Thursday, October 18, 2012

Musings: The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer
Jasper Fforde is an author who is always on my radar but that I never read.  I read his first Thursday Next book and really enjoyed it, but never continued with the series.  When I saw that he had a new young adult book featuring a dragon, I was immediately interested.  I thought that Fforde's witty sense of humor would do really well in a young adult fantasy novel.  So I settled down quite happily with his newest book The Last Dragonslayer.

Jennifer Strange is an orphan in an alternate universe Britain (called the Ununited Kingdoms) who works as an admin for a wizarding agency.  The magic in the world is leaking away, though, and the wizards are not very effective.  Word gets out soon that the last dragon is dying, and the land he holds will soon be up for grabs to anyone who can stake a claim on it first.  As it turns out, Jennifer is the last dragonslayer, and she must decide if she really wants to kill the dragon or find a different way to deal with the situation.

The world building in this book was interestingly done.  There is a lot going on that is quite different from our world, but we don't get much more than a glimpse into it (perhaps that's for future books).  Jennifer lives in a small kingdom with a despotic king, and she knows next to nothing about all the other kingdoms around her.  There was a horrible Troll War in the past that left many women as widows and many children as foundlings.  Britain is comprised not of four different regions but of a myriad of fiefdoms that do not get along.  And there are dragons, but they are relegated to the background after a Dragon Pact was formed hundreds of years ago between humans and dragons.

It seems like the sort of world I'd want to know a lot more about, only Fforde doesn't give much more information.  He doesn't have time to do so.  There are just too many characters populating this novel, and there are a few very big messages that he wants to push through, and the setting suffers for it.  For example, there is a potential love interest of Jennifer's mentioned in the first chapter who never again shows up in the book.  So why even have the brief scene between the two characters?  There are also many side characters who are quirky and eccentric, but don't add much to the plot.  I would have preferred that Fforde focused on a few key characters and fleshed them out more.  While Jennifer was likeable and kind and fought for what she believed was right, she seemed pretty typical for a modern-day teenager and I would have liked to know her better.  And I would have liked to spend a lot more time with the dragon.

Fforde also packs a lot of political messages into this book.  There's a lot about environmentalism, greed, big business and trashy media.  I understand Fforde's desire to bring these issues to light in a humorous way, but there was just too much going on for me to care enough about one topic over the other.

Generally, I felt pretty "meh" about this book.  It was fun for a plane ride, but I won't be continuing on with the series.

Note:  This review is based on an advanced reader's copy.  I received this book for free to review.

24 comments:

  1. Like you, I enjoyed Thursday Next but seemed to never pick up another Fforde. I don't think I'll pick this one up next though as I'm not a fan of stuffing too many messages into one small story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do have more of Thursday Next on my audiobook download pile, so maybe I'll get back to him that way!

      Delete
  2. I haven't read this one, although I'm a big Jasper Fforde fan generally. However I've felt lately that he does seem to be branching off in too many directions, and that there are far too many messages being packed in.
    I love his Nursery Crimes series, which sadly seems to have ended abruptly...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have never even heard of the Nursery Crimes series, but the title itself is quite evocative! I imagine detectives with onesies :-)

      Delete
  3. A new Fforde!!?? I had no idea that this one was even out there! He has dabbled in so many directions, and I have had his book Shades of Grey on my Kindle for the longest time, yet have not read it. I also have the first of his Nursery Crimes series as well. It's sad that this one wasn't more entertaining though. I would also want a lot of worldbuilding and a cast of characters that I knew really well. When there are too many characters, and they are zany just for the sake of being zany, it bothers me. I do like the concept of this book though, and will be buying it to share with my daughter, who is a big dragon fan, while I am a big Fforde fan! Nice review today. Totally honest, and very perceptive.

    P.S.- I owe you an email, and will try to get one out soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You DO owe me an email! I look forward to receiving it :-)

      If your daughter is a big dragon fan, buy her Seraphina! It's really good!

      Delete
  4. I love the Thursday Next series and have been saving the latest one for a rainy day. I've been meaning to read his dragon book but haven't gotten around it yet. It's a shame there was too much going on but I'm assuming it's going to be a series so will still give it a twirl.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it should be the first in a series - hopefully it improves!

      Delete
  5. OK then. I will start with Thursday Next and see if I like this author and go from there.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Apparently really enjoying one Thursday Next book but not bothering with other Fforde stuff is very common! I actually did read and like the first Nursery Crimes book, but I started Shades of Grey and found it kind of plodding. I think the clever, metaphorical world building can work against his books sometimes--they're so busy being clever they don't entirely make sense.

    Sounds like you're a big dragon fan, though! I don't think of myself as one, but between Temeraire and Tooth and Claw, I'm finding myself won over. Do you have other favorites?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm going to dare to say I tried to read the first Thursday Next book and kind of... just drifted away from it. Now, this hasn't been an unusual event in the last year, so I'll definitely give it a shot again, but I just... couldn't... care. Even though all the story and style elements said I should have. I was kind of thinking of trying this, as Fforde seems like a writer I should really like, but I can already tell this would be another drift-away.

    Do you think he was so much more issues-oriented because it's YA? I've noticed that authors who write a lot of adult fiction tend to lean that way a bit when writing specifically for young adults.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I find Fforde has kind of a scattershot approach to plot. Sometimes I'm in the mood for that, and the cleverness is delightful. Sometimes I'm not, and then the cleverness gets irritating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! That excessive cleverness is what burned my out on the Thursday Next books. I read a few, and then just stopped.

      Delete
    2. ME out. I really should proofread.

      Delete
  9. It's a bummer this one wasn't better, but your review makes a lot of sense. I can't imagine him trying to fit everythign from one of his adult books into a shorter YA book. I would think it would end up feeling too overrun.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Pity it wasn't better, as the premise sounds good and that book cover is pretty great (though I didn't see the scales straight away). Messages can definitely work, but yeah, not at the expense of the rest of the book.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Only meh? That makes me sad :/

    ReplyDelete
  12. Fforde is an author who also happens to be on my radar all the time, but I haven't managed to read any of his works yet. Looks like this book definitely won't be on my life. I prefer fantasy lit that has a lot of world-building.

    ReplyDelete
  13. that's how i felt about the eyre affair, sadly. i think his humor is just not for me.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yes, this one felt a bit rushed and off and took a while to get into. I still liked it a lot and want to continue with the series but it wasn't as fluid as some of his other books. Shades of Grey was AMAZING for world building. I'm really looking forward to the next one in that series!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I tried to read this recently but couldn't get into it. :/

    ReplyDelete
  16. What a disappointment, Aarti! I've been looking forward to starting on his Dragonslayer series (being a big fan of Thursday Next), but it seems that Fforde has overreached himself here.

    Have you read his Shades of Grey? It's probably more accessible than this book, fewer people, tighter plot, great start of a new series.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm kinda that way about his books in general - like the Thursday Next series (but haven't completed it), found the Nursery Crimes series to be really grating. I think I will probably just skip this one based on your review.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Sorry to hear this was a meh book. I enjoyed the first Thursday Next book, but I didn't loooove it like I hoped I would.

    ReplyDelete

I read every comment posted on this blog, even if it sometimes takes me a while to respond. Thank you for taking the time and effort to comment here! Unless you are spamming me, in which case, thanks for nothing.