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 have been reduced to pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management, 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 that's true, everything will change for Kazam — and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as... Big Magic.
Fforde began his career in the film industry, and for nineteen years held a variety of posts on such movies as Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro and Entrapment. Secretly harbouring a desire to tell his own stories rather than help other people tell their's, Jasper started writing in 1988, and spent eleven years secretly writing novel after novel as he strove to find a style of his own that was a no-mans-land somewhere between the warring factions of Literary and Absurd.
After receiving 76 rejection letters from publishers, Jasper's first novel The Eyre Affair was taken on by Hodder & Stoughton and published in July 2001. Set in 1985 in a world that is similar to our own, but with a few crucial - and bizarre - differences (Wales is a socialist republic, the Crimean War is still ongoing and the most popular pets are home-cloned dodos), The Eyre Affair introduces literary detective named 'Thursday Next'. Thursday's job includes spotting forgeries of Shakespeare's lost plays, mending holes in narrative plot lines, and rescuing characters who have been kidnapped from literary masterpieces.
Luckily for Jasper, the novel garnered dozens of effusive reviews, and received high praise from the press, from booksellers and readers throughout the UK. In the US The Eyre Affair was also an instant hit, entering the New York Times Bestseller List in its first week of publication.
Since then, Jasper has added another six to the Thursday Next series and has also begun a second series that he calls 'Nursery Crime', featuring Jack Spratt of The Nursery Crime Division. In the first book, 'The Big Over Easy', Humpty Dumpty is the victim in a whodunnit, and in the second, 'The Fourth Bear', the Three Bear's connection to Goldilocks disappearance can finally be revealed.
In January 2010 Fforde published 'Shades of Grey', in which a fragmented society struggle to survive in a colour-obsessed post-apocalyptic landscape.
His latest series is for Young Adults and include 'The Last Dragonslayer' (2010), 'Song of the Quarkbeast' (2011) and 'The Eye of Zoltar' (2013). All the books centre around Jennifer Strange, who manages a company of magicians named 'Kazam', and her attempts to keep the noble arts from the clutches of big business and property tycoons.
Jasper's 14th Book, 'Early Riser', a thriller set in a world in which humans have always hibernated, is due out in the UK in August 2018, and in the US in 2019.
Fforde failed his Welsh Nationality Test by erroneously identifying Gavin Henson as a TV chef, but continues to live and work in his adopted nation despite this setback. He has a Welsh wife, two welsh daughters and a welsh dog, who is mad but not because he's Welsh. He has a passion for movies, photographs, and aviation. (Jasper, not the dog)
Warning, this book may possibly garner you strange looks if you decide to read it on a bus, a subway, or a coffee shop due to random bouts of sniggering, chuckling, and outright guffawing. There is usually fair warning, though. If the Quarkbeast enters the scene, make a hasty exit and read it where out loud laughter is ok.
Seriously, I can only think of two others who have been able to make me laugh quite as hard with descriptions. 1) Douglas Adams with his Hitchhiker's Guide books, and 2) Brandon Sanderson with his Alcatraz books. Welcome to the club, Fforde.
Jennifer Strange has the daunting task of keeping a gaggle of waning wizards and magicians gainfully employed and out of trouble in a world where magic is on the downswing. Jennifer herself is only 15 (16 in two weeks), but is exceptionally mature for her age. That's a really good thing too, because things get a little extra complicated when some of the pre-cogs start getting visions about the death of the last dragon on Sunday at noon. So what you might ask. Well, when the dragon dies then a huge chunk of land inbetween two uneasy nations goes up for grabs and whoever can grab it first gets it. People from around the country and globe start lining up on the borders ready to pounce. Things then snowball when Jennifer finds herself to be the last dragonslayer, and suddenly in the middle of global attention, trying to prevent wars, outmanouver greedy businesses and kings, prevent the death of magic and understand dragons. Thankfully, Jennifer has Tiger Prawns, a fellow foundling just assigned to help manage the magicians, and her faithful Quarkbeast to help. What is a Quarkbeast you may ask? Well, I could tell you but that would ruin some of the best lines in the book, so you'll just have to read for yourself. I'll just say that the Quarkbeast is awesome and I want one.
