Fforde’s signature quirky humor and tongue-in-cheek social commentary persist in the second book of The Chronicles of Kazam trilogy (The Last Dragonslayer, 2012).
Foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, a business that finds practical uses for the Ununited Kingdom’s dwindling magic—delivering pizza by magic carpet, unclogging drains—while awaiting the return of real magic. Kazam’s competition, Industrial Magic, wants a monopoly on magic, with plans to use it for financial gain. A contest will decide the future of magic: Whichever company is faster in repairing Hereford’s medieval bridge will control all magic. The story is rife with magic spells, often humorously botched, and wonderfully imagined characters—including a new love interest for Jennifer. Fforde’s clever wordplay and social satire poke fun at everything from corporations and the monarchy to talentless boy bands and T-shirt slogans. But this impedes the episodic plot and raises the question of audience for the book, as many allusions and puns may elude American teens. Jennifer, likable in her lack of magical powers, seems older than her 16 years; her delivery of dialogue often sounds as though she is reading aloud. The storyline is less strong than that of the first book, making this seem a setup for the final installment. Indeed, the titular Quarkbeast barely makes an appearance.
For fans of Fforde and the first installment. (Fantasy. 12 & up)