Despite fantasy being infamous for creatures like dragons, I rarely see them crash onto the page with fire and teeth and wings in YA books these days, which is a devastating pity. Who doesn’t love dragons?
Then I discovered the gift to this world that is The Last Namsara. It not only promised dragons, but it whispered hints of a world where stories are forbidden, and girls are made into weapons and slave boys risk everything for the faintest taste of freedom. I was sold, right from the first page.
The Book in 3 Sentences
Asha is the king’s daughter, but she’s better known as an Iskari – a legendary dragon killer who is treated as a fearsome weapon instead of a girl. After making a mistake that costs thousands of lives, she’s working towards forgiveness by killing every last dragon before her forced marriage to a cruel commandant. Unless she strikes an incredible deal, trusts a soft slave boy, and uncovers the real reason she’s been told to kill all these dragons.
The Book is a Shout Out to All Dragon Lovers
I am a ferocious fan of dragons, particularly books where the dragons are revered and not always slain. Look, if they want to have a little nibble of a human, why not? Humans can be so disagreeable about a dragon’s snacking needs.
I was a bit cautious this would be a tale where the dragons were just enemies, but it presents us with a story that’s way more complex than that. Asha is tasked to slay dragons, yes, but she is also known as the Iskari, and the legend of making alliances with dragons is in her blood. However, she has a lot to do to overcome her fear and hate of them, which was forced unto her by her father because there is the secret that everyone knows and no one will talk about — if you tell an Old Story, you lure dragons to you
Asha also knows a lot of Old Stories. However, these stories are banned, and the death of dragons is a law. This premise immediately captivated me. Killing dragons are one thing, but banning storytelling? This king has got to go.
Get Ready for a Dusty World of Unforgiving Kings
The world immediately captured my imagination! It was so intricately crafted with lore and history and layers of ancient prejudices and secrets. Amongst the chapters where Asha tells her story, there are little backstory snippets about the gods and legends of their world, or about things that happened in the past that have shaped Asha’s future today.
Usually, I skim little inconsequential tidbits like that (get me back to the action), but for this book, they were so captivatingly written that I loved the backstory nuggets just as much as the main tale. The fact that telling stories is a form of magic also resonated with me because yes, I always knew this. There is nothing so quietly powerful as a good story.
The world was unique as well as threaded with cultures we can recognize from our society. It felt dusty and ancient, with their histories stretching far off the page, and their palaces sporting hidden rooms and immense secrets
The king keeps slaves, and their captivity is grueling and chilling to read. A slave cannot even touch their master without risking death, and the brutality of how they’re treated was crushing, to say the least.
Asha isn’t fond of slavery, but she wouldn’t dare say anything against her tyrannical father. She would never speak to a slave either, which is why she doesn’t understand when one slips into her life and takes up space in her lonely story. Say hello to Torwin! Our lovable slave boy who knows more than he’s letting on.
Asha is the Kind of Heroine You’ll Love and she’s Totally Terrifying
Asha stormed onto the page with enough weapons to take out an army while wearing dark boots and knowing the secrets to dragon slaying and storytelling — and she won my heart. She could’ve fallen into the stereotypical YA fantasy heroine trope of “cold, unfeeling girl with as much depth as a shallow spoon,” but she didn’t!
She keeps her emotions in check and a cold mask in place, but she is indeed a girl of wishes and anxiety. She caused a terrible event in her world, and she can’t forgive herself for it. She longs for freedom as vast and endless as the blue sky, and she chafes at the way she’s bound to her father’s command. She doesn’t want to marry this viciously cruel captain in her father’s army, and she doesn’t honestly want to slay dragons. So when her father offers her a deal to kill a specific dragon in exchange for her freedom? She’s going for it. However, at what cost, Asha?
Even the secondary characters easily won me over, with her brother Dax, who seemed to be dyslexic and, scorned by his iron-fisted father since Dax is too soft and playful, and her cousin, Safire, who has slave blood in her and is therefore hated by the entire court but dearly loved by Asha. There’s also Torwin, the slave boy who won’t stop trying to help Asha, even if it might cost him his life.
A Slowburn Romance at its Finest
Asha and Torwin reminded me of Katniss and Peeta from The Hunger Games, and that’s a ship we all know and love for its contrast of personalities!
Asha is wickedly fierce and bitter, she’s scarred and carries a thousand sins on her shoulders and believes there’s no forgiveness for her. Her self-loathing keeps her from garnering any relationship.
Torwin has zero time for Asha’s hateful comments about herself. He is so soft and sweet, despite having a horrific time as a slave. They’re also never in a master/slave position, which can be problematic with unbalanced power dynamics. Instead, they’re thrown together and forced to rely on each other. Despite Asha developing some fluttery feelings, her first reaction is to punch Torwin and see if he goes away. They are adorable.
Who is this Story for?
It is for those who love dragons and those who are bewitched by storytelling and the magic of ancient tales. I adore how it seamlessly wove in messages of self-worth into an action-adventure book of tyrant kings and dragon queens and rebellions and teens who are not going to sit down and be trodden over.
There are knives and dragon talons and burns and punishments. Also, there is hope and quiet kisses and unlikely friendships. It is a book that says cultures can’t be erased and people will not be silenced. It’s so vehemently about love and hate and how they can twist and change you, and it leaves us with gorgeous lines like this: “Never forget — you are not what you’ve been told you are, you are what lies within you.”
About the Author
CG Drews is a YA book blogger with the goal to read every book in existence. She’s aiming for immortality for this. When not reading, she writes novels and blogs at paperfury.com.