Notes on content: Unlike some of his books for adults, Fforde has proved that he can write clean for the younger crowd in this book. There is only one mild swear word. There is no sexual content of any kind. There is very little violence at all, too. There is one shooting (without any description) and one stabbing (again, without description). A couple people get vaporized when they touch the Dragonland forcefield, but no description. The last half of the book is pretty tense as some of the people wanting the land get pretty ruthless in trying to manipulate Jennifer, but all does turn out well. (And she handles it with a mostly cool head and tact.)
It takes a special kind of reader to appreciate a Jasper Fforde novel: A reader who is not afraid to believe in the impossible, who is not afraid to accept even the most eccentric set-ups, a reader who revels in the imagination and creativity that stems from the mind of one of the most creative contemporary authors. Fforde’s characteristic satirical style rings true in The Last Dragonslayer that is ostensibly called YA fiction but, in my opinion, is meant for anyone who enjoys a good book. Of course it is a bit simpler in tone and writing style than his adult book (mores the pity) but it retains the insane world building that is so characteristic of Fforde. Jasper Fforde, my dear readers, does not just build worlds, he creates universes. From the alphabet to the economics, Fforde’s worlds rotate to their own sun.
The depth of information that is logically presented with a dash of satire and absurdity to make it more palatable just blows my mind. Jennifer Strange is a protagonist most able to gain my empathy with her foundling status. The various wizards with their various levels of insanity are colourful characters that come alive in HD colour and romp all over the pages. Even the Quark beast with its many teeth and loyalty to Jenny is compelling. Tiger, the new foundling, who is as lost as we are in the beginning of the novel makes for a great companion as we uncover the aspects of the world the story is set.
This novel has no sparkly beings (Dragons don’t sparkle), no mysterious boy in a biology class (the foundlings have no time to attend school), no girls insecure about their physical attributes (Jenny is too busy running a business and not fighting dragons) and no romance (apart from the barest hint of it) but what it does have is a firm narrative, a fun world and dragons. It gives a satirical look at the world we live in, our grasping for five minutes of fame or notoriety, and reality TV. We get up close and personal with Greed and other not so nice aspects of human nature. I liked this book. A lot. And while readers who are all about romance, supernatural creatures etc will not like it, fans of books such as Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging will. If you want to read something quirky, read The Last Dragonslayer.
This one started out really, really well -- it's been a few years since my last Jasper Fforde, and it has all his trademark features, and is decidedly Pterryish as well. You can probably see the "but" coming....
At a bit over halfway in, the YA stuff is starting to bug me, big time. For sure I'm not the intended audience. Anyway, I'm going to let it rest for a day or two and start something else.
It's a fast, easy read and definitely worth picking up a library copy to see if it suits you. For me, silly and fun until it started to wear thin.
OK, I bounced off my new book, came back to this one, and ended up liking it pretty well. The dreamlike and arbitrary plot-turns started entertaining me again, and I do like Jennifer Strange, almost 16, the Last Dragonslayer. And I even (sort-of) liked the silly, feel-good ending. 3 stars, harmless fluff for my inner 12-year-old.
I listened to the audio book on this one. I know this one was meant for people younger than a [ahem-blah-blah]-something, but I still felt it a bit lacking.
To me, this one felt a bit derivative of Harry Potter. At least it started out that way and had witticisms and ideas and writing that seemed that way to me. Magic is part of the world and the world's history. The MC has a familiar called a Quark-beast, which sounded and acted a lot like an owl. The MC, 16 year old Jennifer Strange, is called upon to have an adventure and do things that affects the entire magical world.
Published in 2010, The Last Dragonslayer appears to be an alternate version of earth. It had a few interesting ideas, such as . I thought then that sorcerers having to was also an interesting idea that somewhat distinguished the plot from Harry Potter.
But at the end of the day, it had "Chosen One" tropes and ideas that were hard to ignore and hard to avoid comparisons to other similar types of stories. It would probably appeal more to younger readers, which is certainly a good thing.
