The Last Dragonslayer
Harcourt, 2012 286 pgs Grades 6-8
Adult author, Jasper Fforde enters the world of middle grade fiction with this first entry in the Chronicles of Kazam series. Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency and hotel for magicians. An orphan herself, the book opens with Jennifer meeting a training a new apprentice sent from the same orphanage she is from. The training allows us to see the running of Kazam in an alternate United Kingdom with all its quirks, eccentric magicians, and magical beasts, including Jennifer's pet; a vicious looking quarkbeast. Half way through the book Jennifer discovers she is the last dragonslayer and part of an important prophecy from which fulfillment will line the pockets of the king and other greedy business interests. Jennifer journeys into Drangonlands, meets the aging dragon, and struggles with the fulfillment of her destiny. All ends in an unpredictable, yet satisfying way and Jennifer continues her work with a new understanding of her place in the world.
The Last Dragonslayer provides "fantasy light", magical elements existing in a world similar to ours. Jennifer has no magical powers and seems unremarkable at first glance. She deals efficiently and practically with the magical elements around her and her matter-of-factness makes the magic seem very realistic to the reader. Fforde offers characteristic humor, which helps to lighten the mood of the book and keeps the pages turning. The Last Dragonslayer never bogs down and offers some twists in the plot which keep the reader on their toes. This is book that can be enjoyed by both boys and girls and is a great suggestion for non-fantasy readers doing a fantasy book report. The writing style is similar to that of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams. It is a clever, fun, and imaginative. I envy Jennifer Strange for her opportunities and adventures and would love to pay a visit to Kazam. Luckily I only have to crack into the sequel. The Song of the Quarkbeast, to do just that.