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1 Burnside Children's Young Adult- General

The Last Dragonslayer (Chronicles of Kazam)

by

The Last Dragonslayer (Chronicles of Kazam) Cover

ISBN13: 9780547738475
ISBN10: 0547738471
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Excerpt

ONE

Practical Magic

It looked set to become even hotter by the afternoon, just when the job was becoming more fiddly and needed extra concentration. But the fair weather brought at least one advantage: dry air makes magic work better and fly farther. Moisture has a moderating effect on the mystical arts. No sorcerer worth their sparkle ever did productive work in the rain—which probably accounts for why getting showers to start was once considered easy, but getting them to stop was nearly impossible.

   We hadnt been able to afford a company car for years, so the three sorcerers, the beast, and I were packed into my rust-and-orange-but-mostly-rust Volkswagen for the short journey from Hereford to Dinmore. Lady Mawgon had insisted on sitting in the passenger seat because "thats how it will be," which meant that Wizard Moobin and the well-proportioned Full Price were in the back seat, with the Quarkbeast sitting between the two of them and panting in the heat. I was driving, which might have been unusual anywhere but here in the Kingdom of Hereford, which was unique in the Ununited Kingdoms for having driving tests based on maturity, not age. That explained why Id had a license since I was thirteen, while some were still failing to make the grade at forty. It was lucky I could. Sorcerers are easily distracted, and letting them drive is about as safe as waving around a chain saw at full throttle in a crowded nightclub.

   We had lots to talk about—the job we were driving to, the weather, experimental spells, King Snodds sometimes eccentric ways. But we didnt. Price, Moobin, and Mawgon, despite being our best sorcerers, didnt really get along. It wasnt anything personal; sorcerers are just like that—temperamental, and apt to break out into petulant posturing that takes time and energy to smooth over. My job of running Kazam Mystical Arts Management was less about spells and enchantments, diplomacy and bureaucracy, than about babysitting. Working with those versed in the Mystical Arts was sometimes like trying to knit with wet spaghetti: just when you thought youd gotten somewhere, it all came to pieces in your hands. But I didnt really mind. Were they frustrating? Frequently. Were they boring? Never.

   "I do wish you wouldnt do that," said Lady Mawgon in an aggrieved tone as she shot a disapproving glance at Full Price. He was changing from a human to a walrus and then back again in slow, measured transformations. The Quarkbeast was staring at him strangely, and with each transformation there wafted an unpleasant smell of fish around the small car. It was good the windows were open. To Lady Mawgon, who in better days had once been sorceress to royalty, transforming within potential view of the public was the mark of the hopelessly ill-bred.

   "Groof, groof," said Full Price, trying to speak while a walrus, which is never satisfactory. "Im just tuning up," he added in an indignant fashion, once de-walrussed or re-humaned, depending on which way you looked at it. "Dont tell me you dont need to."

   Wizard Moobin and I looked at Lady Mawgon, eager to know how she was tuning up. Moobin had prepared for the job by tinkering with the print of the Hereford Daily Eyestrain. He had filled in the crossword in the twenty minutes since wed left Kazam. Not unusual in itself, since the Eyestrains crossword is seldom hard, except that he had used printed letters from elsewhere on the page and dragged them across using the power of his mind alone. The crossword was now complete and more or less correct—but it left an article on Queen Mimosas patronage of the Troll War Widows Fund looking a little disjointed.

   "I am not required to answer your question," replied Lady Mawgon haughtily, "and whats more, I detest the term tuning up. Its quazafucating and always has been."

   "Using the old language makes us sound archaic and out of touch," replied Price.

   "It makes us sound as we are meant to be," replied Lady Mawgon, "of a noble calling."

   Of a once noble calling, thought Moobin, inadvertently broadcasting his subconscious on an alpha so low, even I could sense it.

   Lady Mawgon swiveled in her seat to glare at him. "Keep your thoughts to yourself, young man."

   Moobin thought something to her but in high alpha, so only she could hear it. I dont know what he thought, but Lady Mawgon said, "Well!" and stared out the side window in an aggrieved fashion.

