The Last Dragonslayer is written by Jasper Fforde. It was published in 2012 by Harcourt. It is the first book in the Chronicles of Kazam. Fforde’s website can be found here.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
“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 have been reduced to pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management, 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 that’s true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as…Big Magic.”
“I’m fine,” Wizard Moobin muttered, turning over a broken tabletop. I picked up a fire extinguisher and put out a small fire in one corner of the room.
“What happened?” I asked again, and Moobin suddenly stood up from where he had been searching in a pile of smoldering papers. With a shaking hand, he passed me a toy soldier. It had only one leg, carried a musket, and was very heavy. It was made of pure gold.
“Yes?” I asked, still in the dark.
“Lead, used to be, was, like, at least. Then, well—” exclaimed the wizard excitedly, trying to find a chair undamaged enough to sit on.
“You’re babbling,” I told him.
“Lead—now—gold!” he said at last.
“Way to go!” said the Youthful Perkins enthusiastically. He had been joined by the Sisters Karamazov, who were jostling each other for the best view.
“Lead into gold!?” I repeated incredulously, knowing full well that such a spell requires a subatomic meddling that is almost unheard of below a Grand Master Sorcerer. “How did you manage to do that?”
I followed the old man over to the far wall, upon which hung a lance with a sharp tip that glistened dangerously. On a table beneath it lay an exquisite sword with a long blade that ended in a large hilt, bound with leather and adorned with a ruby the size of an orange.
“Exhorbitus,” said the old man in a soft, reverential voice. “The sword of the Dragonslayer. Only a Dragonslayer or his apprentice may touch it. One finger of an unauthorized hand, and voof!”
“Quark,” said the Quarkbeast, who understood something important when he heard it.
“As sharp as nothing else on earth. It will cut through carbide steel as though it were a wet paper bag.”
“Why is it called Exhorbitus?”
“Probably because it was very expensive.”
Recommended Age Range: 14+
What I Liked:
This book reminded me quite a lot of books by Diana Wynne Jones, probably because the humor was very similar. It wasn’t quite as put-together as a Jones novel, but it was still very entertaining.
I enjoyed all the aspects of magic and of the world that were explained, and I liked the fact that the book managed to be serious at the right times without taking itself too seriously, if that makes any sense. It was a lighthearted book, but there were still tense moments, even when the tense moments were also funny (“He was between me and the door, and I was just thinking of leaping out the window when a single word stopped _____ in his tracks. It was a simple word. Short, to the point, and unmistakable in its meaning. The word was quark, and the Quarkbeast said it”).
Also, dragons always make books better. Fact. (Unless the book is Eragon, in which case, there’s no saving it. Sorry, Eragon fans).
What I Didn’t Like:
Everything happens very suddenly and out of the blue, with no prior foreshadowing (for the most part). All of a sudden, bam! Last Dragonslayer bam! Prophecy bam! Dragons bam! Berserker. I think the most well-plotted-out section was the part involving Grifflon and the attempts to sabotage Jennifer (The Fizzi-Pop endorsement, in particular, was fantastic). Other than that, it was all very abrupt, with very little background or explanation.
Jennifer acted way older than her age, but I’ve noticed that trend in fantasies a lot. Also, she had a lot of responsibility thrown at her from a young age, so it probably matured her a lot.
The Last Dragonslayer is funny in all the right places, with some great worldbuilding and potential for more books to come. The plot wasn’t quite as neat as I like, but there were some good moments among all the random surprises. If you’re a fan of Diana Wynne Jones, you might find Fforde’s style appealing.
You can buy this book here: The Last Dragonslayer: The Chronicles of Kazam, Book 1
Coming Up Next: The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison