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The Last Dragonslayer
Jasper Fforde
HarperCollins, 291 pages

The Last Dragonslayer
Jasper Fforde
Jasper Fforde was born in Wales. He spent several years as a focus puller on big-budget Hollywood productions. In the early 90s, he began to spend much of his free time writing short stories and then novels. His first published novel was The Eyre Affair.

Jasper Fforde Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: First Among Sequels
SF Site Review: Something Rotten
SF Site Review: The Well of Lost Plots
SF Site Review: The Eyre Affair
SF Site Review: Lost In A Good Book
SF Site Review: Lost In A Good Book

Past Feature Reviews
A review by David Soyka

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This is one of those books where you know exactly what to expect. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. I know what to expect from Häagen-Dazs rum raisin ice cream and just because the high-fat content is not necessarily the best thing to consume doesn't make the experience of eating it any less enjoyable.

If you've somehow managed to miss the Jasper Fforde juggernaut, he is the author of several serial parodies that variously poke fun at super agents and literary theory (Thursday Next), detective noir and kid stories (Nursery Crime Division) as well as dystopias and Wizard of Oz allusions (Shades of Grey). Think whimsical. Think smart-ass. Think about that unkempt guy in college who never attended classes but was obviously pretty smart and never at a loss for a wisecrack.

You're thinking Jasper Fforde.

The Last Dragonslayer is the latest addition to the Fforde stable, the first in of at least three volumes concerning the adventures of Jennifer Strange, adolescent foundling and indentured servant who manages the Kazam Mystical Arts Management, a collective of wizards for hire. Also it turns out that Strange is a chosen one (surprise, surprise), the last of a long line of Dragonslayers, destined to kill the last surviving dragon, thereby opening up the heretofore magically protected Dragonlands to land development. The bad guys here are not evil incarnate, just people with an eye for little else than profit and politicians with nothing else on their mind but expansion of their power (OK, I know some people think of that as evil incarnate, but nothing in the Lord Voldermort or Sauron class of pure forces of darkness, just normal human greed and stupidity).

The satirical target here, of course, is young adult fantasy, which might explain in part why the Canadian edition (a U.S. version is planned for release in September 2012) is marketed as a "young adult book for ages 10 and up." True, the writing is characteristic of teen novels in which plot is paramount and characterization one-dimensional, with nothing subtle about the satire, and it lacks the literary witticisms of the Thursday Next series. That said, it should still bring a smile to the "...and up" readership.

So if you aren't going to wince about characters with the nicknames of Half and Full for brothers surnamed Price, you might appreciate such banter as when Jennifer explains the spell casting motions of her wizards to a client:

  "…[he] looks like he's playing an invisible harp."

"We call it harping because the hand movements that precede the firing of a spell look like someone trying to play an invisible harp."

"I'd never have guessed. Don't they use wands or something?"

"Wands, broomsticks and point hats are for the storybooks." I held up my index fingers. "These are what they use. We used to insure their fingers in the old days, but we can't afford the premiums now…"
p. 22-23

 

An easy, fun read that you could share a few knowing smirks with your own teenagers, or even just smirk for your own self-satisfaction.

Copyright © 2012 David Soyka

David Soyka is a former journalist and college teacher who writes the occasional short story and freelance article. He makes a living writing corporate marketing communications, which is a kind of fiction without the art.


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