The Last Dragonslayer
Author: Jasper Fforde
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
The Last Dragonslayer is ably read by Elizabeth Jasicki. I have to add a word in here (nothing to do with the reader) about the gratuitous use of music in audio books. If I want a music CD, I'll get one. If I get a novel on CD, I want the novel and no background music which is distracting at best and really annoying at worst. I can see the point of having something - musical or otherwise, to indicate the start and the end of each disk as long (as we don't get carried away with it). That's particularly useful when driving, but to have random sounds playing at random points throughout the audio sucks. Big time.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Jasper Fforde novels. I read Shades of Grey and loved that one, and I listened to One of Our Thursdays is Missing and loved that, but I didn't like the next two of the Thursday Next series (volumes 1 & 2) that I listened to subsequently. The narrator on One of Our Thursdays is Missing (Emily Gray) was completely captivating. I fell in love with her!
This novel is very much like the Thursday next series - written in the same way with the same off-kilter take on life (I loved the newspaper, The Daily Eyestrain!), but the problem he's going to run into here, I think, is the problem which Fforde had with the Thursday Next novels: it's really hard to sustain truly goofy writing without running into boring at one end of the scale from tiresome repetitiveness, and into incomprehensibility at the other end of the scale as you try to stretch the wacky humor ever further and into new realms. I've encountered this self-same problem in two volumes I've been working on (and off!).
The basic premise is that in contemporary Britain (in a parallel universe), the United Kingdom is actually the Un-united Kingdoms. This story is set in the Kingdom of Hereford, where magic is a fading power, reduced to fixing plumbing and delivering pizza, whereas once, long ago, it used to be truly magical. Jennifer Strange is a fifteen year old who is nominally in charge of Kazam, a magic supply agency which supplies magicians of various stripes to help people out. Their current job is rewiring a house.
Jennifer is in charge because The Great Zambini, the owner, has literally disappeared. It comes as no surprise that Strange is the last dragonslayer, handed the mantle by the previous and very aged dragonslayer. But apart from the Quark beast which was truly hilarious (to me anyway!) and a brilliant invention, the rest of the novel was so-so at best and gone to weeds at worst. When I went to library today to pick up a book, I decided I'd had enough of this audio CD, and switched it out for Around the World in 80 Days which proved itself to be much more entertaining in only the first four tracks of the first disk, so I'm happy with that - but not with this novel. It had great potential, but it turned out to be warty!
To be continued!