Book: The Last Namsara
Author: Kristen Ciccarelli
BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-None of the conversations Asha has with other female characters revolve around anything other than men.
I got The Last Namsara in Fairyloot’s November 2017 box, Ladies Who Slay, specifically because it was said to be a book about dragons with a badass female character, and finally got around to reading it this year, as my October #RockMyTBR book. Sadly, I was somewhat disappointed by the book, it was slow paced, I found it hard to connect to the main character, and the world building, aside from the mythology and stories, was lacking. Here is a short synopsis of the 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.
I’m kind of unsure how I feel about this book. The concept was so brilliant, I loved the idea of a world built on stories, and of course dragons are absolute catnip for me so this should have been a slam dunk. And there were parts I liked, I really liked the stories and the mythology of the world, I thought that was really great and honestly, I could have read an entire book of those. I also really enjoyed the dragons, though I think if you’re going to market yourself as a “dragon book”, you kind of need to have more than two!
The pace of the book was extremely slow as well, for the first 200-300 pages there wasn’t really all that much happening, honestly, it could have been a much shorter book than it was. It doesn’t usually take me an entire month to finish one book, and though I was quite busy this month, I also think the slow pace of the book had something to do with it.
The writing was decent, if not particularly memorable, though the author did have a problem with repetition, she used a lot of the same phrases over and over again throughout the book. And whilst I know that “breath they didn’t know they were holding” is a legitimate thing that happens to people with anxiety, I wish authors could find a different way to express it because it’s such an overused phrase!
Asha was an okay MC, I found it hard to connect to her in the beginning, because she was just so mean and whilst I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, it took a while to connect with her because I didn’t understand why she was being so awful. She was also incredibly dumb, there were a lot of things that she could have worked out a lot earlier if she’d just thought to ask her brother! I think the problem was that the author told us a lot about Asha’s personality and skills without really showing them in action, it was hard to believe that she was as evil as she was leading us to believe, she just came off as kind of bratty.
The side characters were hardly developed at all, it felt like they had a name and maybe a few key characteristics, but no real depth to them at all, which made it hard to care. Torwin, Dax and Safire all had the potential to be interesting, but they just weren’t developed enough, if I’d known more about them, then I might have cared about their stories more. Safire in particular just seemed to be used as a plot device to motivate Asha.
There were several things that made absolutely no sense within the world building: the entire world being afraid of Asha since she was an eight year old girl, when by all accounts, she was the one severely burned by a dragon? And the whole regicide rule, like if you kill the King, you are sentenced to death? Surely people plotting to kill the King are wanting to take the throne (as was the case here), and so if you are successful and become King or Queen, then you then have to sentence yourself to death? That makes no sense at all. Asha also changes her mind awfully quickly about slaves and dragons for someone who has been indoctrinated her entire life to hate them, and for a great dragon slayer, she doesn’t seem to do a very good job of it in the book, as she is injured in pretty much every fight she has with a dragon.
The gender dynamics of the world were also difficult to pin down, as there is clearly no male/female preference in terms of inheritance of the throne, Firgaard has had both kings and queens and there’s nothing that seems to hint that their society considers women as lesser, but then no one seems to bat an eye at Asha’s fiance being abusive and its implied that marital rape is legal, so clearly they don’t care about women that much.
Aside from the stories, the world building was lacking. There are no descriptions of the characters, or the world, and though there are names of a few places thrown about, we don’t really learn much about them. I’m not a visual reader, so I don’t need lengthy descriptions, but I do want to have an idea about what the world and characters are meant to look like and I don’t think I got that here.
Torwin and Asha’s romance made me quite uncomfortable because of the master/slave dynamic. I just don’t think that there is any good way to write that, the power dynamics are so unbalanced that it feels wrong and so I can’t root for the couple. In addition to that, the romance in general was just weak, it wasn’t developed enough, I didn’t really feel the chemistry between the two characters and in general just felt quite insta-lovey to me.
There were some twists through the book, a lot of the major ones I guessed though, because the author pretty much spelled them out for you. I don’t mind authors leaving clues for the readers to work the twists out for themselves, but I don’t want them to be in your face obvious.
The book was quite light on dialogue, it was mostly Asha’s stream of consciousness, and the dialogue that was there wasn’t done all that well. I think if there had been slightly more dialogue and interactions between characters, not just Asha’s internal thoughts and feelings, then we would have had a better sense of the characters’ dynamics and relationships.
The ending didn’t feel earned, it all wrapped up a little too easily for my liking, the characters didn’t really have to struggle to achieve their goal and they weren’t really any sacrifices made by them. There’s nothing wrong with a standalone being wrapped up in a neat bow and a happy ever after, but it has to feel earned, and it didn’t here.
Overall, this book had a lot of potential, but it didn’t really live up to it, with weak characters and lacklustre worldbuilding. I don’t think I will be reading the companion novels.
My Rating: 3/5
My next review will be of the final book in the Throne of Glass series, Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas, which I’m hoping to finally finish soon after almost a year of reading it!