CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 6. . . . October 13, 2017
The Last Namsara is a standalone fantasy about a king’s daughter who slays dragons. When Asha was a young girl, she would tell stories that attracted dragons to her. After the dragon Kozu badly burned her and set fire to her city, Asha trained to become the Iksari, bringer of death, and she vowed to eradicate dragons from the land. The king has tasked Asha with killing the First Dragon and thus ending the power of the Old One. He also promises that, if she brings him Kozu’s head, she will be released from her betrothal to the commandant Jarek, someone she fears.
Asha has visions of Elorma, the First Namsara, a hero who once saved the kingdom. He offers her gifts from the Old One and tasks to fulfill. Thinking the gifts will help her kill Kozu, Asha struggles to complete the tasks in secret. But one of the tasks is to save a dragon. Asha is defying her father by following Elorma’s instructions, but she think’s it’s necessary in order to kill Kozu and be free of Jarek.
Asha intervenes when Jarek punishes a slave and helps the slave, Torwin, escape into hiding. Torwin is working with Asha’s brother Dax, who is secretly planning a rebellion against their father with the help of the neighbouring scrublanders.
Ultimately Asha learns that her father and Jarek have been lying to her about how she got burned; they manipulated her young memories to turn her into the Iksari and defeat Kozu and the Old One in order to preserve her father’s power. Asha partners with Kozu and joins Dax and Torwin in their rebellion. When the king threatens both Kozu and Torwin, Asha kills him. Dax takes the throne, and Asha and Torwin take refuge with the scrublanders. They know Asha is not the Iskari but the Namsara, the hero who saves her kingdom.
Ciccarelli takes familiar elements from many YA fantasies—the heroine skilled with a blade, the slave who becomes a hero, rebellion against dictatorship, dragons —and weaves them together with her own original mythology. She includes several stories as interludes, explaining something of the history and belief system of her world.
There is plenty of action and romance; the plot was somewhat contrived and predictable, but Torwin is a likeable romantic partner, and readers will cheer for Jarek’s defeat. The novel touches on the power of stories, the nature of sacrifice, the evils of slavery, without developing anything too deeply. It’s a fast, entertaining read with functional, if somewhat stilted, prose. There is enough violence to warrant caution when recommending to younger readers but nothing overly graphic. The Last Namsara is something to offer readers who eat up stories about fighting heroines and dragons.
Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three in Vancouver, BC.