THE LAST NAMSARA | Kristen Ciccarelli
Series: Book 1 (The Iskari series)
Pages: 432 pages
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
“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…more“
I remember seeing this book at a book festival in LA a few years back and I immediately added it to my to-buy list. But that list was already so long that I never knew when I’d actually get around to reading it. I’ve always been a bit bummed out that this book was placed on the back burner. So, it was a pleasant surprise to be offered a beautiful copy for review by HarperTeen!
Disclaimer: Thank you to HarperTeen for offering me a copy in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
At the time of this book’s release, there had been quite a bit of talk about this book’s Norse-inspired characters and premise. I believe I could see this influence displayed in the characters’ relationships with the dragons and in the careful establishment of lore and mythology surrounding fantastical creatures and primordial entities described in vignettes spread throughout the pages.
Although, to be honest, I didn’t really see much more than that. The descriptions of the settings varied and didn’t necessarily hold a specific identity that correlated with Viking culture. However, the world that Asha lives in does hold a personality all its own and if expanded upon in the next few books, the setting could be rich with originality.
That’s not to be said that this book is lacking in originality. There are some interesting changes made to how dragons operate. Instead of being drawn to shiny things, they are drawn to stories. Instead of fire breath, they have fire breath that is ALSO toxic.
However, there are some tropes being played out, such as the chosen one and dragon riders, that fail to lend a fresh spin on the narrative. Regardless, I do still appreciate the story of the Namsara and Iskari.
Asha is a strong protagonist in that her position as a huntress and shunned member of society gives her an edge. And she is flawed, not just for her actions but for her personal beliefs and her treatment of others. Her character arc nicely acknowledges these issues and sets her on a path to betterment.
On the other hand, there are many moments where I had a hard time believing her to be a hardened warrioress. She can fight a dragon, but can’t win a fight against a human being. It’s a strange flex on her character, not one I’m completely on board with since I find it hard to believe that she can kill an armored, fire-breathing dragon but can’t defeat a fellow human fighter. And because of this, I found her to be mostly talk and not much action.
The romantic subplot doesn’t work for me at all, mostly because her love interest, Torwin, is a slave who is almost entirely defined by his position as a slave as well as his own personal interest in Asha. Without those two elements, it would be very hard to describe his character. Their connection felt a bit contrived because of his lackluster personality and if the author had focused solely on Asha and her relationship with her cousin, Safire, I would have been a bit more convinced by Asha’s motivations.
Without the romance, I think there was a far more intriguing story surrounding Asha and her family. Her close friendship with her cousin, her love for her brother and father, and her abusive relationship with her betrothed is a strong story in of itself and I think if the focus had stayed there with a bit more of a lean into the politics, the story might have seemed a bit less slow in some places.
There is one thing that bothered me more, though. I prefer antagonists/villains with several dimensions and so I’m never entirely satisfied with evil characters that are evil simply for the sake of being evil. Which is exactly how Jarek, Asha’s betrothed, came across. He was consistently abusive and horrible and I had absolutely no idea why the entire time. His backstory is pretty straightforward, and if there had been just one moment of humanity, I might have felt less frustrated with his character development.
Overall, The Last Namsara is an impressive debut from Kristen Ciccarelli. There were several aspects of the story that didn’t quite work for me, but none of those issues took away my enjoyment of the story. It was well-written and plays to the imagination, and even though it’s slow in some places, this book is a quick and entertaining read. I’m excited to see where this story goes!