Expected USA Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Young Adult, Ages 12+
ARC copy used for review.
Personal Ranking 4 out of 5
"Once, I was famous. My face appeared on T-shirts, badges, commemorative mugs, and posters. I made front-page news, appeared on TV, and was even a special guest on The Yogi Baird Daytime TV Show. The Daily Clam called me "the year's most influential teenager," and I was the Mollusc on Sunday's Woman of the Year. Two people tried to kill me, I was threatened with jail, had fifty-eight offers of marriage, and was outlawed by King Snodd IV. All that and more besides, and in less than a week. My name is Jennifer Strange."
For over 400 years, the unUnited Kingdoms have been living in a world underneath the terms of the Dragonpact. Almost sixteen years old, Jennifer Strange is a strong, sassy heroine who just happens to be managing Kazam, an employment agency and home for wizards. Wizards and Sorcerers are struggling to find work as magic in the world and their powers are fading. Just when she thinks she has her hands full with Mystical Arts Management and a new foundling to train, pre-cogs start seeing premonitions of the death of the last dragon. Sometimes it seems that only her faithful Quarkbeast and Tiger Prawns, the new foundling, seem to be the only ones on her side. Jennifer must figure out how to balance the demands of her job while magic seems to be disappearing all around them, and at the same time figure out who the Last Dragonslayer is and convince them not to kill the dragon.
I hinted about my love of Jasper Fforde in my review of Between the Lines, so imagine my surprise and delight to receive a copy of The Last Dragonslayer only a few weeks later. Actually, it was more of a "library appropriate" victory dance. This is Fforde’s first Young Adult book, and it does not disappoint. Fforde has a way of creating these worlds where anything can happen, and this time magic and dragons are at the center of it all.
As anyone who believes in magic and premonitions will tell you, all a premonition shows you is one version of what could happen. Things change, sometimes through no fault of your own, but to believe that a premonition will come 100% true is to set yourself up for disappointment. One of the things that really struck me was the lengths people would go to make the premonitions come true. The rules of the Dragonpact are clear; the dragon can not be killed by the Dragonslayer unless it has violated the pact. So when the pre-cogs start announcing that the Dragon will be killed on Sunday at noon by the Dragonslayer, people start camping out, placing bets, and bribing the last Dragonslayer. When Jennifer becomes a major player in the game, she has to figure out how to stick to her convictions and do the right thing, even though it is the unpopular choice. Greed is an incredible motivator and their is no lack of it in the town of Hereford.
This is the first book in the Chronicles of Kazam, and I know I won’t be the only one looking forward to the future adventures of Jennifer Strange. Sometimes it is a drag to have a British author as one of your favorites, but keep an eye out for The Song of the Quarkbeast (USA 2013) and The Return of Shandar (USA 2014).