The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli is an extraordinary story about courage, loyalty and star-crossed love, set in a kingdom that trembles on the edge of war.
Some stories are too dangerous to be told.
Asha is a dragon-slayer. Reviled by the very people she’s sworn to protect, she kills to atone for the wicked deed she committed as a child – one that almost destroyed her city, and left her with a terrible scar.
Even worse, to unite the fractured kingdom she must marry Jarek, the cruel commandant. Just when it seems her fate is sealed, the king offers her a way out; her freedom in exchange for the head of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard.
And the only person standing in her way is a defiant slave boy …
I obviously loved many things about The Last Namsara. That’s why I gave it a rating reserved for my most beloved books. But the one thing that stands out the most as the biggest success is the book’s phenomenal pacing. The story got me hooked from the first chapter and didn’t let me go until the end. I say the first chapter, but the truth is, my interest spiked when I read the first sentence: ‘Asha lured the dragon with a story.’
The main concept of the book is how the power of old stories can be dangerous and deadly. That’s why it is forbidden to tell them. Old stories lure the dragons, ancient and magical beings. But the true danger lies in the truth, hidden in these stories. And someone doesn’t want this truth to be told.
“Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things.”
This idea fascinated me so much I simply wanted to read all the time. In the morning during my commute on the bus, during lunch break at work and in the evenings long into the night. I even pulled an all-nighter near the end. After the final plot twist of the story, the events start happening in such rapid succession that you simply can’t stop. I pulled myself away leaving about twenty pages because I didn’t want it to end just yet. And that’s what I call the art of pacing.
Old stories do not serve only as a plot device but also as a wonderful world-building and exposition tool. The whole book is interwoven with bits of old legends from the world of the story. In the beginning, this lets the reader ask questions the story can later answer. Farther into the book the stories start revealing context, mythology and history of the world and the characters. This means there is no need for a lof of exposition, which helps the pacing even more.
The world is rich and well-built. There is not much space given to the building of it, yet from the beginning, you feel like you’ve always known it and are completely familiar with it. It feels real and lived in. Part of it is the fact that it is not a particularly nice world, which adds to its realness and the atmosphere of it reminds me of Game of Thrones. Its politics are very rich, full of intrigue, marriage for profit, discrimination, racism, slavery, war and murderous dragons.
And all of this fits nicely with the personal story of the main character Asha. The writing is always smooth and flowing and the whole book reads like an old legend itself.
Asha is not your typical heroine princess. She is defined by her scars. Both those she wears on her face as a mark of shame and those on her soul. She is resented for her actions the day she earned those scars, so she uses fear and intimidation to hide her hurt. She is an Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.
“Destroyer. Death bringer. Dragon-slayer. I am more weapon than girl.”
“Iskari let others define her because she thought she didn’t have a choice. Because she thought she was alone and unloved.”
The slave boy is the only one that is not afraid. Kind, honest, loving and brave, he wakes something in Asha she thought was long lost. That is where the romance and the adventure begins.
And this romance is the good kind. It is not the main focus of the story and it is no insta-love. You can feel the tension, attraction and flirtation from the page and it reminds you of the first time you were falling in love. It is sweet and believable.
There are not so many characters in the book, but the villains of the story need to be mentioned and appreciated. Jarek is the classic bad guy. He is so well written, you hate his guts from the first mention of him and keep hoping someone punches him in the teeth. He is abusive, controlling, powerful and his toxic masculinity leaks from the page. There are more, less obvious, bad guys. The cunning kind. But I would never spoil this surprise for you.
Speaking of plot twists, this book has some of the best ones. There were times when I gasped with shock and violently cursed at the pages. So if you’re looking to have your heart broken a little bit and you’re ready to hate a bitch, you’re in for a really good time.