Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

The Last DragonslayerThe Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I consider myself a fan of Jasper Fforde's. I've now read everything he's published in the US, and I've enjoyed rather a lot of it. I like his weird worlds, his twists on reality that are almost plausible, and I like his sense of humor. This being a whole new series, I wasn't sure what to expect. I wound up liking it, though, and plan to read more.

The Last Dragonslayer is about Jennifer Strange, who's (almost) 16 and is a foundling in a world where magic exists. She runs an agency of magic users in the absence of the manager, who vanished in a magical accident. Her replacement, Tiger Prawns, arrives, and through his eyes we learn of the odd world Jennifer lives in, where there's one surviving dragon and magic has been steadily dwindling for years. Then, all of the world's precogs (seers and psychics, basically) have a vision of the world's last dragon dying, and millions of people converge on the dragon's territory hoping to grab a piece of land when the barrier keeping people out drops.

Jennifer is confused for two-thirds of the book, and, because the book is in first-person, that means the reader is, too. She pieces together the puzzle slowly, but all isn't revealed until the very last chapter. The action of the last third makes up for a lot of the confusion of the earlier sections.

I wondered, for most of the book, why the protagonist was female. She has a lot of traditionally masculine traits, and romance never comes into the equation. It would be a spoiler to say why I felt this choice was a masterful one, in the end.

Jennifer is a flawed hero. She takes on too much, says the wrong things at the wrong time, and often trusts the wrong people. She muddles through a lot of the plot, and she lets her anger get the better of her judgment more than once. She also has agency, sensitivity, and a strong sense of who she is.

This book has a lot less of the quirky humor I've come to enjoy in Jasper Fforde's books. There were some jabs here and there, but the book's tone is mostly serious.

It also lacks a lot of the YA trappings, though it is a YA book. There's no bad language or sex. But then, I don't recall a lot in Fforde's other novels. The biggest thing that marks this as YA is the age of the protagonist.

I listened to this book on audio. For the most part, Elizabeth Jasicki's narration was good and clear, and she sounded like a teenage girl. But, narrating dialogue, she often drawled, whispered, or did some combination of the two that quickly became grating. If she narrates the next books, I do hope she finds a better way of narrating dialogue.


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