Thursday, 5 January 2012

Book Review: The Last Slayer by Nadia Lee

Title: The Last Slayer
Author: Nadia Lee
Series: Book #1 in the Heartstone trilogy
Release Date: 26 December 2011
Number of Pages: 285 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Source: review copy provided by publisher through NetGalley
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon, Excerpt

Grade: 4.5 stars

Novellus superbus!
Goodreads appetizer: Ashera del Cid is a talented demon hunter, but when she kills a demigod's pet dragon, the hunter becomes the hunted. Her only potential ally is Ramiel, a sexy-as-hell demon. Now the two must work together to battle dragons and demigods...and the chemistry crackling between them.

Ramiel has his own reasons for offering Ashera his protection. He knows her true identity and the real reason the demigods want her dead. What he can't predict is how she'll react when she discovers he knew who she was all along...

Ashera is shocked to discover that she is the only daughter of the last slayer. To claim her destiny, she and Ramiel must join forces to face down danger and outwit their enemies. Only then will she be able to truly accept her legacy...

My Thoughts: Since I discovered Nadia Lee's writing in May I became one of her biggest fans. Her stories never fail to captivate and enchant me: Carnal Secrets was sizzling in intensity and A Happily Ever After of Her Own was original, funny and full of chuckle out loud wittiness, so I only tell the truth when I say that I had very (maybe impossibly) high expectations of her latest release: The Last Slayer. But it seems I was right not to worry, because once again Nadia Lee blew me away!

Ashera del Cid is not your usual heroine, she is plain, and is aware of the fact:
the best I could aspire to—with hours of professional help, mind you—was maybe a five out of ten. On my own, I was a solid three.
And due to her lacking physical beauty she really applied herself to be a great student (she went to the Stanford Academy of Mageship, yep :-) and then became the best hunter. She is independent, sassy, resourceful, with a dose of feistiness and bantering wit.
The problem with such people is that you can’t cure stupidity, not even with magic.
Hunts were great, but all the follow-up reports and forms? I was considering hiring a freelance writer to make stuff up. I mean really, how many different ways can you say, “I came, I saw, I killed”?
It paused, sniffing, suddenly unsure. “You’re not a hunter.”
“But still all bitch, baby.” I opened my guard slightly, trying to bait the thing. “Don’t you want to kill me? Suck my bone marrow or something?”

During one of her hunts she meets Ramiel, a stunning male specimen who oozes charisma and is plenty handsome with platinum-blong long locks! eww.. yes! That was my first reaction when I read his description: I usually don't like long hair on men, and blondes, or rather white-blonde platinum blondes even less, and yet somehow Nadia Lee managed to make Ramiel an irresistible and scorching hot hero with his intensity and unusual looks. Though I have to say his take charge attitude and confidence contributed in making him attractive. But of course Ashera being the independent and loner hunter that she is doesn't welcome his frequent apparitions:
I glared up at him. His presence was as welcome as a cockroach in a crème brûlée.

I simply cannot do justice to the undeniable and overwhelming chemistry and sizzling attraction between Ashera and Ramiel, so I can only say it was verrry intense and tell you that you absolutely have to read it to see for yourself, just a teeny bit which gave me goosebumps:
His magic touched my lips, opening them, and slipped inside. It wasn’t a physical kiss, but the sensation devastated me, drugged me with its potency. Even with the complete lack of physicality, there was a sense of intimacy that seemed to invite him into my very soul. Tell me you want me, his voice whispered in my head.

The secondary characters were all interesting and there is especially one whom I came to love a lot: Toshi, the totally adorable and original little fairy-dragon (or as Ashera calls him "Tinker-Wrym") who is one of Ramiel's servants, the chatelaine of his dragonhold, and the most humble, lovable and funny character:
Toshi lost a bit of altitude. “Ah…General Tso’s chicken, milady?”
He cleared his throat. “Could you…that is if you don’t mind, of course… I mean, it’s not your responsibility to instruct one as slow and ignorant as I—” he cleared his throat again, “—but…could you please deign to enlighten this humble servant as to who this general might be and where I can find one of his famed chickens?” His speech became faster with each word until he sounded like a chipmunk. 

Though The Last Slayer is marketed as urban fantasy, despite it being set nowadays, somehow I rather thought of it as contemporary fantasy. It is different from the usual UF stories as about 90% of the story takes place in an imaginary, fairy-tale-like place with magic gardens, enchanted forests and dragonholds instead of the nightly big city streets.

The rich and layered worldbuilding of The Last Slayer was spellbinding. Nadia Lee gripped and kept me fascinated with the nuanced and layered societal hierarchy, how there were different tiers and species of dragons (amphiteres, wyrms, drakes and wyverns) all with their very distinct physical traits and powers, and the political structure of the created world (how humans and the different kinds of supernaturals coexist) and of the complex alliances and traditions of dragonholds, triumvirates and slayers kept me riveted. Due to the colourful descriptions of the exotic and foreign places, the lush and strange plants and vegetation Nadia Lee wonderfully conjuring up a vivid picture of the setting.

It was not only the worldbuilding that was fantastic, Nadia Lee also created a complex plot and I can't wait for all the additional twists and turns we'll see in later books. The novel was full of action scenes which were fast paced and thrilling, and yet Nadia's descriptions captured the unusual beauty of sword fights:

We danced a complicated series of steps, leaving dark impressions on the grass. Most people don’t understand—they think you only need skill and a strong arm to use a sword. But it’s more a dance of life and death. Win, you live; lose, you die. 

Verdict: The Last Slayer was a very unique, highly imaginative and rich story which I found spellbinding and riveting. The universe Nadia Lee has created is breathtaking. I was blown away with the lush colours, rich and layered traditions and complex hierarchy of supernatural species in the story. At times I had to try to keep up with all the unfamiliar species and connections, but as The Last Slayer is the first book in the series I understand Nadia Lee had to include a lot of introductory information to lay the ground for the story. The Last Slayer is a wonderfully captivating, rich and colourful story that I enjoyed a lot, while I was reading it Nadia Lee took me to some faraway and extraordinary places and now my only complaint is that I have to wait long months before I can return and read more about Ashera, Ramiel and their fights! A smashing debut to a thrilling new series! 

Plot: 10/10
Characters: 8/10
Writing: 9/10
Ending: 9/10
Cover: 9/10 - at first I was a bit undecided on how I liked the picture of Ashera, but after having read the story I have to say, the cover is perfection! I especially love the gothic castle and the dragons! :-D

Buy it:

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