The Last Dragonslayer (The Chronicles of Kazam Series #1) is the most recent audiobook I picked up to listen to on the commute to work. I am not a huge Jasper Fforde fan but I remembered being intrigued when this first book in a new series came out. So when I saw it at the library I grabbed it:
In the good old days, magic was indispensable. But now magic is fading: Drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, 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 the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam—and for Jennifer.
And it made for an enjoyable commute. It started off a bit slow but once I got into it, the pace and tension picked up and I actually wasn’t too upset when I got stuck in traffic last week and was able to finish the book before making it to work.
There are lots of interesting characters and the narrator Elizabeth Jasicki does a great job of bringing their voices to life. The lead character, Jennifer Strange, is particularly well done. Mature for her age, almost 16 don’t you know, quirky but with a strong moral sense.
Lots of satire of contemporary society through the lens of this unique fantasy world; politics, multinational corporations, office work, etc. Making the greedy corporation the bad guy was predictable these days but not over-the-top. At least there was a twist involved that made it interesting (one or two in fact). I also liked the fact that the international pop star was a politically powerful, and ruthless bad guy.
It wasn’t laugh out loud funny, at least to me, but it was witty and droll. I like the quarkbeast for example. A rather simple addition but that creates situational humor and silliness.
Some of the slowness comes from this being the first in a trilogy. Fforde is clearly setting up the series in this first book. And it worked, as I am looking forwarding to reading (or listening to) the rest.
I will offer you two quite different takes on this first book in the series (I listened to the audio so that might explain something).
While this all seems very dark and ominous, Fforde keeps the puns and humor flowing, and populates the tale (Harcourt, 2012) with outrageous individuals and fantastic creatures. The plot is engaging, and Jennifer is a mature and well-developed character whose intelligence, strong morals, and ingenuity help her through some very difficult decisions. Elizabeth Jasicki channels the book’s wittiness impeccably, and presents each character with just the right voice and accent, from polite Jennifer to the gruff, wizened Maltcassian the Dragon. Listeners will be captivated by this first title in a trilogy and will eagerly await the further adventures of Jennifer, her pet quarkbeast, and her assistant, Tiger Prawns.
Jennifer never comes across as adolescent or real; instead, her knowledge of her world and her even-toned narrative (even of high-intensity scenes) seem downright authorial. Too much of the novel is comprised of comic bits strung together with first-person exposition, and laughs fall flat when they depend on British slang, as with know-it-all William of Anorak. The obvious and clearly broadcast message (“Greed is all powerful; greed conquers all,” tempered by Jennifer’s innate goodness) further impedes the effect of the broad, sometimes ingenious humor. The second volume may fare better as it promises to highlight the aging, odd wizards and world rather than the less-than-sparkling Jennifer. Mostly for Fforde’s fans, although fantasy readers with a taste for the silly should appreciate the subverted tropes.