The Song of the Quarkbeast (2011), by Jasper Fforde

Fforde-SongThe Song of the Quarkbeast is the welcome sequel to the Ffordian adventure that is The Last Dragonslayer, so I was very excited to be leant it by a friend… but somewhat disappointed in the outcome. While it does contain the requisite Ffordisms to be bone-ticklingly humorous, it was just a bit too “more-of-the-same” to engage me fully. The plot is sound, but the editing is lacking. Twice at least, explanations and sentences from earlier in the book are repeated in a way that seems unintentional and thus flawed (15, 45; 51, 215)… I don’t know that this is the fault of the author: after all, he must have revised the text numerous times. Seriously, though (she said, putting on her editor’s hat), this is why authors need good editors: it is the editor’s job to make sure that technical errors, transcription errors, logical errors, and just mere unintended silliness, do not make it into the final print.

Editing and other annoying minutæ aside, The Song of the Quarkbeast has some truly magical moments.  The plot is sufficiently convoluted to support Fforde’s inane sense of humour; the characters are quirky but delightful—well, except for people like the All Powerful Blix, protagonist Jennifer Strange’s arch-nemesis (all good heroes need an arch-nemesis: just ask Perry the Platypus…) and recently appointed Court Mystician. The impetus of the fundamental conflict is the attempt by the despotic ruler to control magic and magicians, which—as Jennifer states, “are best independent … they should serve no one in particular, and be beholden to no—”… but she is cut off by the King (114). The crisis our heroes at KAZAM Inc. find themselves in is ultimately averted by a dividing Quarkbeast and a powerful spell known as the Transient Moose. How fitting, for these are two of the most loveable characters Fforde has created.  Overall, it is only my editorial OCD that impinges upon great enjoyment of Fforde’s recent foray into literature for a younger crowd; even as an adult, I eagerly await book three in the Last Dragonslayer series.

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