   I sighed. This was my life.

Of the forty-five sorcerers, movers, soothsayers, shifters, weather-mongers, carpeteers, and other assorted mystical artisans at Kazam, most were fully retired due to infirmity, insanity, or damage to the vital index fingers, either through accident or rheumatoid arthritis. Of these forty-five, thirteen were potentially capable of working, but only nine had current licenses—two carpeteers, a pair of pre-cogs, and most important, five sorcerers legally empowered to carry out Acts of Enchantment. Lady Mawgon was certainly the crabbiest and probably the most skilled. As with everyone else at Kazam, her powers had faded dramatically over the past three decades or so, but unlike everyone else, shed not really come to terms with it. In her defense, shed had farther to fall than the rest of them, but this wasnt really an excuse. The Sisters Karamazov could also claim once-royal patronage, and they were nice as apricot pie. Mad as a knapsack of onions, but pleasant nonetheless.

   I might have felt sorrier for Mawgon if she werent so difficult all the time. Her intimidating manner made me feel small and ill at ease, and she rarely if ever missed an opportunity to put me in my place. Since Mr. Zambinis disappearance, shed gotten worse, not better.

   "Quark," said the Quarkbeast.

   "Did we really have to bring the beast?" Full Price asked me.

   "It jumped in the car when I opened the door."

   The Quarkbeast yawned, revealing several rows of razor-sharp fangs. Despite his placid nature, the beasts ferocious appearance almost guaranteed that no one ever completely shrugged off the possibility that he might try to take a chunk out of them when they werent looking. If the Quarkbeast was aware of this, it didnt show. Indeed, he might have been so unaware that he wondered why people always ran away screaming.

   "I would be failing in my duty as acting manager of Kazam," I said, in an attempt to direct the sorcerers away from grumpiness and more in the direction of teamwork, "if I didnt mention how important this job is. Mr. Zambini always said that Kazam needed to adapt to survive, and if we get this right, we could possibly tap a lucrative market that we badly need."

   "Humph!" said Lady Mawgon.

   "We all need to be in tune and ready to hit the ground running," I added. "I told Mr. Digby wed all be finished by six this evening."

   They didnt argue. I think they knew the score well enough. In silent answer, Lady Mawgon snapped her fingers, and the Volkswagens gearbox, which up until that moment had been making an expensive-sounding rumbling noise, suddenly fell silent. If Mawgon could replace gearbox bushings while the engine was running, she was tuned enough for all of them.

I knocked on the door of a red-brick house at the edge of the village, and a middle-aged man with a ruddy face answered.

   "Mr. Digby? My name is Jennifer Strange of Kazam, acting manager for Mr. Zambini. We spoke on the phone."

   He looked me up and down. "You seem a bit young to be running an agency."

   "Im sixteen," I said in a friendly manner.

   "Sixteen?"

   "In two weeks Ill be sixteen, yes."

   "Then youre actually fifteen?"

   I thought for a moment."Im in my sixteenth year."

   Mr. Digby narrowed his eyes."Then shouldnt you be in school or something?"

   "Indentured servitude," I answered as brightly as I could, trying to sidestep the contempt that most free citizens have for people like me. As a foundling, I had been brought up by the Sisterhood, whod sold me to Kazam four years before. I still had two years of unpaid work before I could even think of applying for the first level that would one day lead me, fourteen tiers of paperwork and bureaucracy later, to freedom.

   "Indentured or not," replied Mr. Digby, "wheres Mr. Zambini?"

   "Hes indisposed at present," I replied, attempting to sound as mature as I could. "I have temporarily assumed his responsibilities."

   "‘Temporarily assumed his responsibilities?" Mr. Digby repeated. He looked at the three sorcerers, who stood waiting at the car. "Why her and not one of you?"

   "Bureaucracy is for little people," retorted Lady Mawgon in an imperious tone.

   "I am too busy, and paperwork exacerbates my receding hair issues," said Full Price.

