Monday, January 6, 2014

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

The Last Dragonslayer
by Jasper Fforde
Published: Graphia, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2010, 2012)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 287
Genre: Fiction
Source: own book 

My first official Bout of Books book!  I was reading this for fun and to see if my son (who loves dragons) would like it. The title alone is very off-putting for him and I wanted to read it first to see if I should convince him to give it a try. (Still torn about that actually).  

So ... from the back of the book ...
"In the good old days, magic was indispensable; it could both save a kingdom and clear a clogged drain. 

But how 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 Jennifer. 

Because something is coming. Something known as ... Big Magic." 

So - the good: it was a quick, very pleasurable read. I liked the language and was very entertained. I was quite attached to the characters of Jennifer and Tiger, and to the Quarkbeast. The snapshot descriptions of the other characters were also well done and gave the story a nice solid feel. Overall, I had fun reading it - which at this point is my primary goal.

However ...  beyond the clear names and numbers, it was really, really hard to picture the world that was being described.  It was sort of like WALL-E - lots of attention grabbing, colorful billboards without much behind them if you start thinking about the details. Clearly the implication was that there was a massive population crunch and that more land was desperately needed,  but when Jennifer went out it never sounded like there was a population crunch - like it was really crowded out there. The outside world lacked cohesion - like a bunch of costumes and props pulled out of storage rooms of an old theater all running around on the stage with no rhyme or reason.  

So, as long as you are willing to suspend disbelief and not think too deeply about the story it was fun.  I am definitely going to read the next book. Four nice, happy dragonclaws. 


One thing that was really bugging me though - wouldn't the easiest way not to kill the dragon simply be not to be there ? i.e. no go into the Dragonlands?  Seriously - the way the story was building this up - I would have thought that Jennifer would just make the decision not to be anywhere near the dragon at the critical time.  It didn't make sense to me that she would go there anyhow for no reason other than everyone expected her to.  It wouldn't have taken much to give her some real objective in going to the Dragonlands at the right time.

The other problem I am having is deciding whether or not to recommend this book to my son.  Overall I think he would really enjoy it and would like Tiger and the Quarkbeast.  Unfortunately, the death that occurs near the end would probably upset him quite a bit.  With the title of the follow up book, I am wondering if I should wait until the next book to see if it, perhaps, makes what happens, um, recoverable or better somehow so that my son can read them together and not feel so bad.


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