Green Gloobies and Wumpires: a Review of Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

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Genre:
Childrens, Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication date: June 5th, 2014
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 160

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Blurb:

 You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is DON’T FORGET TO GET THE MILK. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back.
Featuring: Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and a perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.

The award-laden, bestselling Neil Gaiman, author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Stardust, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book and Coraline, brings his biggest ever publishing year to a spectacular conclusion with this gloriously entertaining novel about time-travel, dinosaurs, milk and dads.

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Fortunately, Neil Gaiman is a master of fantasy worlds bound to blow us away! I picked Fortunately, The Milk on a whim at a bookstore that was having a sale. The last book I read by GAIMAN was Neverwhere, which I loved. And Fortunately, The Milk did not disappoint me one bit.

“You have your milk,” he said. “Where there is milk, there is hope.”

Fortunately, The Milk is a perfect book for children and adults who want to experience Gaiman’s whimsical world in which humans and the non-humans reside together. The father, who looks uncannily like Gaiman himself, finds himself in a bit of a mess one morning after he goes out to get milk for his children’s breakfast. It’s a whirlwind of an adventure from then on with a good dash of dinosaurs, aliens, female pirates and space police!

The characters in Fortunately, The Milk are all so brilliantly written and Chris Riddell’s illustrations are gorgeous as always. My copy of Neverwhere was also illustrated by Riddell with equally amazing illustrations. You know you’re in for a wonderful time when these two men get together and produce something great.

Fortunately, The Milk is very short with only 160 pages and I wish there was more to it. But having a good short fantasy read rekindled my love for the genre and Gaiman’s writing. You’ll be blown away by the simplicity of the story and reminded of your childhood years where you spent hours reading about aliens, space adventures and time traveling mishaps!

A highly recommended read from me, in which I know this book will have you in for a great time.

Fortunately, The Milk is perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and those interested to dive shortly into his whimsical world. You’ll resurface wishing to read more of his works.

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Before Tortall’s Greatest Mage Came to Be: a Review of Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

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Genre:
Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date: February 6th, 2018
Format: Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 465

Series: The Numair Chronicles #1

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Blurb:

Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, readers will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.

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Oh my Lord, how boring Tempests and Slaughter has been. And I read all FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY FIVE pages just to make sure the entire book was terrible. Because you deserve an honest opinion, and here’s mine:

Skip this book. Read her other series. Anything but Tempests and Slaughter.

Never have I been mortified that a renowned Fantasy writer could be capable of writing something so dull and slow-paced with no action to the plot whatsoever and with very little character development. Apparently TAMORA PIERCE is famous for writing children fantasy. But her efforts in creating a series set years before the main character of her series makes a name for himself are met with extreme disappointment.

I’ve never read anything by PIERCE before. And so I am of the audience for this particular sentence in the blurb:

“Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a talented young man with a knack for making vicious enemies.”

Tempests and Slaughter is anything but unforgettable.

It is dull and surprisingly slow-paced for a YA Fantasy. Nothing about Arram and his two best friends, Ozorne & Varice, are memorable or even unique asides from the fact that they are the youngest mages in their university of magic.

The writing was nothing spectacular and the plot was pretty non-existent. Needless to say, I spent two weeks reading about a young mage who was told over and over how special his Gift is and how smart he is. When in reality, all Arram did was attend classes, befriended a Crocodile God and took care of a peculiar bird. Just when I thought something exciting was going to happen, the situation diffused very quickly and all was well.

PIERCE played it safe with Tempests and Slaughter. She might have hoped her reputation and ratings would make this book a bestseller. But honestly, the way the entire book was arranged did the exact opposite for me.

Maybe this book could be perceived differently for an avid fan of her previous series where the characters might bring fond memories to the reader. But for a first-timer of her works, Tempests and Slaughter was not my cup of tea. If you’re a first timer of her books, I’d suggest you start with her other more well-known series that The Numair Chronicles.

And I hope if you do decide to pick up the book in the future, you’ll enjoy it more than I did!

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Thank you Times Reads for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

Where Truth Requires Thorns: a Review of The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

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Genre:
Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Imprint
Publication date: September 26th, 2017
Format: Hardback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 281

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Blurb:

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

 

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“This goes to show you that sometimes the unseen is not to be feared and that those meant to love us most are not always ones who do.”

First off, I am not familiar with Grishaverse. I have never read LEIGH BARDUGO’s Shadow and Bone trilogy so reading The Language of Thorns was an entirely new experience. I don’t think it’s crucial for you to be familiar with Grishaverse, but I would expect you could have a deeper appreciation for The Language of Thorns if you were.

