The Last Slayer
Sometimes I read a book and I’m left wanting more. The Last Slayer was one of those books. Nadia Lee’s world of demons, demon hunters, and dragonlords was convincing, and I’m so glad that it’s part of a trilogy because I can’t wait to read more about Ashera’s quest. This is one of those books that will appeal not only to fans of urban fantasy, but also to those who enjoy more traditional fantasy reads, so if you’re in either one of those categories, you are in for a treat.
On the urban fantasy side, this book is told in the first person from Ashera del Cid’s point of view – and she has a wry, snarky voice as narrator. Ashera del Cid works as a demon hunter for her foster family’s business. And when it comes to removing incubi from dreams, she’s one of the best. In her own life, Ashera is the comparatively plain one in a circle of glamorous people, but she derives a great deal of confidence from her skill and has a good enough life that she doesn’t particularly want to have upended.
However, on the heels of a very unsettling demon encounter, she winds up on a job that will soon change her life and bring into question everything she thought she knew about herself. Ashera goes with several others on a protection detail at a meeting involving dragonlords. We learn early on in the book that the slayers, whose power once checked that of the dragonlords, were wiped out some years ago. Therefore, Ashera feels uneasy about this meeting because she knows that she and her colleagues do not have the kind of abilities necessary to control the situation should the dragonlords try something. As the meeting progresses, a dragon unleashed by one of the dragonlords endangers everyone and Ashera ends up killing it. This display of power shows that Ashera is not who everyone else – including Ashera herself – thought she was.
Not only does Ashera question her own nature and abilities, but she also must flee because the dragonlords now want to hunt her down. At this point, a mysterious demon, Ramiel, that Ashera met while on a demon-hunting job, shows up again. This time he tells Ashera that she is in fact a dragonlady, and that she must fulfill a quest before she can take her dragonhold. With dragons and a dangerous quest, the second half of this story mixes elements of high fantasy into the urban fantasy tone set in the first half of the book. The result is one that works quite well.
Ashera sometimes comes off as a spoiled brat, but her reactions make sense given what happens to her in a relatively short span of time. Not only does the discovery of her abilities put her in danger, but she learns that she is not who she always thought she was. Worse yet, the only one she can even try to trust is Ramiel, and she knows from the beginning that he’s been withholding information from her. Even when Ramiel finally tells Ashera more about who she is and the quest she must undertake to claim her dragonhold, how can she really be certain he’s telling her everything? This tension between Ashera and Ramiel adds a lot to the tone of the story, as does the relationship chemistry between the two. Ramiel remains a fairly mysterious character even at the end of the book, but readers learn enough about him to make him seem appealing and intriguing rather than distant.
Just as Ashera and Ramiel’s relationship is complex, so too is the worldbuilding in this story with its hierarchies of dragons, demons, and magical powers. The author does a good job of showing readers how her world works as the story moves along, rather than providing long, boring info dumps at the beginning. I appreciated this because it made the characterizations and progression of events feel more natural. Ashera makes a transformation partway through the story that seemed unnecessary in some ways and that jarred me out of the story a bit. In addition, readers should be warned: This book is the first in a series and it is obviously not meant as a standalone. Though the story does come to a good ending place, readers should not expect to see all loose ends tied up at the end of The Last Slayer. There is obviously more to come for Ashera and Ramiel.
Even if I did have the occasional quibble, I greatly enjoyed reading this book and can’t wait to get my hands on the next in the series. This book contained plenty of twists and turns and I’m curious to see what else lies ahead for Ashera as she continues her quest.