This is an absolutely amazing first book in a debut YA fantasy trilogy! Hunger Games, Graceling, Incarceron and other favourite YA fantasy of mine have a new friend because The Last Namsara deserves a spot next to those gems on my print bookshelf!
I'm not going to tell you what this is about because you can read the blurb. Instead let's talk about things that make this such a wonderful read; but first I have to do some national pride gushing...
Canadian YA Fantasy
It makes me so proud that Kristen Ciccarelli is Canadian! As a fellow Canadian I try to read a few authors a year that are Canadian. I have never ever read a young adult fantasy book by a Canadian that was this amazing! Don't get me wrong there are some wonderful books and authors out of Canada but it's rare to find a teen author with this kind of talent anywhere in the world; never mind my own country!
An unusual, yet genuine love interest
My number one complaint in YA books is love interests. The insta-love, triangle, stunningly handsome boys, and over-the-top 'he's so hot' descriptions get boring after a while. Besides the real world is not like that! At 35 with a husband ( yes - I love him more than anything) I can say that you might have chemistry when you first met someone but that doesn't mean it's insta-love or even your life partner. So it's nice to read teen fiction that is realistic, and yet still sweet and romantic in a real life way.
In addition our main gals love interest is seemingly a very random character. Not someone super special or a prince or any of that crap. Just an average person dealing with the cards in life they've been dealt; just like a real life partner is bound to be.
Even though it maybe a fantasy world and story I still appreciate characters who are honest and realistic (magic aside) to what real people are like.
The Last Namsara has everything!
Seriously everything is in this book. Including betrayal, sketchy family, forbidden love, female warriors, dragons(!), magic, 'old' religion, poison, death, double crosses, loyal friends, gorgeous settings, elaborate architecture, cool weapons and so much more!
It's rare to read a YA fantasy that has all the elements of an amazing adult fantasy series. Yet Ciccarelli manages this without even needing 800+ pages.
While The Last Namsara is not overly complex, like Sanderson or Martin are, it doesn't need to be. With a full list of 8-10 characters who are all unique and complex, alongside simple yet awfully disturbing politics; I didn't feel like I was reading a 'lesser' novel at any point.
Still YA writing
Just like Hunger Games, the writing in The Last Namsara is for a teen audience but elevated enough that adults will still love it. If I have one critique of the writing it's that the first 20% or so of the novel is very YA feeling (but hey that is it's genre). However it quickly turns more to showing over telling and eventually the YA voice was irrelevant because I just wanted more! Given this is Ciccarelli's debut novel I'm more than forgiving of the slightly cliche YA sounding beginning.
In a league of its own
For those who remember earlier this year (2017) there was a ton of hype for: The Bone Witch, Mask of Shadows (both which I thought were decent 4 star books) and Caraval (which is awful!); it appeared early on we might have a stellar YA fantasy year. Yet none of these YA fantasy books really lived up to the hype they had. Luckily just as the year is ending I read the book that deserves all the hype of 2017 and more!
The Last Namsara could have had huge hype (which it didn't) and still have blown me away!! Proof that having a large marketing budget or bigger publishing house behind your book doesn't mean it's the best of the best. At the end of the day writing, plot, atmosphere, lore and characters are what really counts. Dragons help too!
In case you haven't figured it out I absolutely loved this book. I'm desperate for the second book; but will be patient because I want the next book to be as wonderfully put together as this one and it looks like the proposed publishing dates aren't too far away!
If you want to read a YA fantasy that isn't your average everyday YA story then pick up The Last Namsara. I finished it three days ago and can't stop thinking about it and replaying scenes in my head. Something I only have happen with books that are special and will have staying power. So do yourself a favour and read The Last Namsara; then purchase copies for everyone you know because you want the whole world to appreciate it like you do (wait maybe that's just me). I do know what everyone I buy gifts for is getting next (whether they like to read or not!).
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.