Mostly, I stick to reading and reviewing fiction geared toward the age 30 and over generation. But occasionally something else appeals to me. So today, I am reviewing a book written for the middle school generation. Mind you, if The Last had not warranted 5 stars, I would not be posting it here on WWMB. So I hope you do not mind the change of pace!
About The Last
Byx is the youngest member of her dairne pack. Believed to possess remarkable abilities, her mythical doglike species has been hunted to near extinction in the war-torn kingdom of Nedarra.
After her pack is hunted down and killed, Byx fears she may be the last of her species. The Endling. So Byx sets out to find safe haven, and to see if the legends of other hidden dairnes are true.
Along the way, she meets new allies—both animals and humans alike—who each have their own motivations for joining her quest. And although they begin as strangers, they become their own kind of family—one that will ultimately uncover a secret that may threaten every creature in their world.
Review of The Last
According to the inside blurb, The Last is recommended for 8-12 year olds. I think it can be enjoyed by all ages but considering the amount of violence, I would actually recommend for age 12 and up.
First, lets start with a briefing on the socio-biology of the world of The Last.
The 6 governing races are the humans, raptiodons, felivets, terramants, natites and the dairne. The governing races can speak, make tools, learn, pass along learning and are capable of theurgy (magic). A human, the Murdano, excerts a great deal of power over all of the governing races.
Mezzitti are the species like wobbyks, starlons, and gorellis. They can communicate with the each other and the governing races, use tools, but they lack the ability to do magic.
Inferritti are the chimps, whales, crows, crickets and so on. They cannot communicate with the other species, use tools or do magic.
Now, I will first say that I loved this story of the last dairne, a dog-like sentient race that possesses the ability to discern truth. This ability is both appreciated and feared by the 5 other governing races. I don’t think it is much of a spoiler to point out that the gift is the basis of so much of the conflict in this story.
But the last dairne, Byx, is a young female. Her knowledge of the other sentient races and the dairne’s own skills is limited because her pack led a very secluded life. What she knows about the outside world is only through dairne word-of-mouth. She has no worldly experience whatsoever.
Early in the story, Byx saves a wobbyk in a daring feat, while at the same time escaping some humans that were hunting dairnes. Byx saved the wobbyk, Tobble, so honor demands that Tobble must save Byx three times. Mind you Tobble is tiny (but stout). It is this trip away from the dairne nest that sets in motion the events that will drastically change Byx’s life.
The hunters chasing Byx were being led by Khara – a girl that was masquerading as a boy and who also has a mysterious past. Later Khara will both save and capture Byx when Byx goes home to her nest and happens upon a group of the Murdano’s human troops massacring the very last dairnes, including her family. This makes Byx an Endling – the last of her race. The tragedy brings Khara and Byx together (and thereby, Tobble too).
It is a strange relationship between the human girl, the dairne and the tobble. Byx believes herself to be a captive, along with Tobble. Khara believes she is doing what is right for everyone. Since Byx doesn’t really have any other options, she doesn’t put up much resistance (well maybe a little). Still, the odd family always looks after each other and also looks for other opportunties.
There will be other additions to the family along the way, including Khara’s horse Vallino, the large cat-like felivet Gambler who would rather eat a dairne but refrains because Byx rescued him, and the thief who steals to feed himself Renzo.
As Byx gets closer and closer to Khara’s goal, the city of Cora di Schola, her despair increases, as does the danger. Cora di Schola will not be the last stop on the journey of this amazing group of characters.
Byx’s hand drawn Map of the First Colony, gives her hope that she is not truly the Endling.
While the story is aimed at the young, it is told in a very adult manner. I loved the characters the most, but the adventure is what kept me reading and will, I suspect, convince me to continue with the series.
Fair warning: There is no end of peril and action on this journey. It is not for the feint of heart!
Here is my WWMB adult observation: Why are the humans the bad guys? I guess, being a middle grade book, it is easier to illustrate possible extinction caused by humans, since in real life causes of extinction cannot be discussed without mentioning humans. As an adult reader of scifi and fantasy, I enjoy reading about other beings causing the big problems. Maybe because it makes the humans unite. Do kids relate more to fantasy characters like dog- and cat-like sentient beings. I am not sure, but the author seems to think so.
I won an advance copy from the publisher so that I could bring you this honest review.
Favorite Quotes from The Last
Because – Tobble
“You save my life, I must save yours three time.”
“Because that’s the rule.”
“But why is that the rule?”
“Because I have three tails.”
I frowned. “But that doesn’t make any sense.”
“I don’t make the rules. But I do obey them.”
a conversation between Tobble and Byx
“Let me just say this: you do not want to see me mad. I am a terrible sight behold.”
“I’ll bet you can’t do this.”
I turned my head to see his huge ears spinning like tiny cyclones, twisting and untwisting.
“Intriguing,” I said. “What purpose does that serve?”
“None whatsoever,” Tobble said with a grin.
a conversation between Tobble and Byx
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