   "We have complete confidence in Jennifer," added Wizard Moobin, who appreciated what I did perhaps more than most. "Foundlings mature quickly. May we get started?"

   "Very well," replied Mr. Digby, after a long pause in which he looked at us all in turn with a should I cancel? sort of look. But he didnt, and eventually went and fetched his hat and coat. "But we agreed youd be finished by six, yes?"

   I said that this was so, and he handed me his house keys. After taking a wide berth to avoid the Quarkbeast, he climbed into his car and drove away. Its not a good idea to have civilians around when sorcery is afoot. Even the stoutest incantations carry redundant strands of spell that can cause havoc if allowed to settle on the general public. Nothing serious ever happened; it was mostly rapid nose hair growth, oinking like a pig, blue pee, that sort of stuff. It soon wore off, but it was bad for business.

   "Right," I said to the sorcerers. "Over to you."

   They looked at each other, then at the ordinary suburban house.

   "I used to conjure up storms," said Lady Mawgon with a sigh.

   "So could we all," replied Wizard Moobin.

   "Quark," said the Quarkbeast.

   None of the sorcerers had rewired a house by spell before, but by reconfiguring the root directory on the core spell language of ARAMAIC, it could be done with relative ease—as long as the three of them pooled their resources. It had been Mr. Zambinis idea to move Kazam into the home improvement market. Charming moles out of gardens, resizing stuff for the self-storage industry, and finding lost things was easy work, but it didnt pay well. Using magic to rewire a house, however, was quite different. Unlike electricians, we didnt need to touch the house in order to do it. No mess, no problems, and all finished in under a day.

   I stood by my Volkswagen to be near the car radiophone, the most reliable form of mobile communication we had these days. Any calls to the Kazam office would ring here. I wasnt just Kazams manager; I was also the receptionist, booking clerk, and taxi service. I had to look after the forty-five sorcerers, deal with the shabby building that housed us all, and fill out the numerous forms that the Magical Powers (amended 1966) Act required when even the tiniest spell was undertaken. I did all this because (1) the Great Zambini couldnt because he was missing, (2) Id been part of Kazam since I was twelve and knew the Mystical Arts Management business inside out, and (3) no one else wanted to.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Beverly B, February 13, 2013 (view all comments by Beverly B)
The Last Dragonslayer is a good YA novel with a simplistic plot best suited for younger teens, but a whimsical style and satirical humor that is probably way over their heads. Like many novels that are the first in a series, The Last Dragonslayer suffers from way too much attention spent on introducing a huge cast of characters most of whom play little or no part in the events of the rising action. All of the characters are original, comical and interesting, but the reader learns little about them. The protagonist, Jennifer Strange, a 15 year old orphan, does not begin her quest until page 132 - almost exactly halfway through the book. While trying to run a struggling employment agency for magicians in a land where the demand for magic is dwindling, Jennifer discovers she is the chosen Last Dragonslayer. She has no idea why, no fighting skills, has never seen a dragon, and has no experience dealing with corrupt, greedy dishonest people who come out in droves when word gets out that she is the chosen one. The second half of the book is fast paced and filled with very funny jabs at pop culture, capitalistic greed and corrupt politicians, but there is little intensity or depth. One of the dragons explains the conflict rather than the conflict unfolding through the events. I wish the story had started on page 132 and gone into much more detail about the conflict among the empires and the conflict between the dragons and the humans.
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Lindsay Mead, January 5, 2013 (view all comments by Lindsay Mead)
Wow, good story. It's quirky and silly. Near the middle it feels like it's not going anywhere-- then the next thing you know, you're crying. Twice. Lovely story with a good ending.