The Last Dragonslayer is a good YA novel with a simplistic plot best suited for younger teens, but a whimsical style and satirical humor that is probably way over their heads. Like many novels that are the first in a series, The Last Dragonslayer suffers from way too much attention spent on introducing a huge cast of characters most of whom play little or no part in the events of the rising action. All of the characters are original, comical and interesting, but the reader learns little about them. The protagonist, Jennifer Strange, a 15 year old orphan, does not begin her quest until page 132 - almost exactly halfway through the book. While trying to run a struggling employment agency for magicians in a land where the demand for magic is dwindling, Jennifer discovers she is the chosen Last Dragonslayer. She has no idea why, no fighting skills, has never seen a dragon, and has no experience dealing with corrupt, greedy dishonest people who come out in droves when word gets out that she is the chosen one. The second half of the book is fast paced and filled with very funny jabs at pop culture, capitalistic greed and corrupt politicians, but there is little intensity or depth. One of the dragons explains the conflict rather than the conflict unfolding through the events. I wish the story had started on page 132 and gone into much more detail about the conflict among the empires and the conflict between the dragons and the humans. The Last Dragonslayer could have been much better.
Simply put, Jasper Fforde is brilliant. He has yet again created a wondrous, magical story right amid the everyday mundane. This is a quick and entertaining read with the perfect mix of adventure, humor, and feeling.
I'm a big fan of the Thursday Next novels but admit they aren't the most accessible books and they are not everyone's "cup of tea." However, The Last Dragonslayer can be enjoyed by anyone!
Mr. Fforde takes the average "orphan with destiny" plot and turns it on its head. Here is the Amazon/publisher blurb that does a nice job of giving you a taste for the book: "In the good old days, magic was powerful, unregulated by government, and even the largest spell could be woven without filling in magic release form B1-7g. Then the magic started fading away. Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for soothsayers and sorcerers. But work is drying up. Drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and even magic carpets are reduced to pizza delivery. So it's a surprise when the visions start. Not only do they predict the death of the Last Dragon at the hands of a dragonslayer, they also point to Jennifer, and say something is coming. Big Magic ..."
Una novela de fantasía juvenil con una construcción del mundo muy ingeniosa y excéntrica, en una peculiar Inglaterra actual alternativa en la que existen criaturas y dragones, la magia está de capa caída y los magos son unos inadaptados.
Sus personajes son muy atractivos y originales, con una adolescente responsable y valiente como protagonista en una aventura divertida y muy fácil de leer.
Aunque es ideal para adolescentes y me gustan más las novelas para adultos del autor, ha sido una lectura muy entretenida.
The Last Dragonslayer has something in common with Disney movies; no, not the racism thing... This is a book for younger readers, but that I, technically an adult, really quite enjoyed... I don't recall any racism, just to be clear!
I laughed, I cried, I didn't put it down, and as is Jasper's way, there were jokes that some might not get, but that keep those of us who read a lot, and enjoy a good sense of humour, reading and laughing.
With a sassy 15-year-old, female lead, and an assistant named Tiger Prawns, you can see it's going to be a good time!
The Last Dragonslayer is a story of fantasy, complete with magic and dragons, taking place in the present day, with phones, plumbing, and cars.
Instantly a classic, instantly one of my favourite books, and I can't wait for the rest!
Full disclosure: This is just not my kind of book. The humour is the blunt, obvious kind and I prefer more subtle. Absurd English Humour is one of my least fave genres, and Today Me would never have bought this but 2018 Me thought this was a bargain at Salvos for $3 so it's been sitting around on my shelf waiting to be read.
This is a middle grade read for fans of authors like Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and Douglas Adams. It's an absurd tale of failing magic and the death of the last dragon. Expect the unexpected and, if you're familiar with absurd British humour, expect all the same kind of jokes you've heard before.
I just don't find it laugh-out-loud funny like some people. This book has amusing moments and I loved some of the characters (particularly the Quarkbeast) but in general it just didn't do much for me. It wasn't bad, it's just not my kind of laughs.
The story runs at a nice fast pace and doesn't get bogged down with details. The magic is creatively bland with a few moments of delight thrown in, seemingly just to keep people happy. The characters are, for the most part, fantastic. The names are typically silly, but I didn't mind that so much.
Look, it's a bit hard to rate because I can see that a lot of people will have great fun with this one. Particularly kids. But it just wasn't really my cup of tea. That's more my taste preferences than any fault of the book.
So I'd recommend this for young ones easily, and for older fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and books with a similar immature streak in which the imagination knows no bounds.
