I’ve enjoyed this author’s writing in the past and so I was pretty excited to see it get tapped as a finalist, assuming I would enjoy myself — and I did!
I found this interesting from the start because I have a soft spot for ecology/rangers/woodsy people. I spend as much time as I can just dicking around in the woods taking pictures and admiring wildlife. So, having a main character who’s job is to wander around the woods and keep the villagers safe from what’s in it appealed to me. It appealed to me more since the MC, Leiyn, and all the rangers prefer to do this in a non-lethal way. There’s a lot of unique-to-the-world flora and fauna which makes for a really good experience for someone like myself.
Leiyn’s got a lot of complicated and somewhat conflicting feelings and at the start of the book she has a lot of growing to do. Her mentor tells her not to be rash and not to be hasty/make snap decisions but she’s pretty stubborn and tries to trust her adrenaline over her brain sometimes — most of the time. She’s got a little bit of a tropey background in that she’s an orphan and she’s been raised by an organization/with a mentor guiding her and this and that. The book does go back in time for a few scenes to explain her past and why she’s so angry against the Gahst people (I audiobooked, not sure on spelling). You know from the start she blames them for her mothers death, and a number of purported atrocities against her people. Even her mentor can’t seem to sway her on this issue despite repeated rebukes and rebuttals against her beliefs.
One of her beliefs is that magic is evil, a shaman killed her mother and she’s had a thing against them ever since. So, it’s a little startling to her that she’s also able to use magic and tries very hard to keep it a secret. It’s also a pretty good idea not to spread that around as magic users are generally feared and hunted down either for execution or enslavement.
Shit goes wrong. Her ranger’s fort is ransacked and she’s left, you guessed it, as The Last Ranger. She tries to track down those who were at the encampment and finds them all dead. Now she has to figure out who did it, and even though there are signs pointing to the Gahst, there are signs that those clues are false, or red herrings.
Using a single pov can really hammer home a character and make them memorable, but it can also go awry if I don’t like the character. Never being able to take a break from a character I don’t like can make me DNF a book. Thankfully, I enjoyed Leiyn even if she could irritate and frustrate me. Not to mention her racism. She’s deeply mistrustful of the Gahst and a huge part of this book is her learning to overcome her mistrust and prejudices.
The stuff I found most interesting actually came at the tail end of the book, which makes it difficult — I want to talk about it but it would be pretty spoilery if I did. Suffice to say, magic kicks in big time at the end, and there are Krakens involved, and Titans. Shit gets real superfast. I liked despite how big things got at the end, it ending still resolved itself while leaving room for what’s to come next. It didn’t feel like I was ending in the middle of a scene or a cliff hanger, which I hate-hate passionately, lol. There were a few chance encounters that were a little too convenient, and some timing issues that seemed super convenient as well. Overall, though, I had a lot of fun with this one and I definitely recommend people giving it a try. The audiobook was fantastic!