There’s something about magic that captivates readers. Perhaps it’s the romantic notion that magic can wake princesses from a near-death sleep or that it can defeat evil wizards bent on destroying the world. Wherever magic is found you can be sure that a host of interesting characters and creatures follow in its wake. But what happens when magic begins to fade? What happens when magic is really only used for unclogging pipes and drains because it can’t do anything else? And what happens when the last magical dragon is waiting for the last dragonslayer to come along and put it out its misery?
"The characters are wacky, the Quarkbeast is frighteningly adorable, and you just might learn a thing or two about what it means to be brave. Fortunately, this is just the first book in a planned trilogy, and I can only imagine what Fforde has up his sleeve for the rest."
Unfortunately, orphan Jennifer Strange could tell you all about this. Jennifer has spent the last couple of years running Kazam, an employment agency for magicians and has been watching the magic slowly fade from the planet. While this is nothing new, Jennifer’s ears --- and everyone else’s for that matter --- perk up when some magicians have a very important premonition: Maltcassion, the last dragon, will be killed by the last dragonslayer on the next Sunday at noon. Now, this is a big deal. Maltcassion currently resides in the dragon lands, acres and acres of land undisturbed by humans and protected by a magical barrier that keeps everyone out. With Maltcassion’s death, it’s only a matter of time before some big company or kingdom comes in and turns the lush forests and plains into a brand new parking lot.
Strange is just as perplexed as everyone else by this new announcement, but she isn’t ready for what happens next. She finds out that the mighty Shandar, the last great magician who forged the pact that prevented dragons from attacking humans by created the dragon lands, declared hundreds of years ago that the last dragonslayer is Jennifer Strange herself! Jennifer quickly undergoes training --- about a minute’s worth --- and is soon thrust into the spotlight with unintended consequences. Proposals of marriage, product endorsements, and TV interviews start flooding in and Jennifer isn’t sure what to do.
There’s also the little matter of the dragon. Maltcassion tells Jennifer that she needs to kill him. There is no other choice. Jennifer, though, knows that if she kills the dragon, she could start a war. A couple of kingdoms are moving in troops and declaring property rights, while big companies are lining up outside the magical barrier with heavy machinery to start building. Something else is coming, too. Something that nearly everyone can feel. Something called Big Magic.
It isn’t everyday that you get a book about magic that also serves as a witty and astute social commentary. Thankfully, Jasper Fforde is a pro. Funny one-liners zing off the page, and every time Jennifer Strange encounters yet another commercial endorsement or business ploy, you can’t help but smirk and roll your eyes. The characters are wacky, the Quarkbeast is frighteningly adorable, and you just might learn a thing or two about what it means to be brave. Fortunately, this is just the first book in a planned trilogy, and I can only imagine what Fforde has up his sleeve for the rest.
Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on October 12, 2012