“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.”
When Asha was a child she told the old forbidden stories to the First Dragon, until he turned on her, burnt her kingdom down and left her scarred for life. Determined to redeem herself in the eyes of her father and her people, Asha has become the Iskari, the fearsome dragon hunter. Yet even though she is one of the most feared people in Firgaard, Asha is still bound in chains, promised to the cruel commandant Jarek who saved her from the dragon’s flame.
There is only one way to free herself and seek revenge, bring back the head of the First Dragon for her father. But something is stopping her at every turn, and with the life of a mysterious slave on the line she must decide what matters the most – her revenge or saving a life. The truth of the world she thought she knew is about to shatter, and Asha must decide if she is ready to let the truth in.
Sometimes you just need to read a book with dragons in. It doesn’t matter what book it is, as long as it has dragons I’m willing to give it ago. It is one of my many book weaknesses. The Last Namsara is a new release that I hadn’t actually heard about on the internet, I found it in my local Waterstones and quickly added it to my Goodreads (thank goodness for Goodreads because otherwise I’d forget all the amazing books I’m planning to read). They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but with this one the beautiful hardback drew me to it instantly – although I did buy it on Kindle in the end.
A part of me thinks that I am slowly growing out of the YA fantasy genre, this book was good, but not awe-inspiring. The plot was almost one we had seem a million times before; tyrant king, suppressed people, rebellion, forbidden love! It fills out all the criteria for a YA fantasy novel. Yet I’m still willing to read any sequels that come along because the world built behind the generic plot was incredibly interesting and well thought out. The fact that stories are a power, that they are what fuel a dragons fire, is such an unusual concept; it could be used and twisted in so many different ways because that is the power of storytelling. Anything can happen.
One of the best things about this book was the way Ciccarelli told the stories. Some of the old forbidden stories were weaved between chapters, and slowly revealed more about this world and it’s history. I particularly like the idea of the old stories being events that actually shaped their world, rather than legends or folklore, it adds a depth I liked. The random placements of the stories worked well for me because it broke up the plot a little; when things were moving too fast the stories slowed it down, where backstory was missing, the stories filled us in on what came before. I also really liked Ciccarelli’s writing style within these little excerpts, she made them sound like fairy tales, secret fairy tales that we weren’t supposed to know.
In comparison the characters were… okay. Asha was a good character to follow, as the conflict within her was very clear. She was harsh, determined, pretty badass and incredibly loyal to those who had earned it. Although she sometimes felt like a background character in her own story. Her brother was plotting a rebellion without including her until the very end, the villains used her like a pawn (or like a tennis ball, whacking her back and forth for their own amusement) but she wasn’t overly involved with them either. Even her love interest seemed to have other things simmering on the back burner that he didn’t really need to include her in. Asha also seemed to do what the Old One asked far too quickly, though she knew there would be consequences to not obeying Him she didn’t put up too much of fight. To me, she should have done if He was her supposed ‘enemy’ at the beginning of this novel, or she needed a more valid reason to follow what He required of her. Maybe it was her true calling and nature shining through, maybe I’m being too critical and it was the speed at which I read book that made the plot seem far too fast in certain places (yes I’m also talking about the romance, maybe I’m just used to love that grows over the series these days rather than within one book; I love some slow-burn romance).
Characters that did really interest me however, were Dax and Roa and their shaky alliance. I hope that in the next book we are given more focus on these two characters and their motivations. Why did Dax go to the people who imprisoned him to help with a rebellion? What pushed him to want to overthrow his father in the first place? Why is Roa the one her people chose to link to the new king, and why did she agree? I do have more questions but hopefully you get the gist. Also Torwin! It is briefly mentioned how he learnt all his skills, but it still felt like we could have been given more; I was expecting him to turn out to be a spy because of how involved he suddenly was with Dax and the Scrublanders. Alas I was wrong, but he was still an interesting, honest character who I’d love to see more development from throughout the series.
Something else that I would love to have more focus on – the dragons! They were some of the more interesting dragons I have read, with their story hoarding, their loyalty to the Old One, and the way they link with their riders. But they were simply tools used in the characters many escapes. I just wanted more focus on the dragons. I love dragons, and these had an intriguing background story to be told.
Whereas the love story got a lot of the “screen time” within the novel. Thankfully even though the characters seemed to fall for each other pretty quick, in the end I felt there was an equal relationship between the two main characters. If not in the world itself, at least between each other, which was a massive growing point for Asha’s character.
This book was a interesting, fast-paced, well-written YA fantasy that is probably one of the better ones I have read recently. But if this book/series is to make a large splash within this overly populated market, it’s going to need to do something truly spectacular in the next book.