Description: In the good old days, magic was powerful, unregulated by government, and even the largest spell could be woven without filling in magic release form B1-7g. Then the magic started fading away. Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for soothsayers and sorcerers. But work is drying up. Drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and even magic carpets are reduced to pizza delivery. So it's a surprise when the visions start. Not only do they predict the death of the Last Dragon at the hands of a dragonslayer, they also point to Jennifer, and say something is coming. Big Magic ...
Read by Jane Collingwood: 6:36hrs
If you love Robert Rankin and PTerry then chances are you will adore the Fforde's humour too. I personally prefer the more adult Pickwick series.
Reread 9/15/22, in audio: The audiobook narrator didn't do this book any favors; her range is narrow, and most of the ancillary characters and some of the secondary ones sound the same. I was more conscious of the weird disconnect between the first, oh, ten chapters and the rest of the book. Those chapters set the scene for a very different novel than unfolds after , and it was...let's stick with weird, shall we? Weird how all the setup with Kazam disappears after that spoiler. But Fforde pulls it together, and by the time the final confrontation with the last dragon comes about, I was completely engaged, since I'd forgotten how it ends.
I'm sort of in a position where audiobooks are easier to read than print now, so despite my indifference to the audiobook narrator, I'm probably going to continue listening. (This is because the fourth Kazam book just came out, and it's been long enough that, as I said, I don't remember much of what happened in the series.)
Read 1/3/13: Jasper Fforde's first young adult novel has all the hallmarks of his books for adults while still being aimed at a younger audience; the story is shorter and more focused, the main characters are teens, and you will find no Jack Schitts here. 15-year-old Jennifer Strange runs a magicians' employment agency called Kazam in a time when magic is at the ebb and people are turning more to technology to solve their problems. Jennifer's problems are more complex; her boss has disappeared, her employees are at each others' throats, and a prophecy that the last dragon will die at the hands of the Last Dragonslayer in just a few days has dumped that problem in her lap as well.
I never felt Jennifer was really 15 years old. Granted, she's had a great deal of responsibility in her young life, but she talks and acts like...well, like Thursday Next. I think if I cared about the distinction between YA and adult novels, this would have bothered me more. As it is, I point it out because it's one of only a few flaws in the story. The plot is well-paced and the repercussions of Jennifer assuming her new role all make sense. Fforde is good at pointing out human flaws, especially greed, and putting Jennifer at odds with her king makes for good conflict.
One tiny thing that cracked me up was the marzipan. Fforde always has one element in his novels that is totally bizarre and totally taken for granted by the characters. In Thursday Next, it's illegal cheese; here, marzipan is a dangerous drug that might as well be angel dust. Things like "Police broke up a dangerous marzipan smuggling ring" just amuse me all out of proportion. But then, I already don't like marzipan.
I'm looking forward to the next books in the series, though I resent them a tiny wee bit for not being sequels to Shades of Grey. Any new Jasper Fforde novel is a lovely surprise.
I've never read a book quite like The Last Dragonslayer.
It was very odd, to say the least, but maybe that's why I liked it so much. Honestly, the first half of it was THE BEST. <3 All the wizards (minus Lady Mawgon) were endearing, and the quirky magic in Kazam was so much fun. I loved the idea of magic "fading" from society. The book was set in modern times (as far as I know??) and magic was used for stuff like delivering pizza, rewiring houses, and charming moles. SO AWESOME.
Okay, sooo...maybe a list will do well in this case?
- The magic. Obviously.
- The Quarkbeast. HE WAS SO CUTE AND PRECIOUS, CAN I PLEASE HAVE ONE?
- All the hilarious dialogue. Seriously, there are so. many. quotes. I just want to quote this entire book, honestly. I would list some but then we would be here all day. ;)
- The creativity. IT WAS OFF THE CHARTS. Wowww, I want to be half as creative as this author.
- The VW Beetle. I love Beetles, and the fact that Jennifer owns one makes me a happy human bean.
- The writing style. It was so unique and quirky and overall charming.
- Everything about the Kazam company. All the wizards and stuff that live there are so fun! I want to learn more about them.
Not So Lovely Things:
- There was one usage of mild language which felt SO OUT OF PLACE, WHAT THE HECK. Ugh. That really annoyed me. -_-
- There was this weird monologue thing by the dragon about evolution and I was just like "???" I didn't see the point of that either.
