I don’t know what rock I was living under that caused me to miss this little gem when it came out last October. On a recent trip to let my
monster spawn destroy darling children enjoy the local library, the brilliant librarians (or maybe the benevolent literary gods) had positioned it with that gorgeous cover facing out as I meandered through the Young Adult section. I devoured it in slightly under 24 hours. It was a fresh, fast-paced adventure with a dark, flawed heroine, a slow burn romance, and DRAGONS. Why don’t more books include dragons??
Once there was a girl who was drawn to wicked things…
Asha, Princess of the Draksor, is known to her kingdom as the Iskari, the life taker, named after the ancient goddess of death and destruction. As a child she told the Forbidden Stories, summoning the most ancient and powerful dragon who then destroyed her city, killed thousands of her people, and left her with a hideous burn on half her body. Now she hunts the dragons, endlessly trying to atone for her crime. Feared and hated, she believes herself to be corrupted, drawn to the forbidden ancient magic that killed her mother and so many others. Her absolution will come on her 18th birthday, when she marries Jarek, the commandant of the armies and the boy who saved her from the dragon that dreadful day but lost both his parents in the process. Jarek, who she despises…and fears.
…but the old stories weren’t wicked. And neither was Asha.
With her 18th birthday a few days away, Asha’s father offers a way out of the betrothal; bring him the head of the same monstrous dragon that left her burned and their city decimated, and she will be free of the fiancé she loathes. It is an almost suicidal mission, but she believes she has nothing left to lose. But there’s an ancient power in the world that has a different mission for Asha, one that will open her eyes to the lies she’s been told about her family, her enemies, and herself.
My Rating: 5 Bad Ass Fire-Breathing Dragons
Asha was a great main character. No Mary Sue, she was deeply flawed, with ingrained prejudices and brusque treatment of the kingdom’s enslaved enemies. It was also wildly refreshing to have a heroine that wasn’t incessantly described as stunningly beautiful. Girls with dragon-fire burns on half their body have worth too, don’t ya know. Her character development was a study in nature vs nurture-who was the real woman living under the oppressive, cursed title of Iskari? What could she become if freed of the shame that she was inherently corrupted? Could she reclaim herself and rise above the judgement and expectations of her kingdom? You’re just going to have to read and find out.
There’s also a swoonworthy love interest in the form of Torwin, the kind and gentle slave of Asha’s betrothed. Maybe “kind” and “gentle” aren’t descriptions that immediately stir your lady loins, but DAMN if I didn’t find myself falling in love with him. He always saw through the cold, scarred facade to the best and beautiful parts of Asha.
Kristen Ciccarelli’s writing is beautiful; lean but lyrical, spare but poignant. It reminded me of the goddess of gorgeous prose herself, Laini Taylor. There’s no long, whiny inner monologues, dry info dumps, or the egregious crime of telling rather than showing. I was immediately immersed, there was nothing awkward or annoying that distracted or pulled me from the narrative. The Last Namsara is one of only two books in the last year that I’ve given a 5 star rating, so I can’t recommend it enough!