The Language of Thorns is a collection of 6 short stories from various regions in Grishaverse. I don’t often read short stories collection simply because I don’t like investing that much time in a story only for it to end so quickly. But The Language of Thorns was pleasantly entertaining. Its details in the fantasy realm of Grishaverse were very grotesque and intense, which I loved. Naturally, there were some stories which I thought were too draggy for my taste, but The Too-Clever Fox was one of my favourites in this.

The Language of Thorns ultimately tells the tales of unconventional characters and how your typical fairy tales shouldn’t end the way they did. It questions the typical happy ending of folklore we normally hear about, and turns the story around to bring a sense of uncertainty and curiosity. I love how this book shined light on nimble, presumably weak characters who at first glance, were thought to be the villains in this story or unfit to survive the tale. But as each story unfolds, strength is revealed within each character. And not only to survive the situation they’re thrown in, but to make something for themselves and change the story entirely.

“She had not been much to look at in her youth, and she knew well that only courage is required for an adventure.”
 

Now lets talk about those beautiful illustrations The Language of Thorns is so famously known for. Each tale brings a different feeling of euphoria and wonder as the illustrations develop with each page. I was blown away by how beautiful the illustrations were done. Details are added with each page turned, and you can’t help but to try to find hints to how the tale will end from each added detail. But that said, at the end of each tale, the illustrations develop into its final version revealing the ending. I would suggest you try to avoid this part before finishing each tale so as to not get spoiled!

If you need a reason to read The Language of Thorns, then let it be for these beautiful illustrations. The stories will no doubt amaze you, as Bardugo brings us on this exciting journey in a familiar land filled with curious creatures, magic and power.

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Where Beauty is Opulence and Death: a Review of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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Genre:
Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication date: February 6th, 2018
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Pansing Books
Page Count: 434

Series: The Belles #1

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Blurb:

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

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“May you always find beauty….”

Just like everyone else, I was stoked when The Belles came out. A brown girl on the cover, looking gorgeous and slayin’ it, no doubt is bound to be an epic fantasy read no?

Well, I have my reasons on why I didn’t exactly enjoy The Belles as much as everyone else did.

First off, the plot was excruciatingly slow. Is there some new trend in YA Fantasy where the plot takes 200 pages to build? Honestly, I haven’t got a clue how did I survive 200 pages where nothing happens and Camille, our protagonist wanders from client to client doing beauty work.

But despite a very slow start, I must admit the world building and writing in The Belles was very good. We’re introduced to a vibrant world of colors and jewels and extravagant customs that make the Orleansians such unique human beings. Being born gray and colourless, people of Orleans need to pay to get beauty work done on them in order to stay beautiful. Now, this is the most disturbing part of the book in my opinion. Constantly having to get beauty work done on you and trying to keep up with the latest trend….where have we heard that before? The Belles questions very well how media has played with the beauty image card for too long, leading to people not satisfied with their looks. This definitely made The Belles such an interesting read to begin with.

Asides from the world building and satisfactory writing, I don’t see what the hype surrounding The Belles is about. The protagonist is one of the least memorable aspects of this book, having so little to do with the scenes and not actually doing much asides from trying to figure out who she should please in the palace. It got a bit irritating when she did that one thing to someone, as if she’s weak when she was portrayed to be brave and a bit reckless from the beginning.

We were introduced to so many characters who played a crucial part in the ending of The Belles. Granted, these characters had very questionable traits in the sense of not being solid enough to give off memorable impressions. For example, I would have loved to know more of Belle history and of Camille’s other 5 sisters, but unfortunately the story revolved entirely on her adapting as the favourite Belle at the palace. Even her love interest fell bland for me, with no substance leaving me thinking “Good God, what does she see in him?”. But, if you’ll be reading The Belles for one reason, let that reason be for the princess. Her cruelty and savage personality is so delicious, she was the only thing I was most interested to read about in the end.

Overall, I wasn’t very impressed with The Belles but can see the appeal and why people are obsessed with the world CLAYTON has built in Orleans. I still think this is worth a try. Let me know if you’ve read it! Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 3.46.50 PM

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Thank you Pansing Books for providing a copy in exchange of an honest review.

A Dark Mysterious Fairy Tale Unravels in the City: a Review of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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Genre:
Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication date: February 8th, 2018
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Times Reads
Page Count: 359

Series: The Hazel Wood #1

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Blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.

To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began

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“Look until the leaves turn red, sew the worlds up with thread. If your journey’s left undone, fear the rising of the sun.” 