- The ending was kind of confusing. Um...I'm still trying to process these out-of-the-blue plot twists. They just felt a little forced and sprung on me, which I wasn't all that fond of. Not that they were badly done, per se, but I had a bit of a hard time digesting them. *shrugs*
- I didn't connect a lot to the MC. Jennifer was a decent character, but she was a little distant/emotionless. I didn't feel that much of a connection with her, although the rest of the (good) characters were delightful.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book! However, I'm thinking that rounding it down to three stars fits better than rounding it up, in this case.
Well... I loved the first half? The ending was kind of sudden and not what I wanted... I don't think? Although I didn't know what I wanted. So. I dunno. But it's kind of fun and I really enjoyed most of it, so... yep. :) I thought it was an automatic 5 stars until that all happened so... apparently I was wrong? I don't really know what I think of it right now. :P *wanders off in confusion*
EDIT: Okay I took some time away for a bit and I think I figured out the problem, which is that I was really enjoying it and then it let me down.
Most of my complaints are spoilery though so they are below.
In general though, I LOVED most of it, then it got scary, and then I just didn't know what to do with the ending because it was so sudden and I didn't care about some of the things. Plus I was upset about a couple things, so. But I do want a Quarkbeast...
I'm leaving the rating at 3 for the moment, since the first part/most of it is 5 stars, or at least 4.5, and then the ending's probably a 2. But a 2 sounds harsh for the whole thing at the moment. So 3 it is. I will just have to see what I think of it in a few weeks' time. :P
SPOILERS: Click only at peril of long rambling of complaints from yours truly and the whole thing being spoiled... *cough* END SPOILERS
Okay, so with all my complaints, I do feel the need to add that wasn't all bad. I loved the humor and most of the book and it was quirky and fun and imaginative and well put together. I just... the ending didn't sit well with me. *shrug* Maybe others would enjoy it though. :)
OMG I love Jasper Fforde! He is one of those authors that I know I will enjoy, but for some crazy reason, do not ravenously consume when he has a new book. When I walked the isle's of BEA I paused when I saw his name. Honestly, bless the Welsh for their odd looking names. It never fails to grab my attention. This book is full of whimsy. That's the best way to describe Fforde's work: whimsical. He uses fantasy and whimsy to show the world and mock it. The world of The Last Dragon Slayer is 2011 in the sense of technology, politics, corporate manipulations, people's entitlement, etc. The only difference is that it isn't our world. There is magic, Dragons, Quarkbeasts, Trolls and more. Fforde does not take his magic out of the world, he blends it together. I flew through this book. I picked it up on night before going to bed and then finished it the next night. I only stopped reading because I had to sleep, go to work and meet people for dinner. This book is an easy read because it is a young adult book and because Fforde is easy to read. He can be wordy, but it's in the whimsical way. Sometimes I would read a few lines and think about how I would do that if I were writing for National Novel Writing Month. For example: Gordon can Gordon Gordonson ap Gordon-Gordon of Gordon is totally a name I would use to extend my word count. That's not why Fforde did it, but still, he did it. There were things I wish I understood better during the reading of this book. There are characters call Berzerkers that play an important role, but are never really explained in the novel. For all the history we get of magic, dragons and other creatures that aren't as important, Fforde fails to explains some important things adequately. I understand this is a series and something he will hopefully address later, but I am not sure how long it will be before i pick up that sequel. Who will enjoy this: people who enjoy fantasy, whimsey and Fforde's fans. This is something adults can read with teens and enjoy.
"Magic, as I said, has no intelligence. The choice to use it for good or bad lies with us. All of us."
Jennifer Strange lives in the Uninited Kingdoms, that's right, the Ununited Kingdoms, where she runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management.
Soon, the few remaining seers are struck by the same powerful vision: the world's last dragon, Maltcassion, will die in less than a week, at the hands of the Last Dragonslayer.
I fell in love with this novel almost instantly because of how darn funny it was! Jennifer is one of my favourite characters I've read so far. She's super opinionated, strong, smart and funny. Her pet dog/shark/animal sidekick Quarkbeast, is the absolute cutest, hilarious and scariest thing around. And he's always there for his BFF Jennifer.
I have to say though, that the beginning of the book was really tough. There were so many weird names, and so many random details that I had no clue what was going on for a long time. Look at some of these:
"There are three types of shridloo: desert, desiree, and dessert."
