Title: The Last Dragonslayer (The Last Dragonslayer #1)
Author: Jasper Fforde
In the good old days, magic was indispensable – it could both save a kingdom and clear a clogged drain. But now magic is fading. Drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets are reduced to pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs the Kazam Mystical Arts Management, an employment agency for magicians, but it’s hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. 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.
To be honest, I hadn’t planned on reading this book. I saw it mentioned on the internet somewhere, judged it by its cover (I know, bad me), and thought it looked like an adult fantasy. But then I saw it in the middle grade section of the library and read the back cover. Foundlings, dragons, magical employment agency…I decided to give it a try.
And I’m glad I did.
Jennifer Strange made a great manager for Kazam. Actually, I think she would have made a great manager anywhere. Organized, logical, not overly emotional, mature, and very in-control, I absolutely loved her – probably because she’s a lot like me.
The Last Dragonslayer had an ensemble cast of minor characters. Various wizards, a king, a duke, a dragonslayer, a nun, a dragonslayer’s apprentice, a moose, another foundling…the list goes on. But most of them were in only a scene or three.
The setting was absolutely amazing. It’s officially called the Kingdom of Hereford, but it’s a bit like medieval times and a bit like modern times but somehow had a distinctly British feel. Details like cars and land development corporations and merchandising rights gave it a familiar vibe, but the prevalence and universal acceptance of magic (with some sciency terms to explain it) also made it utterly, brilliantly foreign.
The plot is full of crazy twists and developments that shouldn’t work, but do. Looking back on it, there are some moments that in any other book would feel fake or contrived, but fit perfectly into the screwball storytelling of The Last Dragonslayer. The story is a perfect blend of smart and silly, realistic and ridiculous, ordinary and oddball. “Zany” is the perfect adjective for this book – amusingly unconventional, entertainingly strange, and enjoyably unusual.
I didn’t know this when I picked it up, but The Last Dragonslayer is first in a series. And I plan to read the second book, The Song of the Quarkbeast, as soon as I can get my hands on it.