Title: The Last Namsara
Author: Kristen Ciccarelli
Narrator: Pearl Mackie
Running Time: 11 hours, 16 minutes
Trigger Warnings: Child abuse, spousal/partner abuse, mild gore
Goodreads Summary: 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.
What a lovely, beautiful surprise! I went into The Last Namsara knowing almost nothing about the story but, boy, was I in for quite a treat! Elegant and intricate, The Last Namsara is a gorgeous tale which will leave you burning for more. There’s so much to love about this book, from the stunning writing to the wondrous world to the epic story being told to the intriguing characters and more!
I want to start with how much I adored the world of The Last Namsara! Ciccarelli’s world-building is so rich and with each and every word, she illustrates a luscious world that you’ll just want to get completely lost in! A large part of the world-building is due to the stories and histories of the world that are interspersed with the regular chapters. The history of this world is told as stories—the same stories that Asha is supposedly addicted to telling and which are outlawed. Yet Ciccarelli manages not to make these story sections feel clunky or dense. Instead, the historical stories have the feel of a bedtime story (which is kinda what they are meant to be so that makes sense). Each and every story has a magical, mystical feeling and it lures you in, making you want to know more—I mean, it’s no wonder why Asha loves hearing and telling these stories!
Speaking of Asha, I loved her character. She is not particularly easy to love, but still I came to eventually. She’s hurting and flawed and human and, in a way, that’s what made me like her so much. Asha is the Iskari, “the destroyer”, charged by her father, the king, with killing dragons. She knows her skill at slaying dragons and takes pride in it. She is fierce and strong and in some ways she is very proud. Yet Asha believes she is a monster, she is ashamed of herself and of her love of stories. Her shame and self-loathing made her hard and angry and made her lash out. But slowly she begins to thaw, just enough to begin questioning things and opening herself up to new ideas. She has a great arc and learning curve throughout the story. I do want to take a moment to discuss one of her points of learning, though, which is: slavery. Asha’s people took another group of people as slaves and at the beginning of the story, Asha fully believes that there is nothing wrong with this. She is not particularly cruel to the slaves, but she is not kind to them either, and she makes it clear that she believes that she and her people are superior to the slaves. Asha’s mind is changed about this matter through the course of the novel, largely because she falls in love with a slave. While Asha’s mind and heart are changed in the end, I know it may not sit well with people to read her derogatory thoughts and worldview in the first place and I fully understand that discomfort. Anyhow, I just wanted to take a moment to address that, let’s get back to the characters.
In terms of the characters other than Asha, I wish we had gotten to know them better. We don’t spend much time with Torwin (Asha’s love interest), Jarek (the villain), Dax (Asha’s older brother), or Safire (Asha’s cousin) and because of this, the story was a bit more shallow than I wanted because the secondary characters’ motives weren’t there to help move the plot along and further Asha’s development. Of the secondary characters, we probably heard most of Torwin, Asha’s love interest, but even still, it wasn’t much.
The plot was so elegantly complex, it was incredible! I know some people may find the pace a tad slow, but personally I actually thought the pacing was perfect. There was a good mix of intrigue and action and the story moved along through everything quite naturally. The story was intense, but not overdramatic and cheesy. The story was also a fairly equal amount of character-driven and plot-driven, which I think is quite an impressive feat for a debut author to pull off! On the whole, the plot was well-rounded and captivating!
So the only flaw I can find is a very minor one which is the issue of diversity and the fact that none of the characters’ physical appearances were described very well. Because none of the characters’ physical appearance was described well, I have no basis to claim whether or not this book was diverse, at least racially. The names of the people and places lead me to believe that this world had a very heavy Middle Eastern and/or Asian influence, but because no one was described, I can’t say for sure. Literally the only smidgen of description we got was that Asha had a scar down her face and body, that Torwin had freckles, that Dax had curly, black hair, and that Jarek was sturdily built. So, yeah. I wish the racial diversity had been more solid. There was also no representation of different sexual orientations, differently abled people, mental illness, neurodivergence, and/or poverty. I know this will irk some people, but I truly hope that it will not stop people from reading this lovely book.
All in all, The Last Namsara was a wonder of a book. It’s become a new all-time favorite of mine and I’m sure I’ll be raving about it for not only months, but years to come. You absolutely must pick this one up and at least give it a chance. 4.75 out of 5 stars, rounded UP to 5 stars!