The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli was a book that originally wasn’t high on my reading list, but I ran into it at the library and picked it up and I’m so glad I did. I give this book 5 stars. The little stories included in it were beautiful and I was hooked for the whole ride. As an editor I see a lot of authors struggle with world building, but this book is a great of example of how to do world building gradually without overwhelming readers. The world building was fantastic and one of my favorite aspects of this book.
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.
First off, this book has dragons in it. Normally I shy away from fantasy surrounding dragons because a lot of them sound the same to me and I’m just not a huge dragon fan, but I liked how well the dragons worked in this world. If you’re like me and normally don’t swing for dragon fantasy stories, don’t let that deter you from reading this story. The world building in general was wonderful in this book. Sometimes fantasy throws too much at me at once, but I didn’t have that issue with this story. I loved the use of short stories to help build the world and I think some of those little stories will stick with me. The author did a great job of gradually building up the world and character backgrounds.
I appreciated the fast pacing of this novel. I prefer stories to be faster paced instead of drawn out. The plot had some really neat twists to it that I loved. I enjoyed the characters in general, including some of the big reveals toward the end. I admit I got a little frustrated with the romance with something constantly keeping Asha away from her crush, but I have that issue in general with romance that tries to keep characters apart as long as possible, leading to poor communication and misunderstandings. It makes me want to knock the characters over the head and tell them to get over their insecurities. Other than that, the romance worked well.
Overall this is a book I highly recommend to YA fantasy fans. The world building is wonderful and the little stories included are beautiful and my favorite part of the book. I look forward to continuing the series when the next book comes out.