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Last Dragon

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3.51  ·  Rating Details  ·  144 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
The debut of a brilliant new voice that will change the fantasy genre forever.

An intricate web of stories weave together to tell a tale of revenge, justice, ambition, and power. Zhan has been sent to find her grandfather, a man accused of killing not only Zhan's family, but every man, woman, and child in their village. What she finds is a shell of a man, and a web of decei
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Paperback, 400 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by Wizards of the Coast Discoveries (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 500)
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Simon
Jan 05, 2010 Simon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I don't know if reading this book in the depths of winter was a good idea or not but it certainly brought it home to me some of what the characters must have been feeling wandering the snowy wastes and mountains in the second half of the story.

I say second "half" as if there is any kind of structure, beginning, middle and end. Which belies the fact that this is probably the most fragmented story structure I have ever read although, I have to say, it is by design. The narrative consists of fragme
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John
Dec 31, 2009 John rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-fantasy, 2009
Last Dragon is a collection of letters written by Zhan, a quasi-delirious empress on her death bead, that recounts, in nonlinear fragments, the story of how her hunt for her grandfather - who murdered most of her family - got her embroiled in a war pursuing a far-reaching political gambit.

There is much to love in this book's approach to fantasy: a thoughtful depiction of shamanism and naturalistic magic, a fascinating take on golems, well-worked-out politics and history, an interesting urban se
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Judah
While the basis of this book is quite familiar territory for anyone whose ever read fantasy (country bumpkin goes on a quest and discovers larger destiny in the world) the way it's handled is refreshingly new.

Some may find themselves turned off by the way the pages/chapters jump time and space with no warning, but if you give in to the flow of it, it's easy to follow after a short while.

Some parts did lack clarity, I have to say. Whether this was intentional, due to the style of the book, or due
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Alex
Apr 19, 2012 Alex rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Alex by: D_Davis
Shelves: fantasy
The Sci-fi Fantasy field is so overburdened with epic tomes and traditional genre fiction that – as good as much of it is – whilst genre fanatics devour the next instalment from their favourite commercial author, the literary, clever, or the beautiful tend to get thrown onto the curiosity pile and allowed to sink without a trace. I've read reviews of McDermott's “Last Dragon” that, whilst they praise it as a good novel, hardly recommend it unless you enjoy “literary fantasy”. Supposedly this is ...more
Tim
May 31, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
I was talking to some people I work with and I asked them if they read. I received a few hearty responses and I asked them what they liked to read. I know these particular two people do read quite a lot and when they asked me what I like to read, I replied “I read a lot of fantasy.........” I would have finished the sentence but I had a strange feeling someone behind me had died. I think the word “Fantasy” is a conversation stopper. When you are talking to people who read, but do not read fantas ...more
Daniel Swensen
Feb 09, 2012 Daniel Swensen rated it really liked it
Recommended to Daniel by: D_Davis
Shelves: fantasy
Reading Last Dragon reminded me of watching Andrei Tarkovsky's "Stalker." It's languid, dreamlike, and occasionally confusing, but the end result is haunting and compelling. The story of a dying empress told in epistolary, Last Dragon has the scope of an epic story without any of the traditional epic fantasy trappings. There are no huge battles, no action sequences, just hard choice and the bleak consequences they bring.

And "bleak" really is the word. I don't mean this as a criticism, but Last
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Jason
Feb 09, 2009 Jason rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
Much like the story itself, it's a little hard to find the beginning of a review on this book. There were a lot of things I liked very much about this novel, the author's first, which succeeds for the most part in implementing some very difficult storytelling techniques. Overall, though, I felt it reads more like the work of a very talented amateur than a professional author.

The novel is told non-chronologically, in the form of letters written by the dying narrator, Zhan, to her once-lover Esum
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Scott
Sep 09, 2009 Scott rated it really liked it
Shelves: in-my-library
I received an “advanced reader copy” of this through LibraryThing.Com. It was my first ARC. For a synopsis, I am borrowing parts, with my alterations, of a review by Michael Levy for Strange Horizons.

