HODDER & STOUGHTON £12 Order for £10.80 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Last Dragonslayer, By Jasper Fforde
A flight of fantasy with genuine fire
Monday 22 November 2010
Money is a form of alchemy," says Mother Zenobia, the kindly head of the Sisters of the Lobster Orphanage.
"It turns kind normal people into greed-mongers, intent only on acquisitiveness." Jasper Fforde has one of those effervescent imaginations that never throws in one joke when he can fit in two or three, but he also has a provocatively serious purpose. He creates his mad but logical parallel version of the Welsh Marches with loving detail.
The Last Dragonslayer stars Jennifer Strange, a teenage foundling who runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management. This Hereford-based company uses the now-failing power of wizards to do such mundane jobs as installing domestic electrical circuits by telepathy or delivering live organs by flying carpet.
The staff are temperamental, but some of them are soothsayers and the despotic King Snodd IV wants to know the exact time of the death of the last surviving dragon, so that he can grab the Dragonlands, 350 acres of virgin territory so far protected by a force-field that reduces anyone who touches it to a pile of ash. Except, that is, for the Dragonslayer, the enforcer of the arrangement set up by a mighty wizard who cooped up the dragons. He can come and go freely; his duty is to protect the dragons if they behave and kill them if they don't.
Jennifer, a girl of unusual rectitude, is rightly suspicious of Snodd's motives and those of Consolidated Stuff, a global business acquiring resources and power faster than you can say Walmart. But how can a teenager combat such forces? Only with the help of the endearing Tiger Prawn, another resourceful orphan, and the Quarkbeast, a dog with teeth like Edward's scissorhands. And of course Bert Spalding, the Dragonslayer, who turns out to be a decrepit 130-year-old who wants to trick Jennifer into taking on his role. When she meets the ancient and ailing dragon, Maltcassion, she decides she should protect him and the dragonlands.
Fforde's classic structure satisfies in the way that all good fairy stories do. Jennifer is given Exhorbitus, a sword so sharp that it cuts carbide as if it was a paper bag, and the Dragonslayer's bullet-proof Rolls-Royce. But it will be her inner resources that generate the brilliant twist that brings together all the strands of the tale into a magnificent climax.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 A third of employers never check job applicants' qualifications, survey finds
- 5 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
The Top Ten: Horrible buildings
JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing 'Singing Sorceress' Celestina Warbuck
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Celebrity Big Brother 2014 line-up: Meet the contestants from Lauren Goodger to Kellie Maloney and Audley Harrison
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians