I feel truly fortunate that I stumbled upon Last of Her Name. It was one of my most anticipated books of 2019. Anything Anastasia will always be on my radar. I was convinced I was the Asian version of Anastasia growing up. That if I sang enough running down my driveway, I’d find my own Journey to the Past.
Sixteen years ago, rebellion swept the galaxy known as the Belt of Jewels. Every member of the royal family was murdered–down to their youngest child, Princess Anya–and the Union government rose in its place. But Stacia doesn’t think much about politics. She spends her days half-wild, rambling her father’s vineyard with her closest friends, Clio and Pol.
That all changes the day a Union ship appears in town, carrying the leader of the Belt himself, the Direktor Eminent. The Direktor claims that Princess Anya is alive, and that Stacia’s sleepy village is a den of empire loyalists, intent on hiding her. When Stacia is identified as the lost princess, her provincial home explodes into a nightmare.
Pol smuggles her away to a hidden escape ship in the chaos, leaving Clio in the hands of the Union. With everything she knows threading away into stars, Stacia sets her heart on a single mission. She will find and rescue Clio, even with the whole galaxy on her trail.
I have few words for how much I adore Anastasia. Except when everyone was talking about their favorite Disney movie it has been, and always be, Anastasia for me. As an adopted girl, I could picture my momentous debut as an Asian Anastasia. Where I would imagine how my life would have looked like if I was somehow part of this empress ruling family in my past. And some similar tragic back story about why I was adopted. Suffice it to say, now growing up I know I was not the Chinese American Anastasia – but child me can always dream.
So when I saw Anastasia re-telling set in space, I was sold. It combines my love of science fiction, different planets, and spaceships, with my childhood favorite. But Last of Her Name is different than you might be expecting. Stacia finds out pretty quickly that she is the lost princess Anya. Not immediately, but pretty soon considering in the movie it takes her almost the entire thing. So I was intrigued how this story would deviate.
Last of Her Name is more about Stacia/Anya growing into herself. About her journey to embrace her DNA and who she is underneath her skin. It’s almost like the story of Anastasia after the credit scenes. Stacia/Anya has to figure out the truth of her family, what the galaxy needs (in terms of rulership), and the person she wants to be. Just because she was born Anya and is the lost princess, doesn’t mean she knows how to be that person. Last of Her Name is more intricate, more political, more concerned with the future of the galaxy. She is caught in the cross fire between Empire loyalists and rebels. And Stacia/Anya isn’t convinced either of them have the ‘right’ way for the future.
You can easily get caught up in the journey, the adventure, and the new friends. But at its heart, Last of Her Name is a story about Stacia/Anya. Her journey on different planets, meeting different aliens, teaches Stacia/Anya that maybe the galaxy needs her voice. That she can’t just be a parrot to a cause she doesn’t believe in. It might require her to take a new stand, to embrace Anya, and take responsibility. It’s bigger than herself, than her family, than her friends. And everyone’s motivations and loyalty is in question. There are big reveals, new friends, and sentient life forms. There are hard decisions, reckonings of their own, and the realization that we need to embrace who we want to be.