Review: Jasper Fforde’s “The Last Dragonslayer”

The Last Dragonslayer,is Jasper Fforde’s first entry into the burgeoning world of the young adult book, home of such properties as Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games.

In recognition of this fact, the novel’s heroine is, herself, a young adult. (Or a teenager, which is that the term is generally used to mean.)

Anyone expecting there to be anything juvenile about the book will be disappointed, however. It’s accessible, but not the least bit watered down. Sure, it stays away from the offensive, but Fforde has never been one to delve into “adult material” in the euphemistic sense.

And “Last Dragonslayer” is very much a Jasper Fforde book. In the Thursday Next series, in the Nursery Crimes books and in “Shades of Grey,” Fforde excels at world-building. His books are set in alternate realities that are fully developed and internally consistent. But he also has fun with it; if one is creating one’s own world, one is wasting the opportunity to do what one wants with it. It’s not really necessary to have dodo birds brought back from extinction in the Thursday Next novels, but, really, why not?

And Fforde is clearly enjoying himself in “The Last Dragonslayer.” Creating a world in which magic use, and dragonkind, are both barely hanging on in a contemporary world doesn’t necessarily correlate with having terribly frightening but loyally friendly pet Quarkbeasts, but, again, why not?

In typical Fforde fashion, the plot both winds and unwinds as the book progresses, but the story is something along the lines of an orphan running a magic agency dealing with the ramifications of the imminent death of the last dragon on magic use. As one might guess from the title, a dragonslayer is also involved. The story is enjoyable, but the real delight is the world that Fforde builds and the characters he populates it with. When the story reaches an agreeable conclusion, you wish you could hang out there after the book, in proper Thursday Nextfashion.

If you’re already a Jasper Fforde reader, this book will delight on the basis of being a great Fforde book. If you’re not; then shame on you, and this book may be the easiest jumping-on point yet to get a feel for his worlds.

One Response

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