Reviewed by: Beth
Rating (out of 5): 4.5 stars
Asha is the daughter of a king—but few would dare call her “Princess.” She is fierce—she is the dragonslayer. Her own father set her on that path to save her, and the kingdom, from the ravages of the dragons and their stories, having had his wife killed and his daughter burned by them. Now, with only the last, most powerful dragon remaining, Asha is given a bargain by her father. Kill the dragon and earn her freedom from a detestable marriage. Fail, and suffer the consequences. Neither of them realize the ultimate cost of that bargain—the lies that will be unearthed, the lives that will be destroyed, and the war that will come.
The setting is the city of Firgaard, a sort of medieval throwback, complete with slaves and, of course, royalty. Forest surrounds the city, and the city itself is nothing remarkable, other than the history of its burning, caused by dragons. It has been rebuilt, but is still–and always–in danger, as long as the dragons exist.
The characters, however, are far from standard. Asha, of course, being the strongest of them all. The kicker is that she knows she is strong in some ways, but has no idea about the others—and it is those other ways that much of the story revolves around. As the author said,
“I [have always] desperately craved stories in which young women got to wield weapons or go to war or be fierce. I didn’t realize it then, but what I was looking for were girls breaking out of a cultural script that dictated who and what they could be. I was tired of the narrative that said women were inherently weaker, inherently victims. I didn’t see myself that way, nor did I see the women around me that way.”
…and that is Asha. She is not perfect, but she does her best and she is determined to be the master of her own destiny, even if that means unearthing a secret that might destroy everything she’s ever believed. Her cousin is another strong female character, though in a far different way…something that Asha eventually comes to appreciate. The other characters all have their own strengths and weaknesses, though Ciccarelli does an excellent job with all of them.
The story is sort of a combination of Eastern/Western cultures, and it works quite well. In others’ hands, it could have been disastrous, something that ends up patronizing one or both of the cultures. Here, they blend together in a way that is something new and different, something ‘better’ than either of them would have been alone in the story. When you put that together with the beautifully written characters, the story is elevated. My first thought upon finishing the last page and closing the book was, “I’m so glad there’s going to be another one!”.
The Last Namsara is the kind of book that I look forward to—a wonderfully crafted story that upends the far-too-typical script that women need saviors in order to thrive or flourish. Instead, Asha demonstrates that we all have our own power, if we only learn how to wield it.
Sexual content: none