Trudi’s #CBR5 review #2: The Last Dragonslayer

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, 2011
Page count: 190 pages

Jennifer Strange is wise beyond her years. A foundling left in an old Wolksvagen Beetle as a baby, Jennifer was raised by the sisterhood of The Blessed Ladies of the Lobster before being sent to Kazam, a magical agency, at age 10. Now she is six years into her indentured service, which entails being the receptionist, driver, accountant, mailman, and administrative do-it-all for all the sorcerers, carpeteers, soothsayers and weathermongers affiliated with Kazam. Unfortunately, running an old-fashioned magical agency is an uphill battle in the face of modern inventions and a population sceptical of magic. So Jennifer and the wizards have to take what little work they can find, whether it involves retrieving lost objects, teleporting double-parked cars, or rebuilding collapsed bridges.

One day, one of Kazam’s precogs (sorcerers who have visions of the future) foresees the death of the last dragon. The Ununited Kingdoms immediately go into a frenzy because huge tracts of land currently tied up in the Dragonlands will be up for grabs the moment the dragon is killed by the last dragonslayer. Jennifer, however, worries about the dragon dying, as this might kill off the last remnants of magic power in the world, effectively putting Kazam out of business. Spoiler alert! She therefore tracks down the single remaining dragonslayer in the world to convince him to spare the dragon, only to find herself being tricked into becoming the last dragonslayer herself! All of a sudden, the world’s eyes turn to her, with all the prophesies, political intrigues, merchandising offers, and sleazy game shows that entails. But how can Jennifer kill the dragon when his death is the last thing she wants… Spoiler ends.

True to form, Jasper Fforde has once again created a unique mix of fantasy and magic commingled with a topsy-turvy version of modern Britain. While different from the Thursday Next seris (of which I’m a huge fan), The last dragonslayer is nonetheless a very light read that works impeccably, and I found both the story per se as well as the skewed take on modern-day life hugely entertaining. A great way to pass an evening!

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Badkittyuno’s #CBR5 Review #01: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

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Jasper Fforde’s Shades of Grey is similar to his other books in that they are dissimilar to just about anything else I’ve ever read. Shades of Grey takes place in a world several hundred years after the collapse of our own society–referred to as the “Something That Happened”. In this world, people are segregated into classes based on what colors they are able to see, and those without the ability to see colors at all are classified as “Greys” and used for manual labor. Our protagonist, Eddie Russett, is a Red teenager who’s been sent out to the boonies with his father as punishment for some childish pranks. Eddie is considered a troublemaker because he likes to think up new solutions to problems like long queues. While in the Outer Fringes, he befriends a Grey who keeps trying to kill him. He also uncovers some shocking truths about his society, whose motto is “The safest course was actually the simplest-do nothing at all and hope everything turned out for the best. It wasn’t a great plan, but it had the benefits of simplicity and a long tradition”.

The great thing about Jasper Fforde is he drops the reader into these insane made-up worlds with no real explanation of how “Chromatica” functions. The reader has to figure out for him or herself the importance of heirloom spoons, the constant threat of RiffRaff, the un-seeable Apocryphal man and why these people refuse to examine anything that occurred before the Something That Happened. Students take color perception tests to determine their career and romantic futures. People abuse the color green. It’s all a little insane, but nonetheless entertaining.

For me, Fforde’s books always take a little getting used to, mostly because it takes a few chapters to get past the constant barrage of literary allusions and figure out what the hell is going on. That being said, once you “get it”, they’re super fun reads and tremendously clever. I kept stopping to read silly parts out loud to my husband, who most likely had no idea what I was talking about, but humored me anyway. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes their fiction silly, but with a point behind it.

-badkittyuno