Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer

Jasper Fforde
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012   ISBN: 978-0547738475

There once was a time when magic in the Ununited Kingdoms was strong, a time when there was plenty of work for wizards of all kinds. Unfortunately, that time is now passed. Magic is on the decline and wizards, even ones associated with employment agencies such as Kazam Mystical Art Management, are having a hard time getting work. Since the unexplained disappearance of her employer, Mr. Zambini, Jennifer Strange has been stuck with the job of trying to keep Kazam Mystical Art Management afloat. Only a few of the wizards associated with the business have any magical skills left, and even they are having a hard time summoning up the ability to do much of anything.

   Jennifer came to work for Mr. Zambini as an indentured servant when she was only twelve. Now fifteen, she is a skilled business manager and is very good at coping with the diverse and sometimes volatile temperaments of the wizards who live and work at Kazam. Jennifer is managing quite well when a number of things happen that turn her life upside-down.

   First of all a new orphan arrives at Kazam to begin his indentured servitude. Like Jennifer he grew up in the Blessed Sisterhood of the Lobster orphanage and he expects her to train him so that he can take her place in a year’s time.

   Then Kevin, one of the wizards at Kazam, has a vision that the last dragon, Maltcassion, will die at the hand of a Dragonslayer in the near future. It turns out that Kevin is not the only pre-cognitive wizard to have this vision. Soon everyone knows that the dragon is going to die next Sunday at noon.

   Though this is big news, what worries Jennifer even more is that it is clear that Big Magic is building up. Lots of people can feel it and Jennifer wonders if the Big Magic has something to do with the dragon. If the dragon is killed will all the magic die with it?

   Worried about the future, Jennifer goes to consult Mother Zenobia at the orphanage. Her worries increase when she learns that a lot of people will be delighted if the last dragon does die. The Dragonlands, where Maltcassion lives, will finally be available for development and everyone wants to make some money by building on the land.

   Jennifer decides to go and see the last Dragonslayer to talk about the last dragon, and without warning he tells her that she was chosen for her “calling over four centuries ago” and her calling is to be the next Dragonslayer. Without wasting any time he makes her his apprentice, he gives her the knowledge she needs to have to do her job, and then he dies.

   Not sure what she should do, Jennifer decides to go to the Dragonlands to talk to Maltcassion. When she finds out that he is a wise, gentle, and civilized creature, she determines that no one, not even King Snodd IV himself, is going to force her to kill the dragon. She is not going to kill a harmless creature just because a bunch of greedy humans want to get their hands on the Dragonlands, and she is not going to stand by while King Snodd uses the dragon crisis to take away the lands belonging to the neighboring Duchy of Brecon.

   In this clever, exciting, always surprising, and often very funny book, Jasper Fforde tells a story that readers, young and not so young, will find quite captivating. He combines a wonderful adventure with an honest look at what motivates people, and leaves his readers with plenty of food for thought.