Zhan, an aging woman, perhaps an empress, is recalling her life in what we eventually realize are a series of short letters to a long-absent lover named Esumi. As a young woman, a member of a primitive northern tribe, Zhan was quite literally in the midst of taking her final vows as a warrior when
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Kristen
May 18, 2008 Kristen rated it really liked it
3 1/2 stars

J.M. McDermott's debut Last Dragon is one of the books published under the new Wizards of the Coast Discoveries imprint. Discoveries includes novels by new authors in all types of speculative fiction instead of just epic fantasy with settings outside of the Forgotten Realms universe. The goal is to publish more mature fiction that appeals to adult readers instead of the simplistic but fun stories that often end up getting adolescents hooked on reading fantasy. Far more original and ar
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Clarice
Feb 21, 2009 Clarice rated it liked it
Shelves: at-the-library, 2009
This book had a lot of story telling elements that I enjoy in fiction. The non-linear style, jumping through the story and back again, telling small details of the story and then expanding on it later. It's very much a print version of some hypertext stories I've read. I definitely have a bit of the "damn it! someone did it before me!" reaction. On the other hand, Hal Duncan did it before this person, but that's ok.

This book only gets 3 stars as there were a lot of loose threads left open at th
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Ryan
Jul 16, 2014 Ryan rated it really liked it
Last Dragon falls into a space somewhere between straightforward genre fantasy and literary fiction, which is probably why not too many readers have noticed it. The bones of the plot have a lot in common with the former: there’s a teenage girl, destined to become an Empress (which we know because she’s writing an epistolary from her older years), who leaves her nomadic people to seek blood justice against her grandfather, who has murdered her family and most of the rest of her village, then fled ...more
Jefferson
May 17, 2014 Jefferson rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
"I was the emptiness between the ground and the spear"

J. M. McDermott's Last Dragon (2008) is told by the empress Zahn Immur as she writes letters to her absent lover Esumi in which she recounts the story of the quest on which she embarked as a "violent fool" of a girl with her shaman uncle Seth, leaving their northern tundra steppe homeland for the southern island city-state Proliux, following in the footsteps of her murderer grandfather. In some ways, the book is a typical heroic fantasy genre
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Aaron
Aug 07, 2012 Aaron rated it really liked it
Probably deserves 5 stars just for its wonderful puzzle like narrative and insightful themes. My attention did wane slightly after the 1st half (a novel with such an unconventional structure can feel gimmicky after a while, maybe 50-60 less pages would have tightened it up a little) as the standard fantasy tropes somehow felt more tired when displayed in a literary frame rather than less. It has been constantly on my mind since finishing it last night, so it could yet get 5 stars from me.
Hannah
Jul 01, 2009 Hannah rated it really liked it
This book kicked me right in the butt. I am one of those people that stalks through bookstores throwing random books in my arms and I don't know what I was expecting when I first picked up The Last Dragon but I think whatever those expectations were they were probably exceeded. Yes, sometimes the time jumps DO get annoying but the style in which it is written hit me like a punch to the gut. I'll be watching for more J.M. McDermott books in the future.
Owen Norris
Nov 30, 2015 Owen Norris rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
As a mostly high fantasy reader, I've never really gotten into the world of literary fiction. As such, this began as a difficult book to read. However, after overcoming the initial shock of its epistolary first person narrative, I became drawn into what is essentially a solid fantasy tale. The fragmented story telling provides a strong sense of the narrators character and, apart from a few oddballs, is relatively easy to piece together. The characters are strongly represented through their decis ...more
Maria Haskins
Apr 24, 2016 Maria Haskins rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Last Dragon is a beautifully written, often mesmerizing tale of Zhan, a warrior turned empress, who is looking back on her life and her journeys throughout the lands. Death, loss, revenge, and betrayal haunt her steps, as the tale meanders like a river through the landscape of her past: passing through villages and cities, landscapes, dreams and nightmares, battles and moments of joy and happiness (though these are often brief). This is not an action tale, rather it's a half-lucid, half-deliriou ...more
Jon
Nov 20, 2008 Jon rated it it was ok
This book was thrust upon me by a man in a coffee shop outside of the Austin Convention Center who turned out to be the author.
Janet Ursel
Jun 10, 2014 Janet Ursel rated it really liked it
What impressed me about this book is that it pulled me in, despite a format that normally does not appeal to me: the puzzle-piece approach. Bits and pieces of the dying Empress's memories are fed to us without context and it is up to us to fit them together, although it becomes apparent after a little while that we are mostly following two fairly chronological timelines, starting at two different points in the past. I don't normally have a lot of patience for this kind of thing, but McDermott ma ...more
Sarah Castillo
Jul 24, 2011 Sarah Castillo rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
Interesting, fun, a little difficult.

The cultures inspiring the peoples are non-western, so that might be a little difficult for people who are used to the very western-centric castle/sword type fantasies.

This book is almost never funny, at least not on purpose. Its a collection of sad stories about people in pretty crappy situations. It's a story about the forming of a new empire, but you never really know what that new empire is.

