Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Review: THE LAST DRAGONSLAYER


Jennifer Strange has a lot of responsibilities for a 15 year-old orphan.  She manages Kazam Mystical Arts Management, an employment agencies for magicians.  She has to schedule work for the her 9 employees who are still capable of producing magic, and she must provide a home for the other 48 sorcerers, movers, soothsayers, shifters, weather-mongers, carpeteers, and other mystical artisans living in Kazam who are no longer licensed or powerful enough to work.   She has to deal with a lot of delicate egos and over-the-top personalities.  As people rely more on technology than magic, finding work for her magicians has been a challenge and magical power seems to be drying up.  If Jennifer did not already have enough on her plate, numerous pre-cognitive magicians have received a vision that Maltcassion, the last dragon in the Ununited Kingdoms, will die by the sword of a Dragonslayer on Sunday at noon and Jennifer will be the Dragonslayer to do the deed.

Jennifer has no idea why she has been chosen as the last Dragonslayer.  Maltcassion has done nothing wrong, and she cannot see herself murdering such as noble creature.  However everyone, including King Snodd, can’t wait for to her kill “the beast” and open his massive lands for the taking.  Much excitement has built around Jennifer; in less than a week she is on the cover of every newspaper, she offered lucrative endorsement deals, two people attempt to kill her, and she receives fifty-eight offers of marriage.  All she wants is to return to her not-so-normal life and to learn the link between dragons and the dwindling supply of magic in the world.  Unfortunately, she cannot turn her back on destiny.

Jasper Fforde’s novel is an enjoyable fantasy with a very likeable main character. In the mists of a unique story about magic and dragons, Fforde manages to infuse commentary on modern commercialization, greed, reality television, and urbanization.  In a world where people are only looking out for themselves and doing whatever it takes to get ahead, Jennifer is one of the few intelligent, ethical, and genuinely kind people in the Ununited Kingdoms.  She remains true to her high morals throughout the novel, and she is the book’s strength. The best sections of The Last Dragonslayer are the quiet, thoughtful conversations between Jennifer and Maltcassion.   The weakness for me is in Fforde’s humor, which is a little too quirky.  I felt myself groaning and rolling my eyes with all the buffoon characters.  Thankfully, Fforde does not go overboard with the whimsical comedy. For students who like Terry Pratchett and Diane Wynne-Jones, The Last Dragonslayer is recommended.

3.5 stars
For grades 6 and up

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