Well where do I begin. I read the raved reviews on Goodreads and the high ratings given. But within 200 pages in, I still couldn’t get into The Hazel Wood. And here are some of my reasons why.

The main protagonist of The Hazel Wood is Alice who lives on the run with her mother, Ella. She knows very little of her recluse author-grandmother, Althea other than the fact she wrote Tales of the Hinterland, a fairy tale book with dark, twisted tales inside. Little do we know, Hinterland proves to be very real and Alice gets sucked into its weird parallel world in order to save Ella, who went missing.

The entire plot fell very flat to me. All 357 pages of it felt excruciatingly painful to finish because it seems MELISSA ALBERT randomly puts Alice in various scenarios with very little finishing as an excuse for a plot. The writing and cast of characters were not as great as I expected a 4-starred-on-Goodreads book to be. Every chapter felt like an awkward transition for Alice, who throughout the entire book, floated around not actually doing anything. And it frustrates me because at a point in the book, Alice claimed to be smart and brave for she is Althea’s granddaughter. But her actions were far from brave or bold as there was always someone to save her ass from a messy situation. It became clear towards the end of The Hazel Wood that Alice can’t seem to function well on her own. Sparse scenes where she supposedly ‘thinks on her feet’ were too weak to make an impact in The Hazel Wood.

As if it wasn’t bad enough, The Hazel Wood just had to have the most annoying protagonist ever. I’m sorry, but Alice did not appeal to me in any way. Sure she came off as this angry, reckless teenager in the beginning, but she truly was without her own rational sense of mind. Alice was whiny, temperamental, and treated her friends who tried to help her terribly. Not to mention, it was a bit weak of her to start regretting her attitude when one of them had an accident. Also, her story did not develop fully in The Hazel Wood because it had such a shaky start. I wish Melissa Albert had given much thought to the type of protagonist The Hazel Wood should have. I truly despise books with female characters who cannot defend themselves nor have their own vision of what needs to be done in the story.

And it amazes me how she survived throughout the entire ordeal– oh wait, that’s because she had a bunch of other characters keeping her from actually dying. Silly me. Must be nice to have someone have your back the whole time without you having to think at all.

Overall, this was one of the weakest first novel in a YA Fantasy series I’ve ever read. I definitely will not be continuing the series. I still have no idea how Sony Pictures has bought the rights to making The Hazel Wood into a movie. You can give The Hazel Wood a try, and I hope you enjoy it more than I did!

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Thank you Times Reads for providing an ARC in exchange of an honest review!

Russian Folklores Come to Life in a Blistering Winter: a Review of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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Genre:
Fantasy
Publisher: Del Ray
Publication date: January 10th, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 410

Series: Winternight Trilogy #1

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Blurb:

‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

Atmospheric and enchanting, with an engrossing adventure at its core, The Bear and the Nightingale is perfect for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman.

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A beautiful fantasy narration based on medieval Russian folklore which will have you sucked in till the end.

The Bear and the Nightingale has become one of my favourite debut books of 2017. Katherine Arden is such an amazing storyteller, bringing and merging so many Russian folklores and giving a wonderful breathe of fresh air into it.

Off the bat, the world-building was one of my favourite things of The Bear and the Nightingale. As with all series tend to go, the first book is always a bit slow and Arden takes her time to build the world of medieval Rus’ and the village where we see our protagonist, Vasya, grew up. The world building was very detailed in my opinion, with various references to many folklores scattered throughout the book. You’ll feel a little bit out of place with the strange languages and terms she uses, but eventually you’ll get used as the book progresses.

From house spirits to lake wraiths, the extensive cast of characters in The Bear and the Nightingale is guaranteed to have you entranced for the entirety of the book. I got easily sucked in when the story introduced the lake wraith and the upyry (vampires), and things jumped to a whole new level when we start seeing Vasya’s connection to the spirits and guardians of the forest.

At times the book feels like a horror/paranormal book with the dark and medieval elements, and other times The Bear and the Nightingale feels like an amazing fantasy book with a kick-ass female main character. I can’t describe how much I love Vasya. Her fierceness and determination to believe in what she has faith in, even if it’s the opposite of what her people and priest tell her, is truly something we need to see more of in books nowadays. Vasya’s boldness and modern views are what give The Bear and the Nightingale its special quality. I cannot wait to see how she further develops her strength as the witch in the upcoming sequels.

“Am I a child? Always someone else must decide for me. But this I will decide for myself.” 

The only thing that felt a tiny bit confusing was the direction of the book. While the writing for worldbuilding was great, there lacked a clear sense of direction for Vasya. We meet several characters that seemed like the typical villain in the book, but instead they’re thrown into the grey area of humanity dealing with their own flaws. It wasn’t pretty clear until 250 pages into the book, what Vasya’s mission and the true villain appear to be.

