessly build (the romance in this book is….wow, I have no other words.) The ending is particularly strong, which provides a resolution to the story and yet there is so much more that can be developed in the following two books of this trilogy. Whichever way the story develops next, it is sure to be just as addictive and well-written. This compelling YA fantasy is very highly recommended.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Dragons, royalty, storytelling, stories, father-daughter relationships, slavery, arranged marriages.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Fantasy violence – killing dragons, murder. Sexual references to the “wedding night”. Occasional coarse language, sh** (1).
Published: 3 October 2017 by HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 432 pages.