Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Last Dragonslayer - A Review by Nick Petersen

If you like Eva Ibbotson, you'll love Jasper FForde (and no that's not a typo. He spells it with two F's).

The Last Dragonslayer tells the story of a world where magic is drying up. The belief and the wonder is gone, and magicians are unemployed. Jennifer, the book's protagonist, works at an unemployment service to help laid off wizards and workless witches. On top of her usual responsibilies, she finds out that she is part of an ancient prophecy about the slaying of the last dragon in the world at the hands of a dragonslayer, (which is apparently her). The book is full of wacky, clever fun. It reminded me of a few other authors, like Douglas Addams and Terry Pratchett, who also create worlds where the absurd is the norm. Dry humor is weaved throughout the book, and makes for a lively read. I've read some of his other books, like the Nursery Crimes Series, and I loved them.

While I think students would enjoy reading this book in class, I feel that it lacks the certain depth needed to be scholarly. It does have serious elements to it, political corruption, greed, fate, but it doesn't contain the same richness of controversy that has made some of the canonical books of our past a success. The characters don't have much inner conflict, and can seem kind of topical at times. I would suggest this book for recreational reading at the middle school level rather than an in-class text to base a unit on. But you may want to read for yourself and decide if this is right for your style of teaching.

Here is a link to the book trailer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3mypGTwa2A

An online review of the book:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYknumcsiuQ

A New York Times Review:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/books/review/the-last-dragonslayer-and-iron-hearted-violet.html?_r=0

An interview with the author:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T615VUIX_eo

And a link to the author's website
http://www.jasperfforde.com/dragon/dragon.html

4 comments:

Sean Andrew said...

This looks like a book I probably passed by in high school. I did a lot of reading of fantasy and sci-fi novels in my day, so this is right up my alley. I am interested, though, to see the character's journey, if they have one. I think the other interesting aspect that you mention is that it would be better as a recreational reading book. It saddens me because I have noticed that there aren't many other fantasy novels that i can remember reading back in high school for class.

Renee Thornton said...

Your review of this book reminds me a bit of one of the 'fantasyesqe' novels that I read. while it may have redeeming qualities and a moral message of some kind it gets swallowed up in all of the fantasy and dragons and swords and danger. While kids probably have fun reading a book like this you have to wonder if it inspires them to really think about anything of any substance or not.

Alexandra Klitz said...

It sounds like this almost a parody of a fantasy novel, which is interesting. A lot of fantasy novels take themselves and their worlds very seriously and its nice to see something different. For that reason, I think it would be refreshing in a creative writing class as an alternative to the normal fantasy novel. I don't see teaching this in a literature class, however. I think something needs some more moral substance for analytic interpretation at a middle or high school level.

Vincent Restivo said...

This sounds like a goofy and fun book to help get young kids reading. As several others have noted kids at that age may get too caught up in the fantasy elements to actually understand it as a coming of age story, however I do not necessarily think of that as a problem due to the fact that as they get older and think of it or reread it they will surely pick up on slightly more of these subtleties. Overall I have to say I like your review due to the fact that it kind of seemed wonky much like the book giving the review a festive mood.