154. The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
Publication: Harcourt Children’s Books (October 2, 2012), originally published in the UK in 2011, ARC, 283pp / ISBN 0547738471
Genre: MG/YA Fantasy
Read: August 8, 2012
Source: ALA 2012
This book will be released in the US on October 2, 2012!
Summary from Amazon:
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.
I read my first Jasper Fforde book when I was fourteen (I think) and it was The Eyre Affair. I didn’t understand ANY of it, mostly because I hadn’t read Jane Eyre1 at the time and it’s pretty freakin’ difficult to understand a meta-fiction book without having first read the thing it’s being meta about. So that first JF venture was a failure.
The Last Dragonslayer is the second Jasper Fforde book I’ve read, and this time around things went much more smoothly– not least because it doesn’t depend on having read (at least) one other book before reading this one. For all that it’s “easier” to read than TEA, it’s no less entertaining. You know about Parental Bonuses2, yes? That’s sort of what’s in here; there are jokes that, if I had read this as a kid, I wouldn’t have necessarily understood, but as an adult I lol my head off after reading them. It’s a clever book, but it’s not smarmy about it.3
My favorite thing about The Last Dragonslayer, though, isn’t its cleverness. It’s the characters! Jennifer and her kinda-sidekick, Tiger Prawn, are AWESOME characters to have in a book, and I’m not just saying that because Jennifer’s a girl and she’s in a book with dragons and swords and she’s not a stereotypically Badass Heroine (Cute Bruiser?4)– probably because this is a humor book with bits of angst mixed in. I’d still read about Jennifer and her adventures even if there WEREN’T dragons (or conspiracies or prophecies or interesting magical things), and that’s because she’s such a well-written/well-rounded character.
I think that’s the key to why I like this book so much. It’s written really, really well. A lesser author would have gotten lost among the jokes and the angst and would never have emerged, but Jasper Fforde is an expert and this is a perfectly entertaining book. Know what that means? Yup. I’m going to reread The Eyre Affair soonish.5
Meanwhile, if you’ve never read a Jasper Fforde book or if, like me, you read one of his Thursday Next books and were hopelessly lost, you might want to get The Last Dragonslayer a try. It’s got a good amount of layers in it, both plot and character-wise, enough to keep adults interested (even adults who DID understand The Eyre Affair) without alienating any kids who want to read about wizards and ugly dog-like-things and, of course, dragons.
I really liked it! And not just because of the dragons.6
Bart’s Bookshelf: “Young Jennifer Strange, is another fab Fforde heroine, caring, strong, snarky and opinionated, despite her current lot in life, she forges her own path though it.”
Mad Bibliophile: “It’s witty, funny, another great heroine and, I don’t know how he does it, Fforde makes another ridiculous pet so endearing (first the Dodo ‘plock plock’ and now the Quarkbeast ‘quark’).”
If you liked this book, you may also like: Summerland by Michael Chabon. No dragons, and it’s less humorous, but the feeling’s the same.
The sequel to The Last Dragonslayer, The Song of the Quarkbeast, won’t be out in the US until 2013, but it was already published elsewhere way back in 2011. And book number three? Is coming out in November. ARGH. This sort of thing just makes me appreciate worldwide release dates all the more. CANADIANS. YOU WILL GET THESE BOOKS BEFORE THOSE OF US IN THE UNITED STATES. Enjoy them! Just try not to gloat too much where I can see you.
The author’s photo comes from Goodreads. It’s not mine! Book cover comes from Amazon. It’s not mine, either.
- and I’ve just realized that I never reviewed it! Um. Whoops. ↩
- warning: TV Tropes link! I got sucked into that site for two days the last time I clicked such a link. Entertaining, those two days, but very unproductive. ↩
- like how Christopher Moore’s books can be smarmy, if you see what I mean. ↩
- warning: another TV Tropes link! ↩
- And since I’ve finally read Jane Eyre, I’ll probably even understand it now! Woohoo! ↩
- I love dragons. Could you tell? ↩