Friday, May 2, 2014

Chronicles of Kazam (Doesn't That Title BEG for An Exclamation Mark?)

Jasper Fforde = Genius.

In case you weren't aware of the above relationship, I am happy to introduce you to Jasper Fforde, author of the super-ultra-fantastic Thursday Next series, the Nursery Crimes series, and Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron (this book came out years before that other book about Shades of Grey, and I have a feeling that many patrons at my library put it on hold expecting bondage et cetera and were very surprised to find a clever dystopian where society is segmented by the colors they can see.  But that's another review.).

Fforde has taken his tongue-in-cheek wit and applied it to magic in his series for younger readers called The Chronicles of Kazam.  The first book, The Last Dragonslayer, was fantastic, and the second book, The Song of the Quarkbeast, certainly doesn't disappoint.

In this alternate reality, magic is real.  It's more of a tool than anything, really, since cell phones went offline and so did pretty much anything else that, in our world, would run on electricity.  In this world, magic is the powering force behind anything mechanical.  Just as we have Newton, Edison, and Tesla, this world has The Mighty Shandar and the Great Zambini.  In fact, magical units are called "shandars," so a certain spell would take up so many megaShandars or gigaShandars.

Unfortunately, the level of magic available for use has dropped dramatically.  Everything must be rationed and documented.  Enter Jennifer Strange.  An orphan of the Troll Wars (more on those later), she's eminently practical, not at all magical, and, for the time being, acting manager of Zambini Towers and Kazam Magic.  The actual manager, the Great Zambini, has disappeared, leaving Kazam with only a few magic-workers who are still mostly sane.  Lady Mawgon, who has serious issues with orphans, Full and Half Price, Patrick, and the Youthful Perkins are some of them.  There's also the Mysterious X, who's sort of a blob of aether that generally must be carried about in some sort of container, like pickle jars.  Jennifer accepts this madcap existence because it is her reality.

See, she lives in the Ununited Kingdoms, ruled by King Snodd, who's pretty much thoroughly despicable.  The Kingdom has been attacking Trollvania, a neighboring kingdom, for years, and because trolls are very large and very strong, none of the attacks have been successful.  Hence all of the orphans of the Troll Wars.  The Ununited Kingdoms uses Moolah as currency and allows a person to drive based on their maturity, which pretty much means that no teenage boy is driving (ha!).

In The Song of the Quarkbeast, Kazam is threatened by iMagic, run by Blix, who has serious aspirations to the throne.  He cozies up to the king and attempts to create a magic monopoly.  Blix challenges Kazam to a wizidrical duel (which is not very polite, but you know, megalomania and all).  It sounds like a pretty basic storyline, which is true, but that really doesn't matter because it's all the little world-building touches that make this book so special.

I cannot WAIT for the third one!

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