Last Dragon
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Last Dragon

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  120 ratings  ·  36 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...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by Wizards of the Coast Discoveries (first published 2008)
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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...more
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...more
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...more
Apr 19, 2012 Alex rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
May 31, 2012 Tim rated it 5 of 5 stars
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 4 of 5 stars
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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.
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.
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.
Sarah Castillo
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...more
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, "'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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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
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.
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.
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.
Glorious Ham
For deathbed reveries, I would recommend Bolano's By Night in Chile, or even better yet, Valente's Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams rather than Last Dragon.
I have a full review of this book over at my blog: . Well worth reading!
Someone else might like this book. I just couldn't follow it. The author's attempt at a lyrical, ancient saga feel got in the way.
Srsly, if you're having trouble falling asleep, then this book is for you, a perfect cure for insomnia, it puts you to slumber right away!

Great try but it just did not gel together. Worthy enough for a read but it could have been so much better...
Feb 17, 2010 Amanda marked it as to-read-have-already
Shelves: up-next
got this from amazon the other day- hope i like it as much as u guys did Simon and D_Davis!
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His first novel was plucked from a slush pile and went on to be #6 on'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
More about J.M. McDermott...
Never Knew Another (Dogsland, #1) When We Were Executioners (Dogsland, #2) Maze Death Mask and Eulogy Women and Monsters

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