The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
Dragonslayer # 1
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Number of pages: 281
My copy: paperback, from Fully Booked
In the good old days, magic was powerful, unregulated by government, and even the largest spell could be woven without filling in the magic release form B1-7g. But somewhere, somehow, the magic started draining away.
Jennifer Strange runs Kazam!, an employment agency for state-registered magicians, soothsayers and sorceresses. But work is drying up. Drain cleaner is cheaper and quicker than a spell. Why trust a cold and drafty magic carpet when jetliners offer a comfy seat and an in-flight movie? And now potions are eligible for VAT…
But then the visions start. The Last Dragon is going to be killed by a Dragonslayer at 12.00 on Sunday. The death will unleash untold devastation on the UnUnited Kingdom, setting principality against dukedom and property developer against homesteader. And all the signs are pointing to Jennifer Strange, and saying”Big Magic is coming!”
The Last Dragonslayer is fizzing with all the creativity and genius Jasper Fforde’s fans delight in, and will appeal as much to the young at heart as to the younger readers for whom it is written.
* * *
If you know me really well or if you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’d know that I tend to gravitate towards contemporary fiction books. It’s not that I don’t like speculative fiction (I do, very much), but I just prefer reading about real life and the real world because it feels easier to understand than a world full of impossibilities.
However, I make an exception for some authors, and Jasper Fforde is one of them. Before I even got to know John Green, Jasper Fforde is the first author that can do no wrong in my book. I fell in love with his world in 2006 when I read Something Rotten (yes, I read the fourth Thursday Next book first. Gasp!) even if it’s the most outrageous world I have ever read. I searched for all his books after that and declared him my favorite, making me read more because of all his literary references. He’s one of those authors whose books I know I can get lost in easily whenever I need something to escape without the additional mental strain of having to figure out their world every now and then.
So it’s really no question that when he released his first YA book, I would be there to get it and gobble it up. You think?
The Last Dragonslayer stars Jennifer Strange, a fifteen (almost sixteen) orphan who manages the Kazam!, a magical agency that provides jobs for magicians and sorcerers. Magic has been on a steady decline for years now, and there were less and less jobs for them to use magic. They have gone down to use magic to bring down cats from trees and fix household items like replacing a bathroom faucet with magic just to keep Kazam up and running. Still Jennifer tries to make do, and for someone who’s mature for her age, she does it very well. Up until she hears a premonition about the last dragon dying. Dragons are fierce creatures that are said to eat humans and destroy homes but was contained by the Dragonpact years ago by the Mighty Shandar. Jennifer had no big concerns about the dragon dying until the wizards under her care started experiencing surges in power, but it became more of a problem when the premonition says that the dragon will die in the hands of a dragon slayer, and Jennifer is involved. What’s a foundling like Jennifer to do now?
This book had everything I loved about Jasper Fforde. The best thing about his novels is how real they are even in their impossibility. Fforde writes in such a deadpan manner that you just can’t help but believe what he writes no matter how outrageous they all seem to be. It takes a while to fully get into the world, but once you’ve accepted the world his characters move in, you’re in for a very, very fun ride. Fforde knows his worlds, and it’s amazing because The Last Dragonslayer‘s world is different from his other works — is there no end to this guy’s imagination?
In addition to the solid world building, the characters are also very real and wacky, with very fun names to boot! Jennifer Strange is a lovely narrator, akin to Thursday Next but with less of the adult jadedness. The villains were annoying all the way to the end, but that doesn’t mean they were less hilarious. :P Even the dragon (of course the dragon talks in Fforde’s world!) stands on his own, and if there was anything I would wish for this novel, it was more of the dragon.
If you’ve been a longtime fan of Jasper Fforde, you will not be disappointed by his YA venture, and I bet like me, you’d be clamoring for more! If you’re new to Jasper Fforde and his adult novels intimidate you (which you really shouldn’t be because they’re awesome), The Last Dragonslayer is a good book to get your feet wet. :)
Oh, and one more wish, if I may. I want my own Quarkbeast. :P One of Jennifer’s loyal sidekicks, a Quarkbeast is described as:
Often described as one tenth Labrador, six tents velociraptor and three tenths kitchen food blender, the Quarkbeast’s razor sharp fangs and hideously frightening demeanour mask a quieter side that rarely, if ever, eats cats.
I don’t know why, but whenever the Quarkbeast is mentioned in the novel, I remember Hyperbole and a Half‘s ALOT.
Does anyone else get the same impression?
More fun information on all things Strange in Jasper Fforde’s website. :) I’m not sure if this is a standalone novel or if it would become a series, but I definitely wouldn’t mind if this becomes a series. More YA, Fforde! :)