The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde – Review

Book Jacket:

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 are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling 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. Because something is coming. Something known as . . . Big Magic.

You can read an excerpt here.


Full to the brim with cheeky, silly wit, this book had me chuckling aloud as I read it.

Tongue in cheek firmly throughout, The Last Dragonslayer is a story that gleefully has fun at the expense of both fantasy tropes and modern culture alike, resulting in a highly enjoyable story of dragons, greed, fame, and corporate branding. Fforde’s trademark wit is very much in evidence as he nimbly melds modern ideas such as TV talk shows and corporate sponsorship with magical creatures (the Transient Moose was far and away my favorite, though the Quarkbeast was a close second), famous magicians and flying carpets, resulting in a fun and entirely original – yet at the same time comfortably familiar – world.  And reading a story that snarks at media culture while playing off the timeless trope of a Chosen One facing her moment of Destiny made for a lot of fun – especially for a long-standing fantasy fan such as myself.

From the name of Jennifer’s magical agency (Kazaam) – because of course magicians need agents! – to the ridiculous yet hilariously bureaucratic governmental regulations pertaining to magic, the dry cheek of this book is just highly entertaining. Fforde has become exceedingly well known for the wit he brings to his many series, and this book is certainly no exception – though it’s also something of a departure for Fforde, in that it’s his first foray into YA. And so this time around Fforde delivers a coming-of-age story with a definite fairy-tale air, in which an orphan has to decide the fate of the world (of course), which altogether gives this story a delicious fairy-tale sensibility. And all in all, it made for a downright irresistible package.

That said, however, I will also say this – this book feels, for lack of a better way to say it, more head than heart. It’s a playful, amusing read, but it was so concerned with word-play and modern allusions and trope-bending that the emotional side of this story never really broke through. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Jennifer as a character – for her practicality, intelligence, and growing exasperation with her predicament – and I found her sympathetic, no question, but I also never really deeply felt her emotional story. I did very much want to see how she got herself out of the mess she landed in, and I enjoyed following her story, but it all just felt more intellectual than emotional, in a way. (Which is also how I feel about China Mieville most of the time, to be honest.)

Still, in the end I really did just enjoy reading this book – for the sheer originality, the tongue-in-cheek fun, and for the delightfully refreshing non-brooding-or-paranormal nature of the story. This is a light, fun, smart read, and I will definitely be back for more YA from Fforde. So if you’re a fantasy fan in the mood for lighthearted ridiculousness, this is most definitely the book for you.

Byrt Grade: A-

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

The SF site says:

Think whimsical. Think smart-ass. Think about that unkempt guy in college who never attended classes but was obviously pretty smart and never at a loss for a wisecrack. You’re thinking Jasper Fforde…An easy, fun read that you could share a few knowing smirks with your own teenagers, or even just smirk for your own self-satisfaction.

The Independent says:

Fforde’s classic structure satisfies in the way that all good fairy stories do. Jennifer is given Exhorbitus, a sword so sharp that it cuts carbide as if it was a paper bag, and the Dragonslayer’s bullet-proof Rolls-Royce. But it will be her inner resources that generate the brilliant twist that brings together all the strands of the tale into a magnificent climax.

Publishers Weekly (starred review) says:

Adult author Fforde’s foray into children’s books will delight readers who like their fantasy with a dash of silliness.