The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This one felt rushed, with a ton of telling versus showing and a quirky world that felt thrown together and not well realized. In the first few pages I had a very hard time coming to grips with the setting and situation. The character names, while funny, are also misleading. All of the names based on mollusks and sea life made me think these were an aquatic people for a while, and it took me some effort to puzzle out that they weren't, they just had odd naming traditions.
The main character, Jennifer Strange (kind of a generic name, imo), is fifteen and runs a wizards' talent rep agency/boardinghouse. Plenty of room for humor there, but the novel clicks along so fast with so few moments to really explore that I felt a lot of it was wasted. At the same time, the logic of the story, the spacing of plot points and such, felt very haphazard, as if Fforde had a general idea of where he wanted to go, wrote X number of words a day, spellchecked it, and sent it to his editor. Jennifer's final decision that I won't go into here because it's a spoiler, isn't well set up. I didn't really understand why she did it, and the resolution isn't one, really. For most of the book you're told about what will happen if dragons ever got the upper hand, and then stuff happens, the book ends, and you never really know how it would all work out.
Not a complete waste of time, but Fforde's written much better. I hope his Thursday Next novels don't become this slapdash.
I highly recommend Fforde's debut novel, The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel (Thursday Next Novels (Penguin Books)). Set in an alternate universe where people love their pet dodos and travel by zeppelin, this book follows Thursday Next as she hunts criminals who've found a way to transport themselves into books. When they get into the original manuscript of Jane Eyre and take Jane hostage, hilarity ensues.