The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde fulfills the category “Book I grabbed off the shelf without looking” for the 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge. Actually, I listened on audio. I spun the album titles on my Windows Media Player (yes, I’m still using that program. It works…for now.) The Song of the Quarkbeast showed up along with Sleeping Beauties and Six of Crows. It was a tough decision. I might have to read the other two on principle.
The Song of the Quarkbeast is the second in The Last Dragon Slayer trilogy by Mr. Fforde. I very much enjoy his books. This novel did not disappoint. I’ve read most of his novels. I devoured the Thursday Next series after being recommended them by author K.A. Mitchell (who writes very different stories compared to Mr. Fforde. Just FYI, she pens erotic male/male romance.)
Jasper Fforde is a master world builder. If you’ve read even one of his books, you can see the attention he gives to detail and how rich an environment he creates becomes. Each series (Nursery Crimes and Thursday Next) puts you into a quirky semi-realistic world, but the added aspects are amazing. In the Last Dragon Slayer series, he builds a sophisticated magic system with rules and consequences.
Perfect. Orson Scott Card would applaud.
He also reimagines Europe and Britain with new borders, systems, and even money (moolah, snort). In doing so, he sets up a complete government that plays into the story.
His writing style includes the “all is lost” element at Dresden-Files-level dire straits. (The Dresden Files, another urban fantasy/magical realism series, always has the “Ohmygod, Harry is going to die” trope. I love it.) Mr. Fforde like Jim Butcher never uses a problem solver or truth-teller to solve the issue for the hero/heroine. I love that Jennifer Strange can hold her own in this mixed-up crazy world. And the fact that she’s only sixteen and is killing it makes it even better.
Mr. Fforde deepened his magical universe in the second book, adding more rules and limitations. But I’m cool with that. The first novel doesn’t focus on magic. It’s more about the political problem with the dragons and Jennifer’s problems with the agency. The small tweaks he makes in Book 2 might not jive with the first novel, but given the whimsical nature of the stories, it’s easily forgiven.
The story focuses on quarkbeasts, mythical creatures who cannot be in close proximity to each other. There’s definitely some physics going on here. And I only know that because when the Once Magnificent Boo named the types of quarkbeasts—up, down, charmed, strange, top, bottom—I remembered those terms from the movie Roxanne. Yes, I’m that old. Jennifer not only has to save her agency from being taken over, stop a ruthless and sorcerer from ruining her life, she has to stop quarkbeasts from blowing up the kingdom and if she does it right, she gets her quarkbeast back.
A fun story for a cold wintery afternoon, for sure.
I give The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde Five Index fingers up. (Instead of thumbs, get it?)