2011; 289 pages. Book Two (out of 3) in The Last Dragonslayer series New Author? : No. Genre : YA; Fantasy. Overall Rating : 9½*/10.
In the Ununited Kingdom, Kazam and iMagic have long been competitors in the Wizardry business. Now King Snodd IV has decreed that the rivalry shall be settled once and for all via a bridge-building contest, with the losers being assimilated into the winning company.
Kazam isn’t worried. It has five wizards to iMagic’s three, and more overall wizardly talent. Even three on three would be no problem. One on three might be a bit dicey, but hey, that would only happen if the iMagic baddies stooped to skullduggery.
And they wouldn’t dare to that without royal consent, would they?
What’s To Like...
The Song of the Quarkbeast is the sequel to The Last Dragonslayer (reviewed here), and once again is told in the first person POV by the foundling, Jennifer Strange. This time the focus is on her job as business agent for Kazam, not on her being the Last Dragonslayer "chosen one". And while she’s still the main protagonist, the sorcerers she manages are now highlighted more. If you like Rincewind and the rest of the lovably zany Discworld wizards, you’ll like this group too.
The dragons from the first book take a break, but the quarkbeasts are back, along with Mysterious X, Hector the Transient Moose, and a kewl new critter called a memory-dog. The reason behind the title doesn’t show up until 84%-Kindle, but it’s worth the wait.
There’s a lot more ink given to spellcasting here, and the mechanics of the magic system are fleshed out in greater detail. The Ultimate Evil dude does not disappoint in his badness, but he is also conniving, resourceful, and diabolically charming.
The ending is stellar. Every time you think Evil has been vanquished, Jasper Fforde contrives to turn the tables on our heroes, with the situation turning increasingly dire. Yet the tone remains light throughout, as would be expected of a YA novel, and this is a “clean” tale – no cussing, alcohol, etc. The closest we get to romance and sex is Jennifer almost getting to go on her first date.
Kewlest New Word...
Squiffy (adj.) : crooked; askew; awry (a Britishism; the more common definition is “slightly drunk”)
“You’re going to have to find the ring within thirty seconds,” announced Lady Mawgon, “and since it might be tricky to find in the rank, fetid, disease-ridden, muddy water, you’ll need my help.”
“You’re coming down, too?”
“Good Lord, no. What do you think I am? An idiot?”
“I’m not sure it would be healthy for me to answer that question,” replied Tiger carefully. (loc. 321)
The King stepped up to the royal microphone and made a long, rambling speech about how proud he was that the hard toil of a blindly trusting citizenry kept him and his family in the lap of luxury while war widows begged on the streets, and how he thanked providence that he had been blessed to rule over a nation whose inexplicable tolerance toward corrupt despots was second to none. The speech was well received and some citizens were even moved to tears. (loc. 2125)
The Song of the Quarkbeast sells for $6.15 at Amazon. Book One, The Last Dragonslayer, sells for $2.80. Book Three, The Eye of Zoltar, goes for $9.99.
“Do I have to go down a well upside down while being sarcastic with a shoe tied around my neck?” (loc. 318)
I can't think of anything to quibble about in The Song of the Quarkbeast. Both the writing and the storytelling are topnotch. Some characters are lost, some are found, and at least one is found temporarily and lost again. The pacing is quick, there’s plenty of action, and as always, Fforde’s wit will keep you chuckling.
The worst I can say is that the writing of this series delays more books in the Thursday Next, Nursery Crimes, and Shades of Grey (not to be confused with Fifty Shades of Grey) series.
9½ Stars. Highly recommended as a fun, light, exciting read for both young and adult readers. I’ve yet to be disappointed by anything written by Jasper Fforde.