The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli – REVIEW
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.
“Iskari let others define her because she thought she didn’t have a choice. Because she thought she was alone and unloved.”
‘Asha lured the dragon with a story’. This has to be one of the best first lines ever and the reason I was drawn immediately into this book of dragons, magic, and the power of stories. The main character of Asha was realistically flawed and relatable. Her emotional problems and guilt were sympathetically portrayed and her repulsion of her scars felt brutally honest. I seemed to identify with Asha more than most heroines and I became quickly invested in her journey. I especially loved Asha’s character development through the book as it felt very organic.
“The old heroes were called Namsara after a beloved god, he said. So she would be called Iskari, after a deadly one.”
The world-building was absolutely incredible. The detail that went into the creation of Asha’s world was beautiful and intricate. The dragons were wonderfully described and there was one moment with Shadow that broke my heart. I loved the elements concerning the dangerous potential of stories and the exploration of slavery and imprisonment. Asha is just as much a prisoner of her thoughts and position as Torwin physically is. The relationship between Asha and Torwin was deftly done. Whilst Asha is very independent, her growing relationship with Torwin felt realistic and I was completely invested in them as a couple.
“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.”
The message of the book is beautifully summarised in the acknowledgements when Kristen writes to the reader: ‘Never forget: you are not what they say you are; you are what lies deep within you’. I felt this captured the essence of the book and of Asha’s journey perfectly. The Last Namsara turned out to be one of my favourite books of the year and I can’t wait for the sequel. There are some seeds that have been planted in this book that I’m looking forward to seeing mature in the next. I’m really looking forward to continuing Asha’s journey with Kozu and seeing where Kristen takes her next.
A beautifully written fantasy with incredible world-building.
|About the Author
Kristen Ciccarelli hails from Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula where she grew up on her grandfather’s grape farm. She spent her childhood running wild with her cousins, adventuring in the woods, building forts in the barn, and obsessing over books, dragons, and girls wielding really cool weapons. She wrote The Last Namsara for the girl she used to be (and sometimes still is).