Writer Kathryn Eastman reviews The Last Dragonslayer enhanced e-book for Futurebook: In the good old days, magic was powerful, unregulated by government, and even the largest spell could be woven without filling in magic release form B1-7g. Then the magic started fading away. Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for soothsayers and sorcerers. But work is drying up. Drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and even magic carpets are reduced to pizza delivery.
So it’s a surprise when the visions start. Not only do they predict the death of the Last Dragon at the hands of a Dragonslayer, they also point to Jennifer, and say something is coming. Big Magic…
The Last Dragonslayer is Jasper Fforde's first YA novel (for ages 9+). It is very much a Fforde book, set in a well-realised world not wholly unrecognisable but obviously different to our own. It is noticeably lighter, less complex and gentler than his previous offerings, while still taking serious swipes at the cult of celebrity; the media; prejudice; greed; and how those in power spin situations to suit their needs, all of which are especially relevant today. There is a moral to this tale but it's served up with humour. It's an engaging story: an appealing and entertaining adventure set in a world of dwindling magic and dragons and peopled with empathetic characters, both human and animal, and vile villains.
Jasper Fforde is an author who embraced the potential of an ebook before they even existed. Both his Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series of books include fun extras like adverts, which stem from companies, characters, places or incidents in each book, while his author website (http://www.JasperFforde.com) provides a giddying array of additional resources for readers. These all help contribute to a real sense of being immersed in the different world of the books.
A lot of care and attention to detail has gone into the excellent Enhanced Editions app, starting with the font used and the parchment effect background for the text. The option of a dark interface makes reading more enjoyable and easier on the eyes. The Lock Rotation feature is useful to prevent the text moving from portrait to landscape while reading, as is the ability to change the tilt scrolling speed from dynamic to one of 5 fixed speeds. Perhaps best of all, though, the app includes both the full ebook text together with the unabridged audiobook read by Jane Collingwood. These are synchronised which means that the text scrolls in time with the audio. (This stuck occasionally but it was easy to remedy with a quick tap of the screen, after which the scrolling picked up again.) I alternated between reading and listening, which meant I never had to put the book down.
Additional features include a fun interactive map with extra information about the areas and bestiary of the UnUnited Kingdom, extracts from The Dragonslayer's Manual and Jasper Fforde's previous books, together with a news feed. The Last Dragonslayer app by Hachette UK is available to download for iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch for £3.99. Watch a YouTube preview of it here.
Kathryn Eastman is a writer living in Wales. She has had short stories, poems and articles published and is currently working on her first novel. She blogs at The Nut Press and you can follow her on Twitter as @katheastman.