"A red setter is so stupid even the other dogs notice, and cats aren't really friendly; they're just cozying up to the dominant life form as a hedge against society."
Some of this stuff was really hard to keep up with but that quickly relaxed and things got much easier to understand.
I just can't believe how funny it was! I could barely go a page without laughing. It features a delightful mix of magic and everyday absurdity.
You will get hours of pleasure visiting the Ununited Kingdoms, riding around in the Rolls-Royce Slayermobile with the Last Dragonslayer. I highly recommend this to readers both young and adult.
Ahoy there me mateys! While drawin’ up me lists of 2016 for me log, I realized a curious thing – out of 134 books read, not a single one was a re-read. In me enthusiasm of discovery and taking suggestions from me crew, I did not revisit a single old port for plunder! And part of what I love about readin’ is re-visitin’ old friends. So I decided to remedy that and thus created me new category where I take a second look at a previously enjoyed novel and give me crew me second reflections, as it were, upon visitin’ it again . . .
I wanted a light read of something I knew I loved so I could just savor part of me weekend. This was absolutely perfect. I don’t know when I first discovered this novel as it was certainly way before this current log but I am glad to have revisited this old friend.
This is definitely one to recommend to me crew. The story involves a young plucky intelligent orphan who helps run Kazam which is an agency of magicians. Of course she is not supposed to be in charge but her boss disappeared! She is trying to hold down the fort but of course everything is going wrong.
Now ye think of magic and it sounds awesome. Well magic has been fading from the land and people hire magicians to do unexciting things like deliver pizza via magic carpet. The magicians are poor and struggling. This aspect of the world-building is absolutely awesome. I love how the magic works (or doesn���t) and how it is used. In fact the overall world-building is an absolute delight.
The story itself is whimsical and funny and clever and absurd. Jennifer is an excellent main character who of course is intelligent, honorable, snarky, practical, and awesome. The other characters are almost as wonderful. I want a Quarkbeast . . . I think.
It sort of has a similar feel of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles so if ye liked those then pick this up. Actually if ye haven’t read those books then do yerself a favor and get that series and this one. Ye won’t regret it.
Side note: Apparently book three has been out since 2015 and I never knew. I now know what me next two reads are going to be! Arrr!
I really enjoy Fforde's humor and this was a great escape read, which is exactly what I was looking for. This is the story of a sixteen year-old foundling who runs an employment agency for sorcerers. There was a small battle scene at the end, which I could've done without, but it's a fantasy series; what did I expect? I'm definitely continuing on with it. The laughs were priceless, and there were a couple of surprises I really didn't expect.
The main characters in here are so good, particularly the protagonist, Jennifer Strange. She is a kick-ass heroine with heart, and I can never resist those. There are some non-human characters who completely stole my heart as well. Plenty of interesting themes, including greed, grief, honor, friendship, and family. I love the way magic exists in this world, which is in many ways similar to our own, and thus, quite believable.
The audiobook version was wonderfully performed as well. The voice of the dragon was the best. This book is one I'll be rereading/relistening to in the future, for the performance, as well as the book itself.
If you're looking for a magical escape read with lots of dry wit and some heart, too, you can't go wrong with this one in either format. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series!
I was first attracted to this book by the cover with such amazing colours and illustrations. My favourite chapter is Maltcassion, where Jennifer Strange talks to the dragon Maltcassion. This is where the Jasper Fforde humour really shines. If I could I would quote the entire chapter. Maltcassion and Jennifer discuss the human race and its many failures, like the failure to discover the 600 varieties of floon beetle, one of which turns itself inside out for fun.
Maltcassion also tells Jennifer that "As far as the average lobster is concerned mammals - with the possible exception of the armadillo - are built inside out. and that when crustaceans rule the Earth, humans may begin to regret the lobster dishes and crab sticks.
I think my favourite part of the whole book was Maltcassion saying that of course crabs have a sense of humour - You wouldn't walk sideways for any other reason, would you?
I wasn't all that thrilled by the ending, I thought Jennifer's ending was quite random. Overall the plot wasn't as fleshed out as I would like, but it felt like Jasper Fforde had a lot of fun writing this and I certainly had a lot of fun reading it.
