In the Ununited Kingdoms, magic is a part of everyday life, but it’s only used for the most mundane of tasks, like rewiring a house’s electricity or removing all the moles from the garden (or your face). But lately, the magic levels seem to be rising in the Kingdom of Hereford, and nobody quite knows why. Moreover, the local pre-cogs have begun to prophesy the death of the world’s last remaining dragon — an event of great importance, not only because dragons seem to be inextricably tied to magic, but also because once a dragon dies, its lands are up for grabs. Thus, the premonition inevitably results in a huge influx of people and corporations hoping to claim the Dragonlands for themselves. In the midst of all this, Jennifer Strange, a seemingly ordinary 15-year-old girl, learns that she has a surprising destiny: she is the Last Dragonslayer, the one fated to kill the dragon. The problem is, Jennifer isn’t quite sure she wants to do it….
As a big Fforde ffan, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this book, his first YA novel and the first book in a trilogy. Overall, I found it pretty enjoyable and quite reminiscent of the Thursday Next books in some ways. Like Thursday, Jennifer is a strong and intelligent heroine who’s willing to fight for her principles. She also has a quirky pet, although it’s not a dodo but a Quarkbeast, a visually terrifying creature with the personality of a dog. And just as Thursday often gets into trouble with the all-powerful Goliath corporation, Jennifer runs into similar problems with Consolidated Useful Stuff. In fact, maybe that’s the reason I didn’t like this book as much as Fforde’s other work — it’s a bit too similar to the Thursday Next series, except without all the fun literary references and time travel. I’d say it’s still worth reading if you enjoy Fforde’s particular brand of schtick, but it’s not the best entry point into his work.