The Song of the Quarkbeast: The Chronicles of Kazam, Book 2

 
Funny fantasy series finds its footing in second volume.

What parents need to know

Educational value

A humorous fantasy, The Song of the Quarkbeast concerns magic and jokes more than realism and education. However, there's plenty of witty wordplay, and readers who enjoy puns, sarcasm, and irony will find many examples.

Positive messages

The Song of the Quarkbeast emphasizes the importance of fair play. King Snodd IV and his minions will do virtually anything to win the magical contest, but Jennifer and her coworkers are rarely tempted to retaliate with an underhanded maneuver.

Positive role models

Jennifer and her magical coworkers at Kazam Mystical Arts Management have odd ways of doing things, but they use their powers, such as they are, for the general good. Jennifer's particularly conscientious, encouraging her team members to operate at the peak of their abilities.

Violence

There's very little violence in The Song of the Quarkbeast. A couple of trolls menace Jennifer. Someone punches her friend Perkins in the eye.

Sex

Jennifer and newly minted wizard Perkins share a mild romantic attraction, but neither is very sure what to do about it.

Language

The language in The Song of the Quarkbeast is very mild. Someone's told to "piss off," but there's not much else that's in any way objectionable.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Song of the Quarkbeast is a clever follow-up to The Last Dragonslayer and continues its exploration of magic hobbled by bureaucracy. Its pace is a bit slower and the narrative a bit more talky than most books of this type -- not necessarily a bad thing, but readers should be prepared. The novel contains very mild violence (menacing trolls, a punch in the eye), virtually no objectionable language ("piss off" is the strongest utterance), and only the faintest hint of sexual content (a growing crush between two teenagers).

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What's the story?

Sixteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management, keeping track of a motley team of magicians and wizards who've been reduced to unblocking drains, rewiring homes, and doing gardening chores by the bureaucracy that regulates their activities. With magical power on the rise once again, King Snodd IV of the Ununited Kingdoms wants to corner the market on it. Nothing, and no one, but Jennifer and her compatriots stands in his way. Challenged to a winner-takes-all magical contest, the Kazam crew has its work cut out for it, especially given the opponents' gifts for trickery.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

THE SONG OF THE QUARKBEAST maintains the absurd humor and leisurely pace of the previous volume in this series, but the result's a bit more surefooted and engaging. Author Jasper Fforde doesn't seem to feel the need to hit the jokes quite so hard this time, leaving room for Jennifer's relationships with her friends and foes to develop. Quarkbeast feels less like the middle volume of a tightly plotted trilogy than another enjoyable opportunity to explore a cleverly conceived fantasy world.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about different approaches to magic and wizardry in literature and popular culture. What sets the system of magic in The Song of the Quarkbeast apart from that in the Harry Potter books, for example, or Ursula LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea?

  • How do bureaucracies help or hinder governments? Are they consciously designed to be obstructive, or do they just grow that way?

  • Why is "fair play" important? Are there times when people should break the rules?

Book details

Author:Jasper Fforde
Genre:Fantasy
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:September 3, 2013
Number of pages:304
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of The Song of the Quarkbeast: The Chronicles of Kazam, Book 2 was written by

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