The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the second book in the Jasper Fforde YA series about a teenage orphan who runs an agency of magicians and seers. This could easily be picked up without reading the first book, I think, but you'd miss out on the better of the two.
In the first book, Jennifer Strange, foundling, fulfills a prophecy to become the last dragonslayer. In this one, she's tasked with saving the agency she works for. Or, at least, not giving her rival an unfair advantage. The king is attempting to give a political position to the corrupt head of iMagic. In trying to stop it, Jennifer agrees to a magical battle between iMagic and Kazam, one she feels they should win handily. She didn't count on the measures the king would take to make sure iMagic wins.
We find out more about how magic works, and where some of the odd spells around the Kazam headquarters came from. We also meet The Great Zambini, who ran Kazam until his mysterious disappearance. Jennifer is about to pin down where he'll next temporarily materialize, and consults with him on solving the magical problem.
There's more going on in the background, and we learn more about The Mighty Shandar, the most powerful wizard in history who had caused all the trouble with dragons in the last book. It's background, but the series seems to be leading up to a confrontation that has something to do with him.
I don't know if it was that the shine of the new and creative had worn off, or if it was just different, reading it instead of listening on audio. I didn't dislike this book, but it didn't impress me as much as the first. There's always the danger of humor, that stakes are deflated for the sake of a punchline, but I don't think that's entirely to blame. Fforde has written a lot of hilarious books that felt deadly serious, nonetheless.
I hope it's a temporary bump, and not a pattern for the series. Regardless, I will be anticipating the next book to see for myself. Even at his worst, Fforde writes thoroughly enjoyable books.
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