Recently, I’ve been on a roll reading fantasy books. (Who am I kidding? I always read fantasy books. They’re my favorite.) More so than usual, though, I’ve read books about dragons. While not all the so-called dragon books I’ve read recently lived up to my high dragonish expectations, I can definitely say The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli had dragons—and lots of them!
After summoning dragons with the old stories and bringing destruction upon herself and her father’s kingdom, Asha has become the Iskari, what the old legends call “the destroyer.” As the Iskari, Asha has vowed to rid the land of dragons, hunting them down one by one. When her father gives her a chance to free herself from this role and all it entails, Asha jumps at the opportunity, even if it means facing down the land’s most powerful dragon—the dragon that nearly destroyed her. But as she takes up this challenge, she begins to learn the truth about the dragons, the old stories, and more importantly, who she is—as the Iskari but also as something more.
To say I loved this story would be putting it lightly. I’m often wary of dragon stories, despite how much I love dragons because I feel that a lot of books don’t do justice to how amazing and magnificent dragons are. But I think The Last Namsara depicted them in a glorious, magical, new way.
Dragons are drawn to stories and in return tell their own stories. Stories draw out their fire and power, which makes them a formidable and fearsome foe. Yet the legends of old tell of a time when people rode dragons, forming a bond with the rider. All of this dragon mythology crept into my heart and absolutely stole me away. I was captivated by this concept. I’m actually quite jealous I didn’t come up with it myself.
But more than just the dragons, I felt like the whole story just came together in a way that shook me to the bone. Asha as a character is hard and stubborn. She’s been through a lot, and she’s not quite sure she likes what she’s become but she doesn’t see a way out. In some ways, she reminded me a little of Katniss from The Hunger Games as she is thrust into this position she never asked for. She just wants to protect the people she cares about. Asha’s story is incredible because it spoke to my heart, about learning who you are and what you can truly do with what you’ve been given. I can’t even deal with her character arc. I had to go lie down and sob for a while after finishing this book.
As for the rest of the story—the world-building, the pacing, the other characters—it was all well done. Sure, there could have been improvements here and there. The beginning started off a bit slow, and there were a few things here and there that were predictable (and some that were predictable but still flipping awesome). Sometimes I couldn’t quite connect with the details of the kingdom. I would try to visualize it, but it all felt vague and stereotypical fantasy. There were also a lot of terms thrown around that I couldn’t ever keep straight. (Give me a glossary or something. And a map. Every fantasy book needs a good map.) This book only skimmed the surface of this world and the people who inhabit it.
I couldn’t help but root for the other characters though, especially Asha’s brother Dax. He seems like a complex character, and I wish there was more about him and his experiences. The sequel/companion books hopefully will focus more on that stuff. As for Torwin, Asha’s friend-slash-love-interest, I liked him but I wanted more for him. Their infatuation with one another felt instant, but then nothing major happened between them for ages, which I guess happens in real life (??), so it wasn’t as annoying as insta-love. But overall, the other characters just felt a bit dull. I wanted to sink my dragon claws into their personalities and back story, but I never could quite connect with them.
I think overall I just wanted more from this story. The dragon aspects were amazing and Asha’s journey was definitely the heart of the book. But I wanted more immersion in the world, more details about every day life and the dynamics of the various classes. I wanted a less caricature bad guy and more connection to the other characters. I wanted more details and descriptions to ground me into the story. This is a very single character driven story.
The Last Namsara is one of those stories where the journey is more important than the destination (or endpoint?). The dragon mythology and the focus on the power of telling stories was incredible. If any of these aspects—character driven stories, dragons and lots of them, and storytelling—interest you, I recommend this book to you. Meanwhile, I’ll be daydreaming about dragons while I wait for the sequel/companion because dang I need more dragon books like this in my life.