Publication Date: October 2, 2012
In The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde, Dragons and the people of Hereford have lived by the Dragonpact for 400 years. When 15-year-old Jennifer Strange, the acting manager of a magical employment agency, hears that the seers are predicting that the last dragon will die at the hands of the Last Dragonslayer, she has no idea that she is indeed that Dragonslayer. She’s determined not to carry out the prophecy but something big is coming and no one, not even the Last Dragonslayer, may be able to stop it.
This novel is billed as young adult. To me, it’s a continuation of the other exceptional stories that Fforde has written framed in his exceptional made-up world. We have seen the Sisterhood of the Lobster in the Thursday Next books. In The Last Dragonslayer, they play a more central role as we learn that they send foundlings, like Jennifer, to indentured servant work situations from which they’ll be released when they’re 18. In a land where driver’s licenses are given based on maturity, Jennifer has had her license since she was 13 … and control of the employment agency when the owner disappears in a magical accident.
The plot line is pure Fforde. Jennifer is smart, snappy and is able to maintain her backbone even in the worst situations. She isn’t a true teenager in our world, but she is very believable in Fforde’s “United Kingdom.”
The Last Dragonslayer is recommended for children over the age of 12 and I suspect the reason for is that there’s character death. I’m not giving spoilers per se to say that the ending is done in the best spirit of knowing what you have to do, even when you don’t want to do it. There’s also the lesson that doing the wrong thing, even if you’ve spent your life doing the wrong thing, is sometimes just wasted time. I say these aren’t spoilers because what I’ve just revealed doesn’t actually give away the end of the book. I’d love for my 10-year-old to read this book. She loves dragons and I believe that the novel is age-appropriate for her.
Often times, young adult novels will talk down to children. I’ve said before that one of my pet peeves of young adult novels is that sometimes the plot is sacrificed in the spirit of what children will understand. My Grandma was a firm believer in the idea that children will understand what you tell them. They may not get it on the first or the second day, but at some point, it will click. Fforde doesn’t get lazy with his writing style in The Last Dragonslayer. He writes an entertaining story that everyone will enjoy and everyone will understand at different levels.
The Last Dragonslayer was a fun adventure that was quirky and magical and filled with characters that you not only remember but you want to see again. They say that kids who don’t like to read haven’t found the right book. I’ll bet that for a lot of kids who think they don’t like to read, this novel will be the tipping point to a reader for life.
You can read an excerpt and buy The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde on