17 June 2014

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

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 are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, 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 the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as . . . Big Magic.

This book was a curious case, because I had a set of expectations going into it and some were met, others surpassed, and others falling short entirely.

What I was expecting was something interesting and outside of the mainstream -- The Last Dragonslayer had that in spades.  I can't think of a better word than "quirky" to describe it.  It was, at the very least, well developed.  The world had been changed by magic, the very world as the audience knew it.  But developments that were unfamiliar to me, the reader, we well described so I wasn't left feeling lost and confused.

What I expected was something satisfying in its appearance of a feisty main character.  Again, surpassed.  I really liked Jennifer, because while she had a bright, sarcastic (sometimes caustic) sense of humor, she had a steel spine and a clever head on her shoulders.  She also had the charming characteristic of empathy.  She cared about more than herself and her friends.  She cared about strangers and the state of the world.

The one expectation that fell short was this: I wanted to become enthralled by the story, not simply engaged in it.  I read it, and enjoyed it, and I think fondly of it having finished it.  But there was something about it that was missing.  Something that kept me from getting giddy and excited.  It's not a book that I would stand on street corners and wave in the faces of passing pedestrians.

My theory is that it is targeted for young readers, but not in the way that the Artemis Fowl series is.  It is not a book that I would classify as "middle grade."  I would cast the range a little lower, to maybe third to fifth grade.  This may be what kept me from fully becoming encapsulated by the story.

Full of exotic, sometimes (mostly) crazy and ridiculous titles and names for things, but also chockfull of eccentric, entertaining and endearing characters, The Last Dragonslayer was a nice, short book that acted as the perfect launchpad from which to get into my summer reading.

Book Info
  • pages - hardcover, 287
  • published - October 2012
  • publisher - HMH Books for Young Readers
  • genre - fantasy
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 4/5
  • series - The Last Dragonslayer
    • The Last Dragonslayer
    • Song of the Quarkbeast
    • The Eye of Zoltar