Yet another witty read by Jasper Fforde! Although aimed primarily at younger readers, this book is very enjoyable and very Fforde: lots of great characters (Jennifer did remind me of a young Thursday Next), puns, jokes and inventiveness. Who else but Fforde could mix an evil multinational, media circus, crooked politicians and dragons in the same book? Granted, the book is short and the plot is a bit thin but this is still a great read. A very good Fforde:)
If you like Jasper Fforde, then you probably have already read this. This was a quirky little book. I loved the new world that was unfolding of magic and dragons. I also liked the characters. They ,too, were quirky.
This was a little slow to take off for me, but there was so much new information to glean that it wasn't a hardship. I will read more in this series because I was intrigued by this book. I just wanted a little more detail for both the world building and the characters. I hope I get that in the next one.
And so I've started yet another Jasper Fforde series. I have yet to finish one, either because of my own reading preferences or because, well—actually none of his series are finished. He keeps dangling a ninth Thursday Next (I still need to read seven and eight), the third Nursery Crime book will seemingly never be written (why), we seem to never be getting Shades of Grey's promised two sequels, and this one has a fourth book that who even knows when it's coming. So even if I finish reading all his books, I will not be FINISHED. Wait, is the newest one part of a series? If not, at last some closure! I tell you what, my (not at all hyperbolic) OCD does NOT like this one bit.
Jennifer Strange is a foundling who lives in an alternate England where the UK is actually the unUK (aka the Ununited Kingdoms). We actually don't find out how many kingdoms there are for sure, but there are a lot, because this is a Jasper Fforde book, and satirical wackiness is his thing. Also a thing in this world is magic, which has grown right alongside commerce and industrialization. Actually, more accurate to say "dwindled." Magic users have been steadily losing their power for decades. Where Jennifer comes in is that she's indentured to a house of magic, which she runs because magic users can't be bothered to run their own lives and think about things like practical details so they usually live together where somebody else can do those things for them. She's very no-nonsense and mature for her age (we're told most foundlings are).
The plot of the book kicks off when multiple seers predict that the last dragon will be killed next Sunday at noon. This starts off a frenzy. By law, when the force field surrounding the dragon lands goes down, anyone can claim it. Jennifer gets mixed up in it, against her will, and ends up proving herself savvy and compassionate. She's a fun character to follow. I always enjoy Fforde's no-nonsense protagonists because they make such nice foils for the ridiculousness that usually surrounds them, and this book is no exception, though the humor is toned down slightly due to this not being an adult book like the usual stuff I read from him.
I will definitely be continuing this series. It was a fun way to pass a couple of hours without having to really turn my brain on.
LSG Book Club read, January 2013. If this is relevant to you, the appropriate thread is here. We're not spoiler-free any more (although this review, I hope, is), so be warned. Go forth.
In The Last Dragonslayer, Jennifer Strange (if you can picture Thursday Next without quite as much cynicism, and with a way better pet) is a foundling who looks after wizards in an alternative Herefordshire that borders on the lands of a dragon. By the end of the book, that dragon is going to die. The title knows it, I know it, basically the entire cast except Jennifer Strange knows it, and when that dragon dies, his lands will go to the first person who claims them. The premise of this book is a land war. Amazing! I love books with land wars in them, and also dragons. This dragon is an excellent dragon. Anyway, it's up to Jennifer Strange, for reasons that make themselves apparently slowly and steadily, to prevent the war, and hopefully also to protect the dragon. She fails at at least one of these.
And that was a thing that I really liked about this book. In a world where not many people can do magic, and all of them are pretty cool, the main character can't do magic. She's not special. She gets stuff right, but some of that is by accident, and she gets other stuff wrong, but for rational reasons, and that's a genuine spanner in the works. Jennifer Strange is a really good protagonist, and an excellent YA protagonist. Another thing I liked was that the country she comes from is not the underdog - it is the biggest nation around, and if there's a war, It Will Win. That, I thought, was dealt with really well. From reading other Fforde books, he has a very characteristic flavour of worldbuilding - quirky, idealist, with a lot to say about bureaucracy, the distribution of power and big business. This book fits very well into that kind of world, and although the world itself is something I can tire of easily, I can see that it's a good place to put this particular story. Having said that, the best thing about the worldbuilding for me was Fforde's system of magic - I'm a sucker for a good magic system, especially if it's explained well, with great lashings of plausible pseudoscience. This was marvellous and I loved it. And if you get thirty pages into this book without thinking, "I need a Quarkbeast in my life," then it's entirely possible that you have no soul.
