Monday, July 22, 2013

Most Read Authors: Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde is currently number two on my most-read-author's list. I am a huge fan, as in I have read all of his novels; I recommend his books to friends, neighbors, and semi-acquaintances, and Jasper Fforde is way, way up there on my authors-I-want-to-meet-in-person list. (And he has a really cool name, too.)
I read my first Jasper Fforde book in 2006. I started with The Eyre Affair, the first of Fforde's Thursday Next books, and rocketed through the first four books in the series. Even better, my husband loved these books too, and we listened to them together on road trips. I highly recommend the audio version. 

Here's the thing about Jasper Fforde's novels: they are so quirky and insanely creative. Check out the premise for his dystopia Shades of Grey:

Eddie Russett lives some 200 years or so after the Something That Happened. The world is now run by a Colortocracy. Those who can see colors are known as Chromatics. One's social status is determined by what color you can see and how well you perceive it. Violets rule. Red is the lowest of the Chromatics, but being a Grey is worse. Greys live at the bottom of the totem pole and do all the grunt work. Eddie is Red, and a high perceiving Red at that, though he's yet to take the test that will determine his perception percentage. He's shipped off to a small town to do a chair census. There he meets Jane, a Grey, and starts to question everything. 

Pretty wild, but the beauty of all of Fforde's books are all the little details. In Shades of Grey we have (to mention a few) swan attacks, marriage negotiations, healing with colors, the spoon shortage, Apocryphals.

Fforde's newest series is also his first Young Adult series. The Last Dragonslayer is the story of Jennifer Strange, foundling and acting manager of the magic corporation Kazam, of the Kingdom of Hereford in the Ununited Kingdoms. Bordering Hereford are the dragonlands, and there is one dragon left, but pre-cogs (those who can see the future) begin having visions that the last dragon will die on Sunday.

The Last Dragonslayer is chalked full of magic and dragons, but they are magic and dragons as only Jasper Fforde can craft, which means kooky, funny, and wholly original. The wizards have been reduced to using their magic to do things like rewire houses. The wizards all all hilarious, from their self-given titles, to their areas of expertise. Jennifer Strange is a strong character who, like Fforde's Thursday Next, has more jobs than any one person should. The Quarkbeast is just about the most awesome pet ever, and I quite liked Tiger as well.

I was absolutely giddy when I received a review copy of the second in the series, The Song of the Quarkbeast, due for release in the U.S. on September 3, 2013. In this installment, the wizidrical levels are on the rise, and Jennifer Strange is busier than ever running Kazam Mystical Arts Management. She's up against those who are more interested in exploiting the magical arts for financial gain than they are in upholding the noble magical tradition.

I love how Fforde upends our expectations for the fantasy genre in these novels--Jennifer Strange can't do magic, magicians use their magic for rather mundane tasks. Fforde's genre-mixing is always invigorating. I really enjoyed how this book spent more time with the wizards of Kazam. Full Price, Half Price, Cadet Perkins Perkins, Lady Mawgon, Wizard Moobin, The Transient Moose, The Once Magnificent Boo: even their names are funny. Their quirky personalities are one of my favorite things about this series. I grinned the whole way through this book. 

Twelves books by Jasper Fforde, and I would gladly read more.

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