Tuesday, January 1, 2013

'The Last Dragonslayer'

When a new year rolls around, I always think it should be greeted with silliness.  2012 was much too serious, so 2013 requires a push of humor to get it through the door.

It's that way with stories, too.  If we always read serious stories, I think we lose an essential part of ourselves.  In other words, we need to lighten up.  And one of my favorite authors, Jasper Fforde, is just the guy to help us do that.

When this Book Hog needs some silliness, I immediately turn to Fforde's incredible 'Thursday Next' series, 'The Eyre Affair' being the first.  Fforde's wit fills each page, and although the stories can be a tad confusing, a few rereads will clarify everything.

I needed a silliness fix recently, but having just finished rereading the Thursday series a couple of months ago, it was time for something new.  But something by the same author.

And I found it, thanks to my local library!  I am forever grateful that those good librarians have the good sense to display new titles right near the front door.  That's where I found Jasper's new book, and this time, it's a series for independent readers.  That's right:  Independent Readers.  The land of 'Harry Potter' and 'The Chronicles of Narnia' and Judy Blume titles (Superfudge being one of my favorites).

'The Last Dragonslayer' contains much silliness, but not so much to confuse tender minds.  The characters are the most interesting to be found.  Magic rules the world, but corporate shenanigans (which are ever-present in the Thursday Next series) seek to replace the wonder by playing on people's greed.  Sound familiar, dear reader?

Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange is in charge of Kazam Mystical Arts Management, a business that hires out wizards for household projects, such as clearing drains and repairing buildings.  But magic is slowly fading, and business is down.  Then visions appear and one in particular sees the death of the world's last dragon at the hands of the last Dragonslayer.  A battle between two kingdoms is waiting on the outskirts, while the populace waits impatiently for the dragon's demise.  When the dragon dies, the race is on to claim the beast's land, a place of pure streams, sweet air, and nature at it's finest.

Jennifer is feisty and smart, courageous and loyal.  Her friend, a frightening Quarkbeast (but only to those who don't really know him), is always by her side.  But it is the wizard Lady Mawgon who reminded me most of the Thursday Next series (you'll know what I mean if you've the books.  And if you haven't, do it now!)

Fforde's story carries a deep message, despite the humor.  Perhaps that's the only way he can get our attention.  We must preserve what is pure and fine, and always stay vigilant in the fight to hold back the basest greed.

So, start out 2013 reading a bit of silliness.  Children's books are a great place to begin.

Just ask a librarian.

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