Originally posted on 03/02/2011 on cxPulp.com. Read and comment on this article here!
Quick Rating: Excellent
Jennifer Strange must cope with the unfortunate demise of Dragonkind
Author: Jasper Fforde
Publication Date: November 4th, 2010
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Let me tell you, it was hard to snag a copy of this one. For whatever reason, it was not released in the United States. I was able to order it direct through Amazon and import it, but even that turned into something of a chore. I ordered this book shortly after Christmas, and due to normal international shipping times and increased security, it took almost 2 months to arrive. I don’t know if it was worth the wait or not, but it certainly was an enjoyable read.
Fforde is most known for his Thursday Next series, but American readers probably aren’t as familiar with his other works. This is another one that is sure to fall under the radar for some reason – I’ve never understood why he didn’t take off as an author in this country. His writing is characterized by a dry, witty absurdity that is truly unique. I am happy to say that those who appreciate those qualities in his writing will find that The Last Dragonslayer is very much a typical Fforde book.
The story follows Jennifer Strange, who is going to turn fifteen in just two weeks. She is an orphan who was abandoned outside a sort-of convent in a VW Beetle, and eventually finds herself an indentured servant working for Kazam Mystical Arts Management. Though she has very little magical ability, she proves to be an effective manager by helping the sorcerers who work for Kazam find a wide variety of employment. The trouble is – magic is vanishing from the world, and what magic is left is heavily regulated. Even the smallest spells require a mountain of paperwork to legally cast, making it more and more difficult for sorcerers to earn a living. A string of precognitive visions foretell a turning point: the final dragon in existence is about to die. Magic may die with him, but it might be an opportunity to restore magic to its former glory. A centuries old prophecy thrusts Jennifer right in the middle of the whole episode, forcing her to make a few impossible choices.
The Last Dragonslayer is a young adult novel. It’s right up there with Harry Potter – it seems designed for a teenage reader, but it is definitely something adults can enjoy. There are obvious comparisons to Harry Potter – magic and the United Kingdom being common threads – but that is where the comparison stops. Not only is Jasper Fforde a much more skilled author than the somewhat amateur (but now disgustingly rich) J.K. Rowling, but those talents are reflected in his writing.
Jenny’s choices aren’t so black and white. She is given a great view of the plot’s current… decides what course it should take, and is then told by all parties that she is completely wrong. And she is. There is an incredible futility to her situation that is interesting to experience – you completely sympathize with her and feel her confusion as she is caught up in a centuries old scheme. But she makes you proud – she stands up for herself in all the right places, instead of backing down and taking the easy way out – she earns the admiration of the reader, which makes her far more endearing as a character.
As any Young Adult novel, this is a quick read, but an entertaining one. This probably isn’t the best book to try out Jasper Fforde for the first time, but fans of his work should seek this one out. Even if it takes two months to arrive in the mail.