The Last Dragonslayer

Monday, October 28, 2013

Quick ROW80 update:
Goals: hahahaha Yeah, I didn't really do my goals too well this week. I'm not changing them, because they really had been doable. It was all me. At least I managed the book review, and it was nice to see so many people stopped by to read it, if only to also check out my ROW80 goals. I wrote on my story one day last week, and I commented on 2 or 3 people's goal posts, though I read a few additional ones beyond that. On to this week now and better self-discipline...

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

The cover art and title make the book sound like a serious sort of book, despite the fact that I found it in the MG section of my library. Think about it. The last dragonslayer. And the cover is this antique gold color with a green scaled tail wrapping around from front to back. And resting on the tail is the front shot of a red Volkswagen Beetle. And there are dim copper swirls and stars around the title and edges of the cover....Okay, maybe not totally serious, but still, I wasn't expecting the whimsical zaniness of the story. Didn't matter though; I was hooked with the jacket description and first few pages.

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 have been reduced to pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management, 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 that's true, everything will change for Kazam--and for Jennifer. Because something is coming. Something known as...Big Magic.

The writing reminded me a little of Floors, which I reviewed back in April, and a bit like Diana Wynne Jones' books. Jennifer herself is the strong-willed and mature acting manager of Kazam for all that she's only 2 weeks shy of her 16th birthday and technically an indentured servant to the Great Zambini until she's 18. But since he disappeared about 6 months ago, she's been running the business for him until he returns. She's rather good at her job and firmly believes that behind every great wizard in history, there'd been a talented agent.

She's the sort of girl I'd have loved to have as a friend or to be myself. She's loyal, caring, and determined, and those prove to be among her greatest strengths. Her friends and allies would agree with me. Fellow foundling Tiger, newly arrived at Kazam to help Jenny, becomes fiercely loyal to her, even taking on the wrath of Lady Mawgon, one of the residential wizards on contract with Kazam, over an ethical dispute in order to protect Jenny's position the way a younger brother might for an admired older sister.

I highly recommend this story for MG readers, and I plan to share it with my son. It's similar enough in style to some of the other books he's enjoyed with me, so I think he'll like it.

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar

Monday, October 21, 2013

Before I start the review, sorry for being gone so long. However, I'm getting back onto the ROW80 challenge again. This round started a couple weeks ago, but who's counting, right? The idea is to make progress in writing, and that's what I have time to do again. The past few months have been challenging since I finally started getting signups for my crochet classes, working to finish my certification for teaching crochet (now completed and certificate received--Yay!), prepping for our semi-annual Open House at work (got 7 class signups from it, which is 7 more than the last one), and helping plan and run our Baha'i district's annual convention. My brain was a bit too swamped to think much about writing, though I did a bit here and there. Now that the big things are done and past, I can read, write, and craft (for myself) again. Whew!

So anyway, my goals to start with:
to write for at least an hour 4 days a week
read 1 new book a week and write a review for it
visit and comment on 5 ROWers' blogs a week

This should be easy enough to get me warmed up and back into the swing of it. I've already taken care of goal 2 with this post, and I spent at least an hour yesterday on writing, so that's a good start on goal 1 as well. Cheers to whatever goals you are working on yourselves, whether writing related or otherwise. Now on to the review.

The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

In New York City, 1897, life has never been more thrilling--or dangerous.

Sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne and her 'straynge band of mysfits' have journeyed from London to America to rescue their friend Jasper, hauled off by bounty hunters. But Jasper is in the clutches of a devious former friend demanding a trade--the dangerous device Jasper stole from him...for the life of the girl Jasper loves.

One false move from Jasper and the strange clockwork collar around Mei's neck tightens. And tightens.

From the rough streets of lower Manhattan to elegant Fifth Avenue, the motley crew of teens with supernatural abilities is on Jasper's elusive trail. And they're about to discover how far they'll go for friendship.

More than ever, Finley Jayne will rely on powerful English duke Griffin King to balance her dark magic with her good side. Yet Griffin is at war with himself over his secret attraction to Finley...and will risk his life and reputation to save her. Sam, more machine than man, finds his moody heart tested by Irish lass Emily--whose own special abilities are no match for the darkness she discovers on the streets.

Now, to help those she's come to care for so deeply, Finley Jayne must infiltrate a criminal gang. Only problem is, she might like the dark side a little too much...

I didn't realize until after I'd started reading that there was a book before this one. The strong references to something that had recently happened, especially the residual effects from facing off with some villain, tipped me off. However, it didn't affect the plot of this book other than how the characters felt about each other because of it. The previous book is essentially treated like backstory, and very well done. Though I plan to go back and read The Girl in the Steel Corset anyway, just to satisfy my curiosity.

Jayne is rather feisty, and she was a lot of fun to follow. Trying to figure out how to balance different aspects of your persona can be tricky enough, but for Jayne, her sides were drastically contrasted. From what I understand, they were actually separate enough that it was like she was two people. Now she's fused into one persona but she still can choose which side she prefers. Not so easy when she likes fighting and flirting with danger, despite her good qualities. However, I can respect a girl who has such loyalty to her friends and works to see justice done.

Jasper and Griffin also get some POV time, and their parts help round out what all is going on in the story. I could really feel for Griffin's desperation in dealing with one particularly determined young heiress after his title, as well as his growing affection for Jayne, and Jasper's desire to get himself and Mei free from Dalton's control. Though Sam and Emily didn't have their own POV parts, their connections with each other and the others were filled in just fine through Jayne and Griffin.

In some ways this book reminds me of Soulless by Gail Carriger mixed with The Society of Steam: The Falling Machine by Andrew P. Mayer. Shouldn't be terribly surprising considering the genre and the time period they are all set. The Falling Machine is set in 1880 and Soulless is Victorian England. But I enjoyed all three, and if you like any of the other ones, you will probably dig into this one, too. I can't wait to read more by Cross now, and her author bio reminds me of a couple of my friends. She's now on my list of authors I want to meet.