Hereford was once a magical place, full of wizards who could control the weather and bend time to their will. But that was a long time ago. The magic is dying, and now even the most powerful spellcasters are reduced to scraping by on unclogging drains and rewiring houses.
Jennifer Strange, foundling and acting operator of Kazam Mystical Arts Management, spends most of her time filing paperwork and making sure the office’s temperamental employees preserve their magic.
Suddenly those with precognitive abilities begin to have prophetic dreams. The world’s last remaining dragon is about to meet his fate at the business end of the last Dragonslayer’s blade.
But where is the Dragonslayer, and who can be counted as friend or foe? It may be up to Jennifer to decide, and that decision may change the world forever.
Fforde does it again
What else can I say about a Jasper Fforde book, other than that I love it and think it should be mandatory reading for everyone?
The Last Dragonslayer is the first in a trilogy by Fforde, and introduces us to a new world where magic is slowly seeping away. Powerful wizards could once grow a mature tree from an acorn in a weekend, but now must conserve what little magic remains — and use it to keep themselves employed doing things like rewiring houses and delivering pizzas on flying carpets.
If there’s one thing Fforde is great at, it’s worldbuilding. His fact-and-fiction world of the Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series are amazing, and his talent has not left him with this new endeavor.
The death of the last dragon means his former habitat will be available to whomever can claim it, and there are plenty of greedy souls itching to land-grab. Only the Dragonslayer can enter the dragon’s territory, and it will be up to him to decide the dragon’s fate.
But of course there’s more at stake than a dragon (although that already feels like plenty). Signs of a Big Magic are gathering, and the reader is never quite sure who to trust.
Characters you can’t help but love
Fforde’s no slouch at creating characters, either. Jennifer Strange, the novel’s main character, is an orphan (raised by the Sisters of the Blessed Lady of the Lobster), and makes for a reliable and entertaining narrator.
I also love her pet/companion. Known as the Quarkbeast, it’s described as being “nine-tenths velociraptor and kitchen blender and one-tenth Labrador.”
Combine that with an office full of things like the Transient Moose (a leftover practical joke), Mysterious X (who apparently collects stamps), and the Sisters Karamazov (both named Deirdre), and you’ve got a book chock-full of the oddest, best people around.
The long and short of it
While The Last Dragonslayer lacks the “punny” humor and literary allusions of his Thursday Next series, fans of Fforde or those looking for a great adventure story will not be disappointed.
The next book, The Song of the Quarkbeast, comes to the US in 2013. I for one will be reserving my copy.