Monday, September 9, 2013

Jenn's Review: The Last Dragonslayer

Blurb:  In the good old days, magic was indispensable—it could both save a kingdom and clear a clogged drain. But now magic is fading: drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for magicians—but it’s hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world’s last dragon at the hands of an unnamed Dragonslayer. If the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as . . . Big Magic.

Review:  It's been over 5 years since I read my last Jasper Fforde book, and it's been too long.   I saw this on the shelf of my local indie and knew this was the book to bring me back.  I adore the cover; it leaves so much scope for the imagination.

Once again, Fforde uses his brilliant wit to create a magical world.  In a parallel universe where magic and dragons are starting to die out lives Jennifer Strange the most extraordinary un-ordinary foundling the unUnited Kingdom will ever know.  Jennifer was abandoned at the Blessed Ladies of the Lobster orphanage in her orange Volkswagen, an apparent orphan of the Troll Wars.  Now in servitude of The Great Zambini, Jennifer finds herself in charge of the Kazam Mystical Arts Management due to Mr. Zambini's recent disappearance.  Herding sorcerers seems to be harder than herding cats.  They're moody and temperamental and can stick you on the ceiling for hours.  With the prediction of the death of the last dragon, Jennifer gets shoved into the spotlight.  Everyone is working an angle so the question is who do you trust?

Jasper Fforde always walks the fine line of making his characters hard to connect with due to the fact that his  quick witted dialogue can sometimes come off as flippant and snide.  This is not the case here.  Jennifer is intelligent but guarded.  I adore her Quarkbeast (who reminds me a little of Gru's 'dog' Kyle, from Despicable Me).  The wizards of Kazam are a hoot and Fforde does an excellent job of keeping them from becoming too cartoonish with depth of character.

Although I may have had one plot point worked out, I was mostly too busy enjoying the story, so it was purely happenstance and it didn't lesson my experience at all.  I loved the twists and turns the story-line took.  Jasper Fforde does a lovely job of wrapping things up neatly, while leaving enough loose ends with which to continue the series.  Reading this takes me back to some of my first Dianna Wynne Jones novels.

Jasper Fforde isn't for everyone.  His writing is dense and full of references, but his work is smart and funny, and really worth a try.  The Song of the Quarkbeast, book two of the Kazam Chronicles, just released this past week, and you can bet it's on the top of my reading list!

Final Take:  4.5/5


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