As some of you might know from my social media, November has been an eventful month. Between moving and various other intense life changes, I’ve needed a great read to disappear into each night for some respite. Thankfully, the Indigo Staff Pick of the Month was The Last Namsara by Ontario author Kristen Ciccarelli, and when Indigo Books & Music graciously offered me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the chance.
Here, then, are five great reasons why you should be picking up The Last Namsara, either for yourself or for someone special on y0ur holiday gift list this season.
Dragons! Lots and lots of Dragons!
Yes! So many dragons! The dragons in this book – hello, Shadow and Kozu – are badass, full of fire and power and history and stories. They are, as Asha discovers, more than just legends, as they are connected to the Old One with a rich and complicated history that could fill an entire book on their own. I found myself wanting more of the dragons’ backstories and I loved how their perspective caused Asha to being to re-evaluate all that she had been told. As Asha becomes more entwined with the dragons, she uncovers more about herself and her past that changes her life forever.
Storytelling is Key
One of the things I loved best about this book is the power of stories. Early on, we learn that those who tell the stories of the past hold tremendous power, and that even reciting stories can cause tremendous change. In between certain chapters, original stories and legends are laid out for us to read, and give us a greater understanding as to how Asha’s society came to be. Some of them are quite heart-wrenching! I loved that words were as powerful as weapons in this narrative, and that Asha had to learn to use the stories wisely.
“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 more before her. The girl in her old stories in. She let them eat away at her heart and turn her wicked.”
Intense Angst aka DRAMA-RAMA
Oh, this book has it in SPADES. There’s a conflicted father-daughter relationship, the mysterious and tragic death of Asha’s mother, the strange decline of Asha’s brother Dax… and that’s just the Royal Family. Then there’s the complicated and horribly tragic history of Safire’s parents, the humbling connection between Torwin and Greta and the way-too-realistic and unsettling relationship between Jarek and Asha. Honestly, so much drama! So many complicated relationships!
Fair warning: there’s a lot of evolution and change in this book, and the alliances that I thought were solid during the first few chapters are not necessarily all that they appear.
A Seriously Impressive Female Lead
Let me state right now that Asha was fantastic. She’s strong, fierce, determined not to be bound to the JERK Jarek, dragon fighter-turned-rider, and an all around amazing woman. She’s definitely not perfect – physically or otherwise – as she is cynical and abrupt and unfeeling at the start. It’s only through her understanding of the actions of others and her reactions to what happens to her that we begin to see growth and understanding within her. Over the course of the book she blossoms from shielded vulnerability into a strong, powerful woman, and as she begins to understand the true history of her family, she sheds her guilt and takes on the role of power and responsibility she was destined to uphold.
I also appreciated that Torwin’s honesty was a contrast to Asha’s suspicion, and that his steadfast faith in her began to have an effect on her own sense of self worth. He truly was the yin to her yang, keeping her grounded when she needed it.
A New Epic Fantasy World
This may be Ciccarelli’s first book, but this world has clearly been building in her for years. Rich descriptive language brings Asha’s world to life, and you can imagine every character living in that world. The fight scenes are brought to life with an intensity that leaves you feeling the heat of the dragon’s breath and the wind in your hair. There is magic in this world, and it is skillfully mixed with mythology and delivered in stories that linger even after turning the pages.
There’s also an established social hierarchy in this world, some of it disturbing in the uncanny relationship to our own world and our history of slavery. Religious undertones abound, but in a more ethereal fashion, mixing old and new beliefs and traditions in a outright battle for supremacy. Throw in the magical constructs and the legends of old and you have a complex and rich history unfolding on each page.
The Last Namsara is available now, and is published by HarperCollins. It may be purchased from Indigo – ISBN: 9780062567987, 432 pages.
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.