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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Last Dragonslayer (The Last Dragonslayer #1) by 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 used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for magicians—but it’s hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world’s last dragon at the hands of an unnamed Dragonslayer. If the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as . . . Big Magic.

Released: November 4th 2010                   Pages: 296
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books       Source: Library

First Look: *****  You might have noticed how I sometimes begin reviews by writing about how a particular book is "not typically my thing". Well, this isn't that book, because...dragons. Dragons are totally my thing (several of my favorite books and movies involve them, and I even wrote a book about them), which is why I picked this up.

Setting: *****  I loved the juxtaposition of magic unto our modern world.  Everything is pretty much the same, except with magic.  The governments and countries are a little different, but overall it's a modern world familiar to readers.  It's a quirky setting (in a good way), and full of surprises.

The magic systems had defined rules, which is always a must for any fantasy book.  While it might have been interesting to see the author go more in-depth on this, I got a good sense of how the system worked.

 Characters: ***** I liked Jennifer, for the most part.  Her steadfast organization of her odd little business endeared me to her, and the way she immediately took Tiger under her wing.  She acted and reacted like a real person.  Her conflict as to whether or not to slay the dragon gave some amount of depth to her, but I wish I could've seen more.

The side characters, like Tiger (not a large striped cat, but a person), the assorted wizards, the dragon, and even the Quarkbeast made for a memorable cast of side characters, as well.

 Plot: ***** It took awhile for it to pick up.  The initial portions of the book lacked a strong, focused plot.  There were hints of a conflict looming over the characters' heads, but for a long while they were mostly brushed off. 

Once the conflict directly included Jennifer, it got much more interesting.  Again, her indecision--to kill or not to kill the dragon--was a question even I couldn't answer, and I kept reading to see how she'd decide.
 Uniqueness: ***** It uses familiar aspects of fantasy novels--the dragon and the slayer, the unwanted inherited power, the magicians and wizards.  It incorporates them, though, in a unique, modern, and quirky style.

Writing: ****It did, as I like to call it, "the writer's job".  It told the story without being obtrusive.  The narration was simply a means to get the story across, and in that respect, the author did a nice job.

The only thing I can remember that bugged me was the fact that I never got a real description of the Quarkbeast.  It was hard to figure out what, exactly, he was supposed to look like, and the author never really clued me in.

 Likes: The dragon.

Not-so-great: Nothing not already mentioned above.

Overall: This is a delightfully quirky book.  It's short, but it's full of dragons and wizards and kings and prophecies and the ordinary people caught in between.  But it's not high fantasy, either--it's set in a modern world with cars, telephones, etc., which makes for a refreshing read.  I liked Jennifer, and the rest of the characters were memorable.  The plot was a little distant at the beginning, but it improved as the book went on.  Jennifer's internal conflict was done nicely.  Overall, four stars.

Similar Books: It's lighthearted and quirky fantasy like The Last Dragon or even the Septimus Heap booksIt would appeal to the same age group as the Ranger's Apprentice series.  It involves magic in the modern world like the Children of the Red King (Charlie Bone) series. 
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