Almost a year ago I reviewed The Last Dragon Slayer, written by my favorite fantasy author, Jasper Fforde. The tale of teenager Jennifer Strange and her struggle between her duties as a dragon slayer and her own moral compass, along with a colorful cast of charming characters, was a very entertaining, funny, and sometimes saddening read. I still highly recommend it. The recently released sequel to The Last Dragon Slayer is The Song of the Quarkbeast. From the minute I heard there would be a second book,
I had very high expectations, and thought of multiple possible plots for this novel, because I have that kind of free time.
Would it be primarily about people/dragon relations? Would we learn more about the new dragons? Would they cause problems for Jennifer, or would they remain peaceful? What about Jennifer being a berserker—would that be involved? Spoilers after the jump.
Nope. Despite being part of The Last Dragon Slayer trilogy, there was a severe lack of dragons in this novel. It instead mostly focused on the wizards of Kazam, the employment agency for sorcerers that Jennifer manages, and the rival company iMagic. It also (of course) involved the aforementioned quarkbeast, a frightening, magically-made beast that can never meet its literal other half, otherwise destruction is imminent. However, despite the quarkbeast being in the title, there was a large focus on the Youthful Perkins, a good-looking trainee wizard with an obvious crush on Jennifer.
It was stated in the previous book that “love and magic don’t mix,” largely due to wizards being flighty, crazy people who sometimes forget to put their clothes on correctly. They are essentially genius children in adult bodies. A person who can barely take care of themselves cannot hope to care for someone else the way they should. The relationship would always be unequal. Despite this, Jennifer and Perkins still somehow end up sort of together, kind of, maybe. The “budding” relationship in this story annoyed me to no end. Although it wasn’t the main focus, I was disappointed by its appearance. Now, don’t paint me as some sort of love-hater; I enjoy a good romance as much as the next person. In fact, most books I read involve romance. I read an unhealthy amount of Harlequin romance manga (mostly for laughs, but still). Though it may be selfish, I was hoping that there would be at least one single solitary series with a female lead that would not involve some male mucking it up with his awkward affections, which is a point I have covered before.
Its saving grace was that Perkins wasn’t the one to save the day. That took a team of people and some clever mental gymnastics by Jennifer. The book ended with an almost date with Perkins and Jennifer, which seemed unnecessary. Perhaps I am just a bitter old lady, jealous of the novel’s youth, looking back at all my wasted years that could have been spent with a special someone… nah, teen love stories are just annoying. Regardless, it is a solidly written book, with many interesting parts. There were some good bits about the other wizards, and some social commentary. Overall, a good book, but it unfortunately suffers from the “Sequel Effect”, meaning that the sequel is never as good as you imagine it will be. And that my friends, is where fanfiction comes in.