Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Last Dragon” as Want to Read:
Last Dragon
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Last Dragon

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  171 ratings  ·  47 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
Paperback, 400 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by Wizards of the Coast Discoveries (first published 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Last Dragon, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Last Dragon

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  171 ratings  ·  47 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Jul 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009, sf-fantasy
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
Dec 25, 2009 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
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
Jan 25, 2010 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
Daniel Swensen
Feb 03, 2012 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
Feb 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
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
Jan 12, 2012 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
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: epic-fantasy, audible
This is a very interesting and quite unique book of literary fantasy that could also be categorised as epic fantasy. There is a lot of world-building (though not told in big chunks, but rather between the lines), and there are, inter alia, shamans, mercenaries, paladins, princes and even a dragon.

While the book's nonlinear storytelling made the story, at times, difficult to follow, I found it very realistic. Considering the storyteller is a very old person recounting the memories of her youth, i
Aug 25, 2009 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
May 07, 2008 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
Jul 27, 2008 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
Jul 20, 2012 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.
Jul 01, 2009 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.
Nov 20, 2008 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.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: apex-minions
I received this book from the Apex Book Minions program for an honest review.

TRIGGER WARNING: Talk of rape, Romani slurs, abuse

Honestly this book was a confusing mess to me. It jumps around in time and between people on occasion to where I just couldn't put the pieces together.
FIrst of all I don't really know who the main character is. I think her name is Zhan, but I'm not sure. I think she might be white, still not sure. Maybe Adel was?

As for diversity this book feels like it was using a check
May 17, 2014 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
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-20, fantasy
It's a shame that this book has such a generic title, because it is the bellwether by which I rank all fantasy fiction. It has the most poetic prose in the genre since Lord Dunsany. It is mature, bold and insightful - the exact opposite of most fantasy. Forget your Martins and Sandersons and Rothfuss. If you're looking for the best of what the fantasy genre has to offer, this is it.
Jun 19, 2011 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, "'s all mixed up in my head. I [Zhan] can't separate lines from lines, or people from people. Everyt ...more
Jul 16, 2014 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
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
Maria Haskins
Apr 09, 2016 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
Sarah Castillo
Jul 24, 2011 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
Owen Norris
Nov 19, 2015 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
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thrust unwillingly to the role of shaman and apprenticed to her uncle Seth, Zhan and her uncle travel in search of Zhan's fugitive grandfather. Zhan meets up with the paladin Adel and they along with, Seth and his lover and a mercenary travel to find Zhan's grandfather. Zhan, an empress now who is dying and relating the story of her younger life in a disjointed, dream-like, and unchronological letter (or letters) to a former lover, may not be the most reliable narrator. I got the feeling there w ...more
Aug 19, 2012 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 24, 2010 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
Oct 08, 2008 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
Janet Ursel
Jun 10, 2014 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
Feb 27, 2015 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
Apr 16, 2009 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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Dusk (Tales of Noreela, #1)
  • Thunderer (Thunderer, #1)
  • Out Of Space And Time Volume 1
  • Sinai Tapestry (The Jerusalem Quartet, #1)
  • The Song of Synth
  • Shadowbridge (Shadowbridge, #1)
  • Singularity's Ring
  • The Harlan Ellison Hornbook
  • The Tourmaline (Princess of Roumania, #2)
  • Terraplane
  • The Shard
  • Firefly Rain
  • Maledicte (Antyre, #1)
  • The Scar
  • A Book of Tongues (Hexslinger, #1)
  • The Dragons of Babel
  • Physiognomy
  • The Collector's Book of Science Fiction by H.G. Wells
See similar books…
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
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »