Series: Iskari #1
Published by HarperTeen, Hachette Australia on October 3rd 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic, Romance
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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 dark—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 hearing 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.
Lured by the captivating cover, fantastical plot, and just dragons in general, The Last Namsara offers a great story but as a reader, just didn’t quite suck me in. I finished it to find out what happened and because the plot went pretty quick, making it a fast read. But I never really found myself connecting to the characters, nor the rebellion plot going on. I found the dragons an accessory of the plot more than anything, and could really have liked more interaction with them instead of hearing it explained from the main character Asha. I guess the two words I would use this book would be fun and flighty, a bit forgettable both during and after the read. Of course, I would still encourage fantasy readers to try this one out! The plot does add some interesting twists, if not ones we’ve seen before.
The book starts with the fierce main character Asha killing a dragon and taking its head to her father, the dragon king. Looking back, the world was adequately written but in ways felt like it was missing something. For the life of me, I could not name more than two locations if asked to recall them (and this is just after reading). Places aren’t quite named, instead being described as part of an area where a certain group of people lived. The politics mostly stay within the court, as Asha is set to wed an atrocious man that she does not want to wed. But because of her past misdeeds as a child, this wedding would only right a wrong… unless she kills the First Dragon, the one that left her with burn marks across her body. If she can deliver its head, she would be set free.
No one could know the truth: after all these years of trying to right her wrongs, Asha was still as corrupt as ever. If you opened her up and looked inside, you’d find a core that matched her scarred exterior. Hideous and horrible.
But things are definitely more complicated for that. For one, something is boiling within the people, such as her brother, who recently came back, and she can’t figure out what that is. Secondly, the First Namsara appeared to her in her dreams to guide and gift her with certain things for an unknown reason. And third, something is up – especially with the way a certain slave boy is acting around her. All of these are additions of the plot that lead toward a rebellion, but unfortunately I was never really a part of the story, if that makes sense. I never found myself caught up with it; it was never boring, just not… thrilling nor heart-pounding. I found myself a passive reader rather than one caught up with the events. The world is heavily guided by ancient legends of the past, which the current dragon king wants to get rid of. Asha’s initial beliefs are challenged after seeing the tides of change around her.
So: tides of change. There are some things that I feel like could have been fleshed out – or at least leave readers satisfied. Much of the action happens off the page. For example, Asha’s brother Dax has his own plan of motion set, and almost all of it was said, not shown. There were a lot of cool events that I would have loved to read about, bypassed in favor of Asha’s own story. This missing part of the whole story kind of left me wanting to hear from Dax’s perspective, or perhaps Torwin’s, the slave boy she finds herself falling in love with, or Roa’s, the scrublander who came to negotiate with the draksor people, or any other side character that had such a large role. There are a lot of characters that play such large roles, but their actual characterizations were skimmed through and left me a bit unmoved by their actions (which in all accounts, were quite courageous and bold. I just could never connect fully). Additionally, I hope in the sequel there will be more emphasis on the roles of dragon and we can see more interactions. There’s a big focus on old stories on the consequences of telling them, and I thought this and its connection to dragons could have been really explored.
It was how Kozu found her, lured by the old stories buried in her heart. Stories needing to be let out. It was how she almost destroyed the city.
The romance was interesting, although I could not say I was enamored of it or the love interest. Torwin definitely shows heart, but I can’t really say why Asha fell in love with him (I can see why the opposite is true though). Hmm, I guess I just didn’t jump on the ship or find it wildly romantic. Asha’s the only character whom I really felt anything towards in the book in general, aided mostly by her third person limited point of view. In the beginning she really sticks towards her father’s rules, but as the actions of the people around her lead to something more, she starts discovering a different perspective and asks if she grew up under a lie. Asha is definitely strong in both will and prowess, but she finds herself with doubts and insecurities – from her physical scars to the mental fear placed in the citizens who are scared of her reputation. But with newly-made friends and supportive, empathetic thoughts, Asha finds joy and acceptance within herself.
Sometimes while reading this book, it felt like I was looking at only a limited part of the story when so much happens beyond the screens, including some explanations. For example, regicide (killing the king) is illegal and is punished by the death of the killer. This is an ancient law that can’t be forgiven, but I’m left scratching my head and wondering how that is even carried out if there is a new king. Is it by the will of the people? Because that would be marked invalid with a monarchy – he could just rule that out. Is it by the Old Ones, the rulers that make up the theology/ideology of the world? I’m not sure how they could carry that out if they only appear to certain people, and if the execution has to be public. It’s these kind of missing explanations and details that leave me feeling like I missed something in an unintentional way. However, I would say this may be a “me” problem.
I guess I would say The Last Namsara was enjoyable while reading, but I never really felt like my heart was in the story. The characters, plot, and dragon-filled fantasy setting by all means should have captured my attention, but it just wasn’t there. The characters were all certainly likable, but I could not connect to them or their actions. The plot itself had nice twists that as a reader I appreciated, but it was something I never got actively involved in while reading. And finally, the dragon aspect just felt… incomplete. I savored the few interactions the characters had with them, and yearned for more. I’m still not sure if I’ll continue the series – I’ll have to see how the next book sounds like. I do know that the satisfying ending that leaves room for more was a pretty sound conclusion to close this story with for me.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins, and Hachette Australia for the review copy!
The Last Namsara is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$19.99.