A kickass female dragon-slayer, DRAGONS, storytelling and magic: all these things should have made this one of my top 2017 reads. They are usually instant winners, but I just didn’t love The Last Namsara as much as I wanted to. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t LOVE it.
Asha (daughter of the King of Firgaard) is the Iskari, a legendary dragon slayer, feared by everyone who encounters her. The Legend of the Iskari is that she is a child of blood and moonlight, the bringer of death and destruction. She is due to marry Jarek, but her father offers her another option: bring him the head of the first dragon and he will release her from her promise. This leads Asha on a journey of discovery as she endeavours to fulfil her father’s wish and free herself from her fate.
So why didn’t I love it? For the most part, I found it a slow story. It wasn’t as fast paced as I expected from the blurb and there are times when a lot of storytelling is devoted to not a lot happening. For me, all the action and the interesting development happened towards the end of the book, and it took me a long time to get there. I won’t say it wasn’t worth it: the ending to this novel is something magical, but I do think it could have been better paced.
I didn’t like Asha. I’m sorry. I found her moody, elitist and often unlikable. She seems to object to people treating her as a thing to be feared, and then loses her temper when a slave doesn’t fear her appropriately. Sometimes she treats the skrals (slaves) with kindness and compassion, but at other times wants to exert control over them (whilst simultaneously complaining when other people want to control her). I didn’t like the way she frequently used “skral” as an insult, even as she appeared to be changing as a person. I found that her moods and position changed so much that it made me uncomfortable, as I never knew which Asha we were going to encounter.
I didn’t find the romance between Asha and Torwin believable at first. I couldn’t see why he was so attracted to her (early Asha is vile to him). He seemed quite pathetic to start with, although this did change as the story went on. Asha’s feelings towards Torwin were more believable: her hesitancy and the slow development of her feelings seemed in keeping with her character.
That out of the way, The Last Namsara, had some excellent features.
The stories of the Dragons and the old magic were brilliantly written. I loved these. I adored Kozu as a character and I wanted to see more of him and his interactions with Asha. The addition of storytelling as a powerful, old magic was wonderful; the stories were beautiful in their concept and the way they were written. The legend of the Namsara and the Iskari was a highlight of the novel for me.
Male control is a huge theme. Jarek wants to marry Asha because he wants to own the Iskari: “He wanted her the way he wanted the most lethal of sabers or the most hellish of stallions”. He doesn’t love Asha, he just loves the idea of being married to the most feared woman in the kingdom and being able to control her. He made my skin crawl. He has no redeeming features at all. He designed Asha’s wedding dress purely to make her wear something that she needed him to get her out of, giving him the control over her state of dress. What kind of man does that?
Dax (Asha’s brother) provides a stark contrast and I wish we had seen more of him. He is kind, and I found myself more attached to him than I was to his sister. I hope we get more of him in the second book.
Asha’s Dad was very interesting character and when we found out what he was doing in the background whilst Asha was out trying to get a dragon’s head (as you do), the story got really gripping. I was pleased that I’d persevered to this point, because the character development and story development at this part were outstanding.
Part of the ending I guessed at but part was a complete surprise and left the story in an excellent place for the second book, which I will read because I do want to know how this story continues, I just hope the pacing of the second book is a little more exciting.