Not everyone is going to like this book. I think I would only rec
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Cat
Jul 09, 2011 Cat rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wishlist, favorites
What is life besides a series of memories? And, really, do you remember the order your memories belong in? Which part came first, what happened most recently? Some of it is clear, but most of it is a jumble, things coming back in pieces, a little bit of everything at a time. This is how Zhan tells her story. It is a series of letters written by a dying women. She is trying to remember, only, "...it's all mixed up in my head. I [Zhan] can't separate lines from lines, or people from people. Everyt ...more
GUD Magazine
"Last Dragon", published as the first of the Wizard of the Coast Discoveries, is like no Fantasy novel I've ever read. It's non-linear, told as a series of letters? reminiscences? campfire tales? that flit about events and times yet slowly and inexorably bring the reader to the book's conclusion.

To sum up the principal narrative, primary narrator Zahn is on the verge of qualifying as a Rider, a warrior who fights on bison-back, when news comes that her putative grandfather has murdered her mothe
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Zivan
Jan 06, 2016 Zivan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is perhaps the most well written Fantasy Novel I've read.

I'm most impressed by how much stays a mystery in a Novel where the ending is revealed on the first page.

The none linear style of writing keeps you on guessing as well.

Despite dealing with war and empire the story stays personal and keeps you caring about the characters.

This is a low magic world and is driven mostly by the Mythology and Ethos of the cultures involved.


Mommyc
Mar 11, 2015 Mommyc rated it it was ok
While I could piece the story together from its disjointed parts, I kept asking myself, "What is the point of all this? Where is this going?" About halfway through the book I quit because I still couldn't answer these questions, and there seemed no compelling reason to keep reading. I found no characters with which to sympathize, and was not interested in what happened to them. Jumping around between periods of time in the story was worse than getting in the Tardis with The Doctor. What was the ...more
Inda
Aug 19, 2012 Inda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend let me borrow a lot of books and she has a wealth of fantasy and speculative fiction. I decided to read this book without knowing much about it. There seems to be too much focus on style as if the intention is to win an award for doing something that is supposed to be original. However, the characterization suffers for it and I found myself not really caring about what they went through. Also, the author relinquishes the stream of consciousness style toward the middle of the book to foc ...more
Laura J
Mar 29, 2010 Laura J rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
After spending so much time with "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" (which I loved by the way), and other books that are kind of just entertainment with no real meaning besides "LET'S HAVE FUN!" behind it, it was almost refreshing to read something like "Last Dragon."

Unlike most of the other books I have read in the recent past (just finishing the second book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (another great book)), there is nothing funny about "Last Dragon." While it is entertainment
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Nadine
May 21, 2012 Nadine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not usually a big fan of sci-fi, but I thought I'd give this one a try and do not regret it.
Not exactly sci-fi anyway, more fantasy than anything.

The author manages to create an enchanting and cruel world. The narrator, a young female Shaman, leaves her village with her uncle in order to catch her grandfather (his uncle) who fled to the unknown territories of the South after slaughtering her entire family. It is difficult to tell more without spoiling the story. It involves dragon slayers, palad
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Lauren
Apr 23, 2010 Lauren rated it it was ok
The novel is presented in an interesting fashion - through the memories of a dying woman as she writes letters to a former lover. The only problem with this, as with anyone that tries to convey their story as they die, is they don't follow a linear path of thought. One page you may find yourself reflecting on the past, the next would jump to the future, only to go back to the past, then present, etc. It almost made me want to tab each page so I could read it in an order that made more sense to m ...more
Matt
Dec 30, 2009 Matt rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book - its brave, different and unique.

In the end I enjoyed it and admired it but couldn't get further than that...

For me; there were just too many points where the form/style/structure of the writting intruded into the reading experience i.e. instead of being absorbed in the story I was thinking about how the portions had been split up and mentally re-assmbling them into some other order.
Tomi
Oct 14, 2008 Tomi rated it it was ok
Shelves:
Took a while to "get into" this one. Now that I'm halfway through, it feels like a braided, cohesive story instead of 3 or 4 different threads. Really different. Will write more when finished.
Joy
Feb 18, 2012 Joy rated it liked it
Great world-building, though the story is a trifle disjointed at times. Some of that is intrinsic to the style (death-bed retrospective) but it works better in some spots than in others.
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His first novel was plucked from a slush pile and went on to be #6 on Amazon.com's Year's Best SF/F of 2008, shortlisted for a Crawford Prize, and on Locus Magazine's Recommended Reading List for Debuts. His short fiction has appeared in Weird Tales Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Apex Magazine, and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, among other places. He has a BA in Creative Writing from the Univers ...more
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