The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
|Book Name:||The Last Dragonslayer|
|Publisher(s):||Harcourt Children's Books (US) Hodder & Stoughton (UK)|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book / eBook|
|Release Date:||October 2, 2012 (US) September 15, 2011 (UK)|
I’ve had people tell me that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. While I understand (and agree with) the metaphor as it applies to people, I think that I am perfectly justified by judging an actual book by its cover and blurb. Marketing people have certain audiences that they want to buy their products and putting things like pouty white girls in prom dresses with some “supernatural” atmosphere thrown in, some “specialness” about the heroine and her love interest(s) touted on the jacket somewhere will be catnip to some, but equally serve as a big welcoming warning light for those who aren’t interested in such things. By the same light, putting a picture of the original urban assault vehicle driving over a very scaly road will be interesting to some.
The Last Dragonslayer is set in a “like our world but different” kind of place where magic has been slowly declining in favor of technology. Jennifer Strange is the acting manager of one of the few remaining sorcery-for-hire businesses. Then the precognitives all get parts of the same vision: the last dragon in the world is going to die via as yet unnamed dragonslayer. Cue dramatic music.
Recently I’ve been getting more frustrated with first person narration (particularly YA), but I liked Jenny’s near perpetual calm, especially in the beginning. She thinks about consequences not just for her but also about the people around her and the stability of the company she’s trying to oversee. No witty comeback, just deep breaths and reminding herself of the consequences. Considering my day job involves dealing with the public, it was nice to see calm used to good effect. This does end up causing her problems as she seems to expect other people who at least outwardly appear reasonable to be doing the same thing when they are instead finding a new way to change the rules around her instead. After I stepped back a bit, I thought that it was subtly dystopian in a very “they are out to get me and can legally do so” sort of way that is all the more scary because it is far more realistic than the average apocalypse.
This is one of the few times I’ve seen the responsible part of being an adult in YA as well. Tiger Prawns gets dropped into Jennifer’s lap and she shows him the ropes without making a big deal out of anything. Additionally, narratively Tiger is an exposition device instead of a love interest. As mentioned before, she always thinks about the consequences of her actions before she does something. She doesn’t get caught up in the dragonslayer fever because she worries instead what will happen to magic and all the sorcerers under her management if the dragon does die. “Being an adult” in the real world is all about being responsible for yourself and using (or creating) what advantages you have to take care of those you are responsible for.
I loved the history behind the dragons, the sneakiness of the wizard who made a truce with them and the resourcefulness of all the characters. All of them bank on the world’s obsession with commercialism and use it distinctly to their advantage (to a point in some cases). My one mild grumble is that it all seems thrown together in the conclusion, but that is somewhat offset by how well those little bits of information and trivia were embedded in the story.
I would happily recommend this book to anyone who wants an adventure story in a semi modern setting with mishaps.