Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review: The Last Dragonslayer - Jasper Fforde

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
Series: The Chronicles of Kazam #1
Genre: YA, alternate reality, comedy, fantasy
Published on October 2, 2012
Published by HMH Books
Pages: 287
Read From: 6.4.13 - 6.5.13

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.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? An orange Volkswagen Beatle coupled with dragon scales and the title The Last Dragonslayer? That's definitely attention-grabbing. I had to find out what this book was about, and by the time I read the synopsis, I was hooked.

Characters: Jennifer Strange was a fun protagonist. Practical and in possession of a great sense of humor, I really enjoyed following her along in this adventure. She takes everything that happens to her in stride and is entirely bereft of a victimized attitude - and considering her background, Jenny very well could have had one. Tiger Prawns, Jenny's "understudy" at Kazam, was an absolutely adorable twelve-year-old boy, and also very sharp. I couldn't get enough of him and his quick wit. The other residence of the Zambini Towers were all equally interesting and unique, though it took me a while to remember all of their strange names and match them to the correct character. This was no fault of the book itself; it was me. The villains of the story weren't so much evil as they were just despicable and really fun to dislike. They cause a lot of problems for Jenny, but never do anything downright horrible. Probably my most favorite characters, though (aside from Jenny and Tiger), were the Quarkbeast - who was cute in a completely alarming way - and Maltcassion the dragon. I am a big fan of dragons with quirky and sarcastic personalities, and Maltcassion was no exception. While not in the story a great deal, he left an impression nonetheless, and I can't wait to get to know Feldspar and Colin more in the other books. They have a lot of personality, too.

The Romance: There isn't any!

Plot: Jennifer Strange is a foundling - an orphan, forced to serve an indentureship until her eighteenth birthday. Only then will she be considered a full citizen of the kingdom of Hereford. Since she was twelve, Jenny has served her indentureship at Kazam Mystical Arts Management, hiring out the resident wizards and sorcerers to unclog people's drains, rewire their houses, or charm away moles in their backyard. When Mr. Zambini goes missing, she steps in as acting manager, and with it comes all sorts of responsibilities and obligations. Magic isn't in as high demand as it once was. It's expensive, takes a serious toll on the wizards using it, and is overall the last resort for a lot of people. After all, you can hire an electrician or plumber for half the cost! Jenny must figure out how to keep Kazam Mystical Arts Management going, otherwise she'll be sent back to the orphanage and the wizards and sorcerers in her employ will be out on the streets. But money problems aren't the only thing on Jenny's mind. Seers across the land have been receiving the same vision: of the last dragon, Maltcassion, dying at the hands of the Last Dragonslayer. With Maltcassion's death, the coveted Dragonlands will at last be up for grabs, and King Snodd IV is anxious to snag it before the Duke of Brecon - King Snodd's enemy - does. None of this really concerns Jenny all that much . . . until she's named the Last Dragonslayer. Suddenly everyone expects her to slay Maltcassion and claim the Dragonlands for the kingdom of Hereford. But Jenny doesn't trust King Snodd, any more than she trusts the dragon Maltcassion. Caught in the middle, she's faced with a difficult choice, and either one could end in disaster. When we Readers are first introduced to the quirky world of The Last Dragonslayer, it's confusing. We're dumped right in the middle of it, with no explanation and no warning. My hopes for the book plummeted at this point, but I decided to give it another chance. I'm glad I did, because by page 30 things begin to make a lot more sense, and I was able to enjoy the strange kingdom of Hereford. We're presented with a modern day British Isles that is totally different from what we know. Magic is competing with technology, and Britain is broken up into a bunch of little warring fiefdoms, creating the Ununited Kingdoms, rather than the United Kingdoms. It's a world that is bizarre and comical at the same time, and I had a lot of fun immersing myself in it. The plot itself was very engaging. The Author expertly balances a healthy dose of world building, character development, and fast-paced action in this 287-page novel. While the storyline seems pretty straightforward at first, it becomes clear very quickly that not everything is at it seems - people's true motivations, what really happened with the Dragonpact. At times, certain events came and went faster than I would have preferred. Jenny meets the former Dragonslayer long enough for him to instate her as the Last Dragonslayer, and then he's gone. It would have been nice to know him better, but it would have also been unnecessary detail to the plot.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. With her dry sense of humor, Jenny is an excellent narrator. Seeing the world of Hereford through her eyes makes the world building that much more interesting and comical. There were a few times when the Author's writing threatened to become a bit preachy, when Jenny gets on her soap box and starts lamenting how the untouched beauty of the Dragonlands will be destroyed with development once Maltcassion dies. However, this doesn't happen too often and therefore doesn't detract from the overall story.

Content: None.

Conclusion: The date of the prophecy looms, and Jenny can no longer avoid making her decision: kill Maltcassion or let him live, thereby securing the entire hatred of the kingdom of Hereford. To be honest, I wasn't expecting the climax to be all that dramatic. But it was in surprising ways. I almost needed a tissue a couple of times, but don't worry! It has a very satisfying and fitting end. I didn't throw the book across the room; it wasn't that kind of dramatic. The Last Dragonslayer was a unique and interesting story. What would a modern day world be like with magic? Throw in dragons, a spunky and witty protagonist, a prophecy, and a conniving king - and you've got one fun summer read!

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, any age, great for fans of unique fantasy, comedy, and witty female protagonists. A terrific weekend/summer read!

Others in The Chronicles of Kazam:
1)The Last Dragonslayer
2)The Song of the Quarkbeast

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