Overall, it was an amazing read with wonderful fantasy and folklore retelling elements to keep you entertained. Russian folklores have always been an enigma for me, and for most of you guys too I assume, so The Bear and The Nightingale is a great book to start with. I highly recommend this book if you want something unique with no typical relationship/character tropes.

Did I mention how awesome Vasya is?

“Married! Not to retreat, but to be the mistress of a lord’s domain; not to be safe in a convent, but to live as some lord’s breeding sow.” 

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Thank you Pansing Malaysia for proving a copy in exchange for an honest review!

 

Dragon-Slayers and An Epic Rebellion: a Review of The Last Namsara by Kriten Ciccarelli

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Genre:
Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication date: October 3rd, 2017
Format: ARC Paperback
Source: Pansing Malaysia
Page Count: 416

Series: Iskari #1

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Blurb:

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.


Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend–a slave boy from her betrothed’s household–Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

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First off, let me begin by saying how much I truly enjoyed The Last Namsara. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this debut novel by Ciccarelli and reading this did not disappoint. There are few debut novels that can capture my attention so quickly like The Last Namsara.

“The old heroes were called Namsara after a beloved god, he said. So she would be called Iskari, after a deadly one.”

The Last Namsara has all the right amounts of female bad-assery, characters of both royalty and slavery descent, action scenes full of suspense and lots and lots of dragons. Oh the beautiful dragons. Those amazing creatures whom Asha, our main protagonists, kills as her job.

I loved how this book progressed in terms of its characters and the plot. Never did I feel bored while reading this and the impeccable writing made it all the more enjoyable.

One of the things I truly enjoyed in The Last Namsara is its wide range of characters bringing so many depths to the book. You have Asha, the dragon slayer, also known as the Iskari (Death-Bringer). Her brother, Dax, skral-blooded cousin, Safire, ruthless misogynistic bethroted promised to her since the age of 8, Jarek, and her father, the Dragon King. I found each character easily imagined and it was very easy to love Safire, hate Jarek and fall in love with Dax. The only thing I wished differently for the characters was for us to see more of these supporting characters. While I understand the first book tends to focus more of the protagonist, I think readers would have enjoyed reading more about Safire and Dax.

We definitely see more of Torwin, Jarek’s slave who eventually befriends Asha and shows her a different side to the slaves which leads to Asha having the biggest character development throughout the book. And I’m very happy the author did such a good job on it!

As for Asha, the plot of The Last Namsara played really nicely into allowing us to see her as this strong yet scared girl who’s haunted by a past mistake. With her fierce determination to redeem herself in the eyes of those who fear her, she takes on the task to hunt down The First Dragon, and consequently destroying all the old stories and the tragedies they bring.

As the story progresses, we see that what Asha previously believed and held strongly to may not be the entire truth. And how she opens her heart to the truth and learn to love was a brilliant journey to undertake. From an unemotional, fiercely loyal, strong female, we see her develop more loving emotions towards her brother, cousin and the truth of her past and the people around her.

“Iskari let others define her because she thought she didn’t have a choice. Because she thought she was alone and unloved.”

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I like how a lot of difficult and troubling issues were tackled in the book. From slavery to misogynist characters, the ending really addressed all of these that gave what the story needed: a strong voice to fight wrongs and let rights prevail. I was initially troubled by how disturbing the people of Firgaard is and Asha’s beliefs in the superiority of The Dragon King and people of Firgaard above everyone else. But how the story develops and what she learns about the real world allowed this book to have a life of its own.

The twists and turns at every corner is this book was mindblowing! Every few pages, I found myself surprised at the plot development, and how amazing the characters turn out to be. It wasn’t written in a rushed way where everything was crammed within 300 pages, but rather the plot had subtle hits which all adds up to the epic climax at the end. I applaud the author for writing, what seems to me, is a great plot.

Not to mention the dragons written in The Last Namsara were just so regal and majestic! Dragons come to life in The Last Namsara and we see them in all their glory despite Asha’s mission to slay them all. We see a side of them rarely seen in fantasy books and I love how well the author has made its readers connect with the dragons after Asha starts hunting Kozu, The First Dragon. For mythical creatures, it was amazing to feel how real the dragons were in the book.

Overall, The Last Namsara had all the right elements to make a first debut novel in a series shine. Great characters, great plots and amazing writing that grips you right from the start, this is a book you don’t want to miss out. .

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Thank you Pansing Malaysia for proving an ARC in exchange for an honest review!