Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Series: Iskari, Book One
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Hardcover
Published: 12th October 2017
Number of Pages: 432
Book: For Review* 
Genre:  Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Adventure, Paranormal, Mythical, YA
Recommended Age: 13+
Contains: Violence, Death
Author's Site: Kristen Ciccarelli

Blurb From Goodreads:
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.

“The old heroes were called Namsara after a beloved god, he said.  So she would be called Iskari, after a deadly one...”
Once there was a girl who was drawn to old stories.  The stories with power.  The stories the dragons craved.
She told stories to Kozu, the first dragon.  And he grew to crave her, too.  But when she refused to tell him another story, he grew angry with her.  He burned her with his fire and then he destroyed much of her kingdom, killing many of her people.
It was all Asha’s fault.  She should have known better – after all, the old stories killer her own mother.  
Now, her people loathe her and to restore the honour she lost the night Kozu’s fire scorched her people, Asha goes out and hunts dragons, bring their heads to her father, the dragon king.
But that is not enough to redeem her.  No, she must now marry Jarek – a cruel man she despises like no other.  There is no escaping the binding – until her father offers her a chance of escape: if she can kill Kozu and bring him the dragons’ head, she will be free.
But amid rising tensions and the defiance of Jarek’s slave, Torwin, can Asha find a way to save herself and her people?  Can the old stories reveal the truths that have been hidden for so very long? 
Anyone who knows me is all too aware of my dragon obsession.  They are my absolute favourite fantastical creature and I would literally sell my soul for a real one.  My mum actually calls me Hagrid from time to time due to my dragon mania.  So when I was offered a chance to read The Last Namsara, how was I meant to say no?  In fact, The Last Namsara has probably been my most anticipated debut of the whole year and the instant it landed on my doorstep, I just dived straight in.  And I fell instantly and irrevocably in love.  Because I’ve read a lot of books about dragons, but none like this.  The Last Namsara just pulled me under a spell – stories truly do have power, especially ones as magical and beautiful as this one.
Asha was such a stronger character – and my very favourite type of princess: a badass with swords and an axe.  To begin with, she was all kinds of broken – a hunter desperate for forgiveness, who could not forgive herself.  A girl who killed dragons to try and clear away the other deaths on her hands.  It would have been so easy to dislike her – but I never did.  Because Asha was brave and tough as nails and funny and so very alone it made my heart ache for her.  And then she goes on this journey over the book – I’ve never seen such character development in a single book and I just loved it.
Torwin – oh my sweet Torwin!  He was just the sweetest, loveliest thing and I spent a lot of the book just wanting to wrap him up in a hug.  He was loyal and devoted and kind to Asha, even when no one else would even look at her face.  
I just loved the two of them together.  I’ve never read a story where a princess fell in love with a slave – and I never thought I could love such a romance so much.  The two of them were just perfect together and I loved watching their relationship grow.  It felt utterly real to me and was just the sweetest, most wonderful thing.
I loved all of the minor characters too, especially Safire, who was just as much of a badass as Asha – maybe even more.  The child of Asha’s uncle and a slave, Safire was an outcast and seen as easy prey despite her royals blood – but she never let it break her.  And Dax was a really lovely big brother – a bit of a dreamer, he was kind and strong and quick witted.  Roa was awesome!  These two are the main characters in The Caged Queen and I’m so excited to see more of them!
Jarek was an epic arsehole – I loathed him, even when I felt pity for the boy who lost his parents to dragon’s fire and yet saved the girl responsible for their deaths.
I simply have to mention the dragons – even if I have to watch what I say for risk of spoilers!  The dragons in this book were characters in their own right (the main two especially) and they were written in such a way it took my breath away.  The dragons in this book can be terrible and destructive and ruthless.  But then so can humans.  And like humans the dragons can be so much more – and though they do not speak our language, they could tell stories of their own – such beautiful stories.
I absolutely loved the way Kristin wrote this book – I loved the main plot line and story of Asha and her journey.  And I loved the old stories interspersed throughout the book.  I can see why Asha was drawn to the stories – they were just so very beautiful.
This plot was just nonstop!  Just when I thought it was time to take a break and get some much needed sleep, a new twist threw me and simply made me read on.  Kristen will be responsible for many sleepless nights and her books are always going to be so worth it.
My god, this world!  The very idea that stories could hold such power – and that depending on who was telling the story and how it was told, each could be so utterly different.  As a book addict and a devourer of fantasy books, I know how powerful a story can be.  I know how a story can transport you to a whole other world, can let you be a dragon rider for a few hundred pages.  Alas, thus far stories have not called a dragon to me. I even read to my dog a lot of the afternoon (she’s recovering from surgery and is going a little stir crazy – reading to her seems to calm her down a bit) and no sign of a scaled friend for myself.  I’ll keep trying.
I don’t like slavery – I think it’s utterly abhorrent, as most do!  But I thought Kristin handled the subject in a truly delicate way, weaving the slavery of skrals into the story effortlessly and enabling yet more plot twists to cause my jaw to drop! 
If you haven’t guessed yet after reading so far through my long, rambly review, I absolutely adored The Last Namsara.  As a dragon lover, this book was heaven to me and I cannot wait to see what Kristin brings out next.  I’m especially excited about the second book in the series, which will focus on Roa and Dax – I loved both characters and can’t wait to get to know them better!  Kristin Ciccarelli is now added to my list of auto-buy authors – and The Last Namsara is one of my favourite books of 2017.  If you love dragons like I do or just want to read about a badass princess, please pick up The Last Namsara.  You won’t regret it!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go stand in nature and tell an old story to the world.  Because I just really really want a dragon.

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5 

Read this book if you liked:
Grisha by Leigh Bardugo
Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Gollancz in exchange for an honest review

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