The Song of the Quarkbeast
by Jasper Fforde
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Published: September 3, 2013 (US edition)
Genre: I have no idea anymore - YA fiction ?
Source: personal copy
Electro-magical devices were once everywhere. They
ran the Mobile Phone Network, the radar for air traffic control and even
medical scanners and microwaves. When the power of magic faded, they
were switched off one by one. The only long-term electromagical devices
still functioning as our story begins are yo-yos, the extremely useful
compass-pointing-to-North idea and the spell that keep bicycles from
Things are about to change. As the background Wizidrical Power slowly
builds after the Big Magic, King Snodd IV of the Kingdom of Hereford
realises that the power of magic has untold financial possibilities, and
the man that controls Magic controls almost anything. To this end he
has appointed as 'Official Court Sorcerer' the odious Blix at iMagic,
one of only two Houses of Enchantment left in the world. With Blix's
willing assistance, only one person stands between King Snodd and his
plans for power and riches beyond the wildest dreams of avarice.
Meet Jennifer Strange, sixteen-year-old acting manager of Kazam,
the only other House of Enchantment. She doesn't care for King Snodd or
his plans for magic. Ancient decree dictates that Kazam can refuse
Snodd's demands, but Blix challenges Kazam to a contest: The first team
to rebuild their half of Hereford's collapsed 12th century bridge gains
control of the other's House of Enchantment.
[redacted] Jennifer must use ever[y] ounce of ingenuity to vanquish Blix and
derail King Snodd's plans. [also redacted - good grief! Too much information!]
But one thing is certain: Jennifer Strange will not relinquish the noble
powers of magic to big business and commerce without a fight.
This is the second book in Fforde's Last Dragonslayer series - you should read The Last Dragonslayer first - while this book does stand on it's own as a story, it pretty much spoils the ending of the first one. The narrative picks up shortly after the ending of the first book and Kazam's sorcerers are back to odd jobs to keep cash flowing. Jennifer is still acting manager and is training Tiger to take her place someday. It is still a struggle to make everything work since the real manager of Kazam continues to be MIA. The exciting news is that Perkins is about to apply for his license to be a practicing sorcerer. But Blix, suddenly giving himself the honorific All-Powerful, puts a spoke into the works.
These books are light, fun reads. The characters are quirky and interesting, and the world building is - well still uneven and somewhat illogical - but definitely inventive and unique. Jennifer is a very sympathetic protagonist and a pleasure to read about. I really enjoyed this entry into the series and, as long as you don't think too deeply about the plot, it is quite a satisfying treat. The ending does snap into place too smoothly - honestly I think there could have been more done with the plot threads and everything could have used a bit more depth. On the other hand, it is sort of like arguing that cookies are not a nice treat because they aren't crème brûlée.
One odd thing that confused me is that book ended in a somewhat 'this is it' fashion - but online I see that there is already another book out in the UK and Canada The Eye of Zoltar, which will be published in the US on October 7, 2014 - and a fourth book, with a working title of Strange and the Wizard in the works.
One good thing this time around, I finally realized who the Quarkbeast reminded me of - Gleep from the MythAdventures series by Robert Lynn Asprin.
Anywoo - four claws - I liked it and might read it again one day.