I neglected all cleaning and chores Saturday so I could finish reading Chelsea Dyreng’s The Last Messenger of Zitol. My bed wasn’t made, there were toys all over the floor, and I didn’t go grocery shopping, but I didn’t regret it. My couch hadn’t felt so comfortable and exciting in quite some time.
Chelsea is someone I know personally, and she is my friend, but I would never give an embellished book review, even for a friend. I will honestly say that I loved this book. It took me a little while to really get completely enveloped in the story (I attribute that to being a tired, pregnant lady), but once I did, I couldn’t tear my eyes or emotions away.
The story had many evil, dark, tragic, dangerous moments, but what was most compelling were the messages of truth woven throughout like a bright, intricate tapestry (I just thought I’d add a simple simile since this author loves them. Don’t worry – she is better than I am at them).
At a certain point in the book, when our main characters (Rishi and Nadal) came together, helped, and learned from each other, I found myself folding down the corners of multiple pages, marking messages of wisdom, love and light. I could see clear parallels between Rishi’s gods and their teachings, to those of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The messages in this book are numerous and worthy of introspection.
I was incredibly impressed by the Seven Songs, sung and recited throughout the book. Music truly does have such a powerful effect on the soul – from the lyrics, to the tune, to the heart of the person singing. The multiple dreams in the novel were also brilliantly crafted, as well as the descriptions of the landscapes and buildings in the book. I could feel that these were real beaches, jungles, and civilizations.
The characters of the book were believable and real. Some were so fearsome or despicable, that you held your breath to find out what they were going to do next. Others were confusing in their intentions – sometimes you liked them and sometimes you really didn’t. Some were liars and only interested in lust and power. There were some who inspired awe and reverence from their wisdom and choices. Then there were the ones who were searching, and others trying to survive. I was pleased with how many of these characters went through changes of heart, a major theme of this book. All of their stories were different, but interconnected.
Both of the main characters – Nadal, the future king of Zitol, and Rishi, the virtuous maiden chosen to be that year’s messenger of Zitol – were characters I learned to love and care about. Rishi was brave, loyal, virtuous, and full of integrity. She was forgiving, kind, and loving. Nadal was a lot different than her. He was more self-serving, prideful, and limited in his desire to help others. But, through his desire to learn, and his interactions with the beautiful Rishi, his heart and motivations slowly change. He too becomes a courageous person, willing to sacrifice for the benefit of others.
The contrast of lust verses romance in the book was stark, as was the contrast of literal sacrifice verses inner sacrifice. There are so many subjects that can be discussed in a book club setting, and I am sure my book club will read this book together happily.
I loved the title of the book, the description on the back, the Introduction, and the contrast between third person and first person narrative. It surprised me initially who the first person character was, but I really enjoyed it, for he was the one whose transformation would be the catalyst to change the city of Zitol and its people.
Other than the occasional heavy use of similes in the book, I absolutely loved it and highly recommend it to teenage and adult readers. The Last Messenger of Zitol is sure to capture the hearts of people of all circumstances, and will hopefully inspire us to be better versions of ourselves.
Also check out Chelsea Dyreng’s first novel, The Cenote.
About the book:
When Rishi is kidnapped and taken to Zitól, she faces an unthinkable future: she is to be sacrificed to appease the gods. To survive in this place, where greed, lust, and fear eclipse compassion, Rishi befriends the selfish and ignorant king, only to discover that he may not have the power to save her after all.
About the author:
Chelsea Bagley Dyreng is the author of “The Cenote.” She was raised in Wyoming and Idaho and earned her BA at Brigham Young University. She worked for several years as a librarian before moving to North Carolina where she and her husband are raising five God-fearing, book-loving, adventure-seeking kids.