Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Song of the Quarkbeast

The Song of the Quarkbeast (The Last Dragonslayer #2), by Jasper Fforde

Publisher's Blurb:
A long time ago magic faded away, leaving behind only yo-yos, the extremely useful compass-pointing-to-North enchantment and the spell that keep bicycles from falling over. Things are about to change. Magical power is on the rise and King Snodd IV of Hereford has realised that he who controls magic controls almost anything. One person stands between Snodd and his plans for power and riches beyond the wildest dreams of avarice. Meet Jennifer Strange, sixteen-year-old acting manager of Kazam, the employment agency for sorcerers and soothsayers. With only one functioning wizard and her faithful assistant 'Tiger' Prawns, Jennifer must use every ounce of ingenuity to derail King Snodd's plans. It may involve a trip on a magic carpet at the speed of sound to the Troll Wall, the mysterious Transient Moose, and a powerless sorceress named Once Magnificent Boo. But one thing is certain: Jennifer Strange will not relinquish the noble powers of magic to big business and commerce without a fight.

My Reaction:
(This was another read-along with Donald, so there are no notes.)

It's been a while since I read The Last Dragonslayer, but my blurry impression is that I enjoyed that book more than this one.  The story seemed a bit slow getting started.  Once the action was going, it was fine... and there was wit and humor... but it wasn't on the same level as Pratchett or some of Fforde's own other novels.  The fact that it's written for a YA audience likely has something to do with that.

I certainly noticed the occasional strong language in this novel more than I would have if it weren't "YA lit".  I imagine it's more and more common, these days, for literature written with kids in mind to have cursing-- and there wasn't tons of it, or the very worst words-- but there was enough that I noticed it.  ...So make of that what you will.

Jennifer Strange still feels more like a calm, practical, self-sufficient, almost emotionally-distanced twenty- or thirty-something than a teenager.  Actually, based on what I remember of Fforde's other books (though that doesn't include the sequels in the Thursday Next series, as I haven't read those)... this seems to be par for the course with his work.  I don't remember making an emotional connection with any of the main characters.  Some of his secondary characters seem much more relatable and real than the protagonists.  I read Fforde for humor, not realistic characters or character development. 

All that said, it certainly wasn't a bad book, and Fforde's alternate universes are always interesting.  For light comic fantasy (with an "advanced YA" feel), this is a fine choice-- though I do recommend starting with the first book in the series.