2012; 287 pages. Book One (out of 3) in The Last Dragonslayer series New Author? : No. Genre : YA; Fantasy. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
Lately, magic has been getting rather scarce in the Ununited Kingdoms. Sure, there are still sorcerers around, but instead of conjuring up storms and moving mountains, they’ve been reduced to (magically) unclogging drains, rewiring houses, and eradicating moles from lawns. And just like a dying battery, every use of magic seems to drain the pool of it some more.
Even worse, the last dragon, Maltcassion, is rumored to be old and dying. And some say that when he dies, there will be no more magic at all.
Meanwhile, at the Kazam Mystical Arts Management, young Jennifer Strange is still quite busy. Not doing magic, of course; Jennifer’s been tested, and she’s got no talent for that. But even sorcerers have bills to pay, and someone has to take care of the business end of magic-for-hire.
And someone needs to take care of a bunch of fading, pouting wizards. At least until the magic runs out.
What’s To Like...
The Last Dragonslayer is Jasper Fforde’s first foray into YA fantasy. I have high expectations of anything Forde writes, and, as always, he does not disappoint.
There are a bunch of outstanding characters to get acquainted with. The magic-weavers that our protagonist, Jennifer, has to deal with, are a fascinating and varied group – a storm conjuror (at least she used to be able to do this), one that communicates on a subconscious level, a beguiler, and a pre-cognitive (he can predict the future, but it's usually useless), among others. Oooh, and don’t forget the Quarkbeast, the dragon Maltcassion, and Hector the Transient Moose. They’re all delightful.
This is YA literature, so everything is 100% clean – no sex, no drugs, no booze, etc. Jennifer Strange may be coming of age, but there’s no romance (at least in this book), which is a refreshing change of pace for a YA fantasy offering with a teenage female lead.
The plotline is not particularly twisty, but the pacing is quick, and young readers won’t get bored at all. There are some serious themes to muse upon as well – the senselessness of war, the role of business in promoting war, and the power of propaganda to seduce people into accepting a war mentality. The ending is superb.
Kewlest New Word...
Scatty (adj.) : absentminded and disorganized; scatterbrained. (a Britishism)
Others : Bollard (n.).
It’s not a good idea to have civilians around when sorcery is afoot. Even the stoutest incantations carry redundant strands of spell that can cause havoc if allowed to settle on the general public. Nothing serious ever happened; it was mostly rapid nose hair growth, oinking like a pig, blue pee, that sort of stuff. It soon wore off, but it was bad for business. (loc. 109)
“He called me Gwanjii.”
“Ah,” replied Feldspar solemnly, “that is an old dragon word. A word that one dragon might use to another perhaps twice in his lifetime.”
“What does it mean?”
“Friend.” (loc. 2524)
The Last Dragonslayer sells for $2.24 at Amazon, which frankly is a fantastic price for a Jasper Fforde novel, even if it is YA. The rest of his books fall in the $6.15-$12.18 range..
Working with those versed in the Mystical Arts was sometimes like trying to knit with wet spaghetti: just when you thought you’d gotten somewhere, it all came to pieces in your hands. (loc. 54)
The quibbles are few. Once again, methane gas is presented as having a disagreeable odor. Folks, methane is odorless. Yes, natural gas is methane, and it stinks. But that’s because municipalities add a small amount of mercaptan to it so people can detect gas leaks.
The resolution of Gordon, the apprentice dragonslayer, felt rushed and rather unbelievable. He was quite the clever one, yet committed an elementary blunder.
Finally, there are a bunch of loose threads that never get tied up, but I suspect these will be addressed as the series rolls along.
8 Stars. I enjoyed The Last Dragonslayer, despite not being the target audience, and it satisfied my Jasper Fforde thirst without me having to reread one of his earlier books. Add ½ star if you are a young adult reader who likes to read Fantasy, cuz this is going to be right down your alley.