The Eye of Zoltar, by Jasper Fforde

The Eye of ZoltarGuys! Guys! The new Jasper Fforde is out! I don’t know how we have all survived to this day! Well, I mean, some of us had ARCs. And probably some of us live in or ordered it from the UK, where it has been out for SIX MONTHS already. Those sneaky Brits. But if you aren’t one of those people? It’s here! Hooray!

There’s really not that much to say about The Eye of Zoltar that I haven’t already said about every other Jasper Fforde book ever, and especially about the other two books in the Last Dragonslayer series. You’ve got your Jennifer Strange, teen head of a wizarding corporation; you’ve got your Un-United Kingdoms, poised for war at any and every moment; you’ve got your wacky hijinks and puns and misunderstandings and deus ex machina…s?

This book picks up right after the last one left off, but you don’t need to have read that one because Fforde delivers a summary right at the start, which is sooooo useful because all the crazy he writes can get easily mixed up in my head. And besides, all that nonsense gets left behind when Jennifer goes off on what is very clearly not a quest (quests involve too much paperwork, you see) to find a probably nonexistent object for a usually inanimate but still very powerful magician. Before she can go off on this not-a-quest, she is also recruited by the king and queen to take their insufferable princess daughter, recently body-swapped with her own beleaguered servant, and train her up to be a useful human being. Just another day in the life of Jennifer Strange.

One of the weirder things about this book is that it gets downright educational. It turns out that the princess is some kind of economics genius and she explains things like futures and options and goat trade in a way that seems, to this reader with little knowledge of economics, to be pretty factual and useful if I ever want to rid myself of a goat surplus. Luckily all that learnin’ talk is surrounded by rubberized dragons and leaps of faith and 50 percent survival rates, so you don’t have to learn things if you’d rather not. Nice to have the option.

I am definitely intrigued to see where Fforde goes next with this series, but according to his website he is taking a break from dragon slayers for a little while and releasing a “super secret standalone novel” next year (oooooooh) and then, finally, a prequel to Shades of Grey in 2016, and holy crap I am so excited for that I can’t even. In the meantime, this book is the perfect cure for your Fforde withdrawal, post-summer reading slump, or general boredom.

Recommendation: For everyone, unless you don’t like weird humor, in which case I’m not sure why you’re here.

Rating: 8/10

The Last Dragonslayer, by Jasper Fforde

The Last DragonslayerI remember being really excited a couple of years ago to find out that my beloved author Jasper Fforde was coming out with a children’s book. I noted the release date and kept an eye out for it at my new and old libraries, but it never showed up. I was quite baffled by this seeming lack of love for the Fforde until I realized that, oh no!, it was only being released in the UK with no US date forthcoming. The agony!

Luckily I could content myself with One of Our Thursdays is Missing a few months later, and then things got real busy anyway and The Last Dragonslayer was relegated to the back of my mind until one day, a couple weeks before Christmas, it just showed up on my cart of books to catalog and I was like, so there is a Santa, then.

And oh, how delightful this book was to read. It’s your basic Fforde setup, taking magic and dragons and kingdoms in conflict and envisioning them tied up in eight layers of bureaucracy and apathy. We follow the exploits of Jennifer Strange, a fifteen-year-old who is acting head of a magical agency that sends out wizards to do things like rewire houses since magic is not quite as powerful as it once was. She’s doing quite all right until word gets out from some future-seers that the last dragon is about to be killed by the Last Dragonslayer, that the dragon’s lands are already surrounded by mobs looking to stake their claim, and that more than a few companies would be willing to pay good money if Miss Strange just hands over a bit of information from her agency’s own future-seer.

That’s not nearly all, of course; things get much weirder and even if you can tell where this plot is going, you probably don’t know how it’s going to get there. Fforde piles on the ridiculousness and the dry humor and all the fantastic-ness I’ve come to expect from him but still I’m never quite sure what is going on in that mind of his.

I think this book is especially good because it’s a first book in a series — Fforde excels in world-building and it’s always delightful to see how his new universes work. As much as I enjoy every Thursday Next book that comes out, it’s nice to have a fresh new set of characters and settings to cleanse the Fforde palate. 🙂 How long until the second book comes stateside?

Recommendation: For lovers of the Fforde or weird things in general or dragons or magic or… really, I think you should just read this.

Rating: 9/10