Recommended & Honorable Mention

Yes/No Checklist
Sex: No
Gore: No
Rape: No
Magic: Yes
Drugs: No

Star Categories
Romance: N/A
Action: 3 Stars *Not much action in this, but a few heart-pounding spots.
Pacing: 3 1/2 Stars *It seems to drag in the middle.
Writing: 5 Stars
Plot: 4 Stars *It brings to mind a certain movie, but still really good.
Overall: 4.5 Stars

Protagonist Meter
Damsel---------*-Badass
She shows her real talents at the end and she could be quite formidable.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Jamie Carpenter, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Jamie Carpenter)
I vote for this as my favorite book of the year. I read a lot of fantastic books in 2012 (and I'm sure there are great ones I didn't get to!), but I love satire and comedy. Even though this poses as a light-hearted young adult book, it provides a scathing social commentary, in true British form.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780547738475
Author:
Fforde, Jasper
Publisher:
Harcourt Children's Books
Subject:
Action & Adventure
Subject:
Children s-Science Fiction and Fantasy
Subject:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic
Subject:
fantasy;adventure;magic;teen;coming of age;quirky;funny
Subject:
dragon; fantasy; adventure; magic; teen; coming of age; ages 12 and up; 7th grad
Subject:
dragon; fantasy; adventure; magic; teen; coming of age
Subject:
Chronicles of Kazam;Jasper Fforde;humor;fantasy;magic;quirky;witty;adventure;com
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Series:
The Chronicles of Kazam
Series Volume:
2
Publication Date:
20121031
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
from 5 up to 7
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 10 up to 12

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The Last Dragonslayer (Chronicles of Kazam) Used Hardcover
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Product details 304 pages Harcourt Children's Books - English 9780547738475 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Adult author Fforde's foray into children's books will delight readers who like their fantasy with a dash of silliness. Since the Great Zambini disappeared six months earlier, the job of running Kazam Mystical Arts Management has fallen to Jennifer Strange, a foundling two weeks shy of 16, but sensible beyond her years. Kazam is part boardinghouse, part employment agency for wizards and magicians whose talents are on the decline — a high maintenance bunch. Jennifer has just begun her mentorship of another foundling, Horton 'Tiger' Prawns, when she learns she is the Last Dragonslayer (capitalized to differentiate from merely the previous dragonslayer) and that the last dragon on Earth, Maltcassion, is prophesied to die at her hand on Sunday noon. Comedic chaos ensues — the news of Maltcassion's imminent death paves the way for a major land grab. There's a lot of setup for later books in Fforde's Chronicles of Kazam, but it's so inventive and charming that readers will happily stick with it (though the tragic death of a major character will hit some of them hard) and be impatient for the next episode. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "Fantasy readers with a taste for the silly should appreciate the subverted tropes."
"Review" by , "Thoroughly entertaining...readers will easily sit back and enjoy the fun."
"Review" by , "Fforde's fantasy is smart, funny, and abundantly imaginative in its critique of commercial culture."
"Synopsis" by , In his witty first novel for young readers, New York Times best-selling author Jasper Fforde introduces fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange, who runs an agency for underemployed magicians in a world where magic is fading away. But when visions of the death of the world's last dragon begin, all signs point to Jennifer — and Big Magic.
"Synopsis" by ,
Jennifer Strange returns in the third book in Jasper Fforde's wild and witty fantasy series The Chronicles of Kazam, which launched with New York Times best-seller The Last Dragonslayer.
"Synopsis" by , Return to the witty, wizardly world of the Chronicles of Kazam with the fabulous follow-up to The Last Dragonslayer.
"Synopsis" by , In the good old days, magic was indispensable — it could both save a kingdom and clear a clogged drain. But now magic is fading: drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets are used for pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for magicians — but it's hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world's last dragon at the hands of an unnamed Dragonslayer. If the visions are true, everything will change for Kazam — and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as... Big Magic.
"Synopsis" by , Magic has been in a sad state in the Ununited Kingdom for years, but now its finally on the rise, and boneheaded King Snodd IV knows it. If he succeeds at his plot, the very future of magic will be at risk! Sensible sixteen-year-old Jennifer Strange, acting manager of Kazam Mystical Arts Management and its unpredictable crew of sorcerers, has little chance against the king and his cronies—but theres no way Kazam will let go of the noble powers of magic without a fight. A suspenseful, satirical story of Quarkbeasts, trolls, and wizidrical crackle!
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