Jasper Fforde expertly delves into the Y.A. genre with the first book in his Chronicles of Kazam. Not only does Fforde put magic into this world (a popular Y.A. theme these days) but he also covers relevant issues for readers - preserving the environment, making ethical decisions, etc.
Like all Fforde series the world we find ourselves in here is an alternate version of today with enough similarity to our present to feel familiar even with significant differences. In this world, the ununited nations are at a time of relative peace having lost many during the Troll Wars. Magic is dwindling and once-great magicians have been relegated to rewiring homes without pulling the wires out of the walls. Jennifer Strange, at just 15-years-old, runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management, a cross between a retirement community and a talent agency for magicians. Running Kazam complete occupies Strange's life until the premonition of the last dragon being slayed by a dragonslayer starts popping up everywhere.
From there, things pick up pretty quickly for Strange and life as she knows it gets even more complicated than it was before. When not fending off death threats, marriage proposals, and sponsorship deals Strange becomes the last dragonslayer faced with doing a job she doesn't feel right about. She simply doesn't want to have to kill anything let alone the very last dragon.
Then, there's the mysterious spike in magic and whispers among the magicians of Big Magic returning - a total game-changer.
As always with Fforde, the characters are all unique and interesting from their very names (Tiger Prawns is my favorite) down to their personalities. Nothing boring around here, but then how could things be boring with magic in the world and a dragon to battle? The best thing about all the characters is how human they feel. They're imperfect, confused, good-hearted, conniving; simply human. Magic hasn't transformed them into characters who rely solely on their power to achieve their goals. Decisions have to made and outcomes have to be worked for. Even the dragon feels human-like by the end.
I know I've been reading a lot of Y.A. fiction lately and a lot of Fforde as well, but I still must recommend this book. It was a great adventure and I look forward to the next installment as it slowly paddles its way across the 'Pond.'