Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Song of the Quarkbeast

The Song of the Quarkbeast

Jasper Fforde
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013   ISBN: 978-0547738482

There was a time when magic was everywhere and it was used to do all kinds of things, including powering medical diagnostic instruments and telephone networks. Then magic began to wane, and fewer and fewer people sought out jobs that involved using magic. Eventually there were only two magical employment agencies left in the Ununited Kingdoms: Kazam and iMagic. Jennifer Strange is the acting manager at Kazam and was doing her best to hold the agency together in the absence of her employer when a Big Magic event took place. Now magic is coming back, though it is doing so very slowly.

   Jennifer does her best to keep the magicians working for Kazam busy. The situation now is better than it was before the Big Magic event, but magic is still hard to come by and it is certainly as unpredictable as ever, even when it is manipulated by someone who really knows what they are doing; which is how one of the magical practitioners at Kazam, Lady Mawgon, manage to get herself turned into stone. She tried to undo a spell that was placed on their building without taking the proper precautions and is turned into alabaster.

   Soon after this very inconvenient event takes place Jennifer takes the Kazam trainee to King Snodd’s palace to get his license and she finds out that King Snodd has decided to have a wizard at court. Furthermore, he is keen to control magic so that it is “efficiently exploited.” The king appoints Blix, the sorcerer in charge of iMagic, to be the Court Mystician and asks Jennifer if Kazam will join with iMagic, which jointly will become Snodd Magic PLC. Jennifer politely declines the offer, and then she is told that the only way Kazam can stay independent is if her employees can win a magical contest. The two agencies, iMagic and Kazam, will compete to see which of them can build a bridge faster.

    Thought Jennifer is not happy about having to agree to the contest, she is hopeful that the Kazan magical practitioners will prevail, even though one of their number is a statue. Then the second most powerful wizard at Kazam tries to bring Lady Mawgon back to life and he too is turned to stone. Now Kazam has four sorcerers to iMagic’s three, but this ratio changes greatly when Kazam’s sorcerers are arrested and taken into custody on trumped up charges. It would appear that King Snodd is determined that iMagic will win the contest, and he has no qualms about getting rid of the competition any way he can. Little does he know that he is a pawn in a much bigger plot.

   In this second book in the Chronicles of Kazam series we once again spend a delightful time with nutty wizards, crooked kings, and a teenage girl who is called upon to use her wits to save the people she cares about. We also learn that magic is not something humans should tamper with unless they are very careful. Spells and creatures created using magic have a tendency to have a life of their own and they can backfire in a big, even explosive, way. 

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