The Last Faoii by Tahani Nelson (BOOK REVIEW) 5/5
Triumph. If I had to describe the feeling of The Last Faoii in one word, it would be that. Like the swell of an orchestra, The Last Faoii has powerful emotional tones in it, beautifully put together. Ms. Nelson has a clear understanding of what makes a good story, of how to form story arcs and character development. I knew very early on in the story that I was in for a treat. It had a strong start, emotionally devastating for the main character, Kaiya, as her monastery was attacked and her life changed forever. Beware of spoilers for this review.
To start, I have to admit that I had a personal love for a subtle detail in this book: The relationship between Faoii women and their partners. As a woman who is dating a woman, I immediately took note of the love Kaiya had for Molly, her partner- and later connections between other Faoii women and their partners. It is never expressly said to be romantic, but that’s the vibe I get: A strong, true love vibe, whether it’s romantic love or not, and a very strong bond. Loss of that bond was a recurring theme, from death to insanity causing rifts between this sacred connection. It was one of the things I connected to the most, drawn to how serene the life of a Faoii is- the ties that bind them, the songs that heal them, the warrior chants that bolster them. I suppose it was the entire order of the Faoii that I enjoyed. I loved the ingenuity, what they stood for and how they lived. It’s a fascinating concept, immediately drawing me into the lore of the world. It’s difficult to balance a fantasy story’s history in a way that will inform your readers while not boring them- but it was pulled off here.
I also loved Kaiya’s relationship with Tendaji. I won’t spoil it, but the two of them add another layer to the story that I adore, giving deep emotional moments as they get closer. In fact, Kaiya’s rise as the leader of a rag-tag band of rebels fighting against the Croeli, is another aspect I truly loved. The growth of them being uncertain and distrusting of her, to growing respect for her and devastation when she fails along the way, is done quite well. I feel like The Last Faoii has a wonderful line up of story beats. There was never a moment that I grew bored or a moment where I lost track of what was happening with the characters. It’s a solid military fantasy read, more than I expected it to be, and I scored it very highly as a result.
Most of what I use to determine a great novel is what symbolism I see. The end of The Last Faoii, I thought, was stunningly symbolic and well thought out, and I thought the message was done well. There’s a purpose to reading this novel, and a lot to take away from it. That was the last straw that pushed it to a 5 for me, though I found the end slightly abrupt. I’ve started the sequel, Faoii Betrayer, and I am excited to see if I find it as well written and planned as the first. Truly a terrific series to read, I would highly recommend it.