The trouble is, ah... look, it was perfectly serviceable. I enjoyed reading it. There were just no sparks. As usual with these things, I thought the ending was dealt with too quickly. Will somebody please give me a book with good set-up and actual war-related wranglings? If you do I will love you forever. But that's not even the trouble. That's - partly, at least - me wanting to read a different book. The main trouble I had with The Last Dragonslayer was stylistic.
Jasper Fforde, as I believe I've mentioned before, is a very deliberate writer. He does things on purpose. He tries very hard. I've only ever read The Eyre Affair by him before, and just like that, I found the humour in The Last Dragonslayer a bit heavygoing. It wasn't that it was difficult, or that it was confusing, but he quite obviously puts it there on purpose, and invites you to comment on having noticed it. It doesn't feel light, or spontaneous - it took an embarassing amount of time for me to stop thinking, "Yes, well done, I see what you did there," and actually get around to enjoying it. And when I did that, the whole thing bloomed. There was not a lot of subtlety, which was a shame, because there was an awful lot of room for subtlety. Occasionally, there'd be a bit - the scene between Jennifer and Maltcassion the dragon made me happy. It was so promising! But not promising enough, or consistent enough, for me to grin broadly and bump this up a star. I liked it, it was good fun, but it didn't feel smooth. It grated just a little too much.
I'd still recommend this to a lot of people, and if I ever find myself babysitting again, this is going right up the top of my list of books to read with anyone over the age of nine or ten. I can see why people can love this book, and I do like it. Just... not quite enough, I'm afraid.
OH MY QUARKBEASTS. 4.5 stars. WARNING- total isolation is advised while reading. I am so serious, you will not be able to stop laughing. The plot itself is a bit slow in parts but... the rest is too good. And if you are wondering if quarkbeasts have anything to do with real quarks, the answer is yes. (You'll find out more in Song of the Quarkbeast.)
Full disclosure: I love Jasper Fforde's novels for adults, and if I happen to love the Thursday Next series and merely like the Nursery Crime series, then love trumps like and I can still say that I love his books. (Did you follow that?) So I was already predisposed to like his first book written for the YA market when my coworker pressed it into my hot little hands. What ensued, however, was not mere liking. My friends, this book provided me with the most enjoyable reading experience I've had yet this year!
For those of you who have already read Jasper Fforde and grappled his books to thy hearts with hoops of steel, you know exactly what I mean. For those unfortunate souls among you who have not yet discovered his genius, please imagine the literary offspring from the unholy union of Lewis Carroll and Terry Pratchett. It's difficult to imagine higher praise or a more precise comp.
Jennifer Strange, foundling, temporary caretaker of Kazam Mystical Arts Management, and non-magical being, is two weeks shy of her sixteenth birthday when she learns she is, in fact, the Last Dragonslayer (it must needs capitals to differentiate from merely the previous, or last, dragonslayer). She drives a beat-up Volkswagen that's more rust than orange, she loves a queer and fearsome little animal by the name/species of Quarkbeast, and she mentors another foundling by the name of Horton "Tiger" Prawns. They both hail from the Sisterhood of the Lobster, you see.
If you're like me, then you're already nodding to yourself and saying, "Yeah. I *totally* dig that. Where can I get my hands on a copy?"
If you're a little slower on the uptake when it comes to grasping Fforde's genius, I'll add that this book is funny and layered and clever and wildly inventive. It slyly lays waste to things like commercialism, merchandise endorsement, double-crossings, and other treacheries. There's no reason I can think of *not* to read this book.
Now I want a Quarkbeast. Though I suppose my mastiff is as a reasonable facsimile as I'm likely to get.
This book won't cure cancer or grant world peace, but it's as excellent a diversion from sickness and war as one can hope for.
2nd read: Britische Schrulligkeit gepaart mit Magie, Drachen und einem Quarktier.. muss man einfach lieben :D
1st read: This was my first book by Jasper Fforde but definitely not my last. I totally love the magical and slightly odd world he created, the interesting story, the quirky characters and the lively dialogues, which made me laugh out loud more than once. Highly recommended!