The Last Dragonslayer, by Jasper Fforde. San Diego, California: Harcourt Children’s Books, 2012. 296 pages. $16.99, hardcover.
I’ve enjoyed Jasper Fforde since his first novel, The Eyre Affair, introduced us to Thursday Next and her adventures in book world, and then my appreciation for Fforde deepened as he took a break from Thursday and began a series of books based on nursery rhymes and the detective who investigates nursery crimes. Now, Fforde returns with his first book for young adults, The Last Dragonslayer, which is as Ffordian as anything he’s written and the start of a new series.
16-year-old (well, in two weeks) Jennifer Strange manages an aging group of sorcerers, movers, soothsayers, shifters, weathermongers, carpeteers, a Quarkbeast, and other assorted mystical artisans as she continues to earn her freedom from an enforced six years of servitude. Magic is dwindling, and any spell must be documented and signed off on, in triplicate. Nothing to be done about this loss of magic, and in time, it is believed, magic will disappear and all magic-wielders will be unemployable.
Until, that is, precogs around the world begin predicting the death of the last dragon, which will happen in fewer than seven days, at noon, in an area of the world given over to dragons some 400 years earlier. Only a dragonslayer—or a dragonslayer’s apprentice—can enter the dragon-only area. Except no one knows where the dragonslayer is, since no dragon has required slaying.
Some believe the prediction means Big Magic will return; others think the dragon surely deserves to die. And Strange, somewhere in the middle of all of this believing, ends up fully in the middle of the events leading up to and surrounding the predicted death of the last dragon.
A madcap adventure. A fully realized world in which magic and dragons belong and exist. Characters who never would fit in at Hogwarts, but are loveable regardless. A sword named Exhorbitus. A dragon, Maltcassion. And Jennifer Strange, who, for one week, was famous, threatened with jail, proposed to 58 times, outlawed by King Snood, and named “the year’s most influential teenager.” Fforde’s young adult debut is as entertaining, captivating, and—shall I say it?—spellbinding as his adult novels. Maybe more so, since children still believe in magic and dragons and a teenager who can save the world.
William Henderson is never far from his phone, where he is often tweeting (@Avesdad) or blogging (hendersonhouseofcards.com). He is a frequent contributor to Thought Catalog, and has been published in The Rumpus, Mental Shoes, Revolution House, Specter, and Used Furniture Review, among others. He writes a bimonthly column for Hippocampus Magazine, is a regular contributor to Peripheral Surveys, and published his first chapbook, Edgeways, through NAP, in 2011.