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The Last Dragonslayer: The Adventures of a Very Atypical Heroine
The Kingdom of Hereford is in disarray. While magic has been slowly waning, lately it's been surging back. King Snodd has been saber-rattling with the Duke of Brecon and preparing for war. And pre-cognitives have been getting visions that Maltcassion, the last living dragon, will die at noon next Sunday.
Into all of this is thrown Jennifer Strange, 15 year old foundling and Acting Manager of Kazam Mystical Arts Management, a business that rents out magicians for odd jobs like pizza deliveries via flying carpet or casting spells to fix the wiring in a house. However, the prophecy that Maltcassion will die on Sunday has disrupted Jennifer's life, especially when she's snookered into becoming the titular Last Dragonslayer, the only person able to enter the Dragonlands and kill any dragons who've violated the pact between dragons and humanity. But various forces are wanting to use her to various ends, everything from endorsing products to assisting with a possible invasion of nearby kingdoms. Together only with sidekick and fellow foundling "Tiger" Prawns and her pet Quarkbeast (a creature that seems to be a mixture of a pit bull and a couple chain saws), will Jennifer be able to figure out what's the best course of action?
First of all, the characters are all great. Jennifer is a good protagonist, determined to do the right thing even as others try to manipulate her towards their own ends. As she's of very low social class, being a foundling and a indentured servant, others are often contemptuous of her, but she persists anyways. This is supposed to be the first book in a trilogy, and I look forward to seeing more adventures with her. Tiger Prawns is also good, being snarky and a litte unsure of himself, but also the kind of guy who knows what's the right to do even if it might disadvantage him. He was also easy to root for.
The tone of the book is also really good. I've never read anything by Jasper Fforde before, but after this book I plan to read more. His style reminded me of Terry Pratchett's, in that he was able to write a funny book without writing a book where everything was a joke. The story, main conflict, and stakes are all very serious, but Fforde is able to have a story with funny situations and characters who make wise cracks and have it work very well.
The part about this book that didn't work is the ending. Fforde apparently got distracted by the subplots he'd created that he forgot to wok on the main plot (i.e. if Maltcassion is going to die, and if so why), so that gets rushed out in the last few chapters, which suddenly have a whole bunch of plot twists and reveals, almost all of which come out of nowhere, causing literary whiplash for the hero. Hopefully in further books Fforde will be able to pace his endings better.
However, all in all, I really liked this book. I look forward to its sequels, and I plan on reading more of Jasper Fforde in the future. Check it out if you like a good comedic fantasy, or are already a fan of Fforde's work.