Jasper Fforde ‘The Great Troll War’ Book Review

The literary equivalent of a supernova, sheer plotting brilliance, mind blown!

The Trolls are looking hungry and humans are on the menu. In besieged Cornwall, unhealthy scenarios are playing out and Jennifer Strange, Court Mystician to the Kingdom of Snodd, does not like it one bit.

Jennifer is always cool under pressure and prepares to take action, indeed it is her destiny. She is joined by her best friend Tiger, the sword Exhorbitus, a VW Beetle with links to her past, and a Quarkbeast. Meanwhile megolomaniac Mighty Shandar is a sorcerer out to conquer the world and needs another Quarkbeast to do it.

Jennifer hopes the Button Trench will hold back the ravenous hordes and that Mighty Shandar will back off. He ain’t gettin’ her Quarkbeast that’s for sure.

The Last Dragonslayer novels by Jasper Fforde missing the last book!

Unfortunately even regular characters Lady Mawgon and sorceress Once Magnificent Boo are floundering to find ways to thwart the ever-expanding evil. Drooling Trolls are multiplying daily and Mighty Shandar’s over-inflated ego expands by the minute.

In the mix are—Royal Princess Shazine Snodd in a commoner’s body whom glamour boy Sir Matt Grifflon is keen to marry; Mighty Shandar’s obsequious assistant Miss D’Argento; the two delightful reconnaissance dragons Feldspar and Colin (I learned how dragons make flames) plus integral quirky characters throughout. The likes of Kevin Zip and Full Price add to the story and you will probably recognise their personalities whether or not you have read the other books. But as the ubiquitous footnotes hint, read the other books!

Just as The Big Bang Theory song says “Maths, science, history, unravelling the mystery…” this book has it all, from subtle throwbacks, movie references, intertextuality, the Chrysler Building, to a very different type of submarine Bellerophon. I was surprised by an unexpected, unnamed Special Guest appearance—breaking the fourth wall—I would love to say who and why but in respect to spoilers I will abstain.

Over the years, author Jasper Fforde’s signature wit has given his readers a slightly skewed look at locations in Wales but this time it’s Penzance where Bergerac TV actor John Nettles has become an icon, venerated with a bronze statue in the town square. Jennifer ponders her life as she strolls through beautiful Morrab Gardens.

+Jasper Fforde will be in North Cornwall for the Book Festival 24-25 September 2022+

I think Royal pomp and circumstance take a bit of a pounding in this Dragonslayer plot, so the unscheduled appearance of Molly the Troll is a zany twist. As Jennifer says “I can’t think of much that isn’t weird about all this.” The wizard Great Zambini says “Bigger and bolder than anything you can imagine” and he’s right. Jennifer knows a reconnoitre is needed so she and the dragons set off on a dangerous mission with devastating results and further repercussions.

Great quotes emerge from The Great Troll War.

For instance the soulless sorcerer Mighty Shandar outlines his evil plan “A conscience is as much a barrier to knowledge as biology is to eternal life.”

But he doesn’t hear these words:

“Shandar knows that while utter ruthlessness is a useful skill for taking power,” said Mother Zenobia, head of the Sisters of the Lobster Orphanage, “it’s overrated when it comes to keeping power… it’s amazing how quickly subjects tire of their tyrant once the mass murder begins.”

The Great Troll War by Jasper Fforde
Last Dragonslayer Series

The Great Troll War is the ingenious fourth and final book in The Last Dragonslayer series promoted at young adult readers but I believe it sits nicely in that unique niche reserved for novels devoured by all age groups. Those interested in a retro-present-day twist on believability, tweaking the norm and perhaps even glimpsing into the future while grounded in the everyday.

Find out the truth about the orphanage and Jennifer’s absentee parents, what role buttons play, and how not to recruit warriors. Oh, yes, stay away from creepy Hollow Men. I loved the chunks of humour and lightbulb moments as strategies are worked out amid the ever-present whiff of disaster and universal annihilation.

At the heart of The Great Troll War Jasper Fforde has written a relatable fantasy sci-fi story about the power of friendship and trust, with strong messages on clear-thinking and using available knowledge to work out the best, most logical and kindest way to end a war before it starts.

Jennifer certainly has a tough job.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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The Last Dragonslayer synopsis for the series below:

Dragon image not on bookcover © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2022

The Last Dragonslayer (2010)
In which we meet Jennifer Strange, learn about Kazam and a Dragon is despatched but not without magnificent events that lead on to a Big Magic.

The Song of the Quarkbeast (2011)
The King wants to control magic and use it for his own ends, but Jennifer and Kazam will not let that happen, and we learn what may happen if Quarkbeasts collide.

The Eye of Zoltar (2013)
Jennifer goes on what is emphatically not a quest in the Cambrian Empire. She finds the mysterious Eye of Zoltar and also learns a thing or two about Jeopardy Tourism.

The Great Troll War (2021)
A ramshackle band of humans hold out against the Troll invaders led by Jennifer Strange. An evil mastermind is plotting a dastardly plan, and all seems hopeless. Or is it?

Special Features section on the website has details about each book, places to order it, and a host of extra information. None of Jasper Fforde’s books have a chapter 13. You can read more on his website: FAQ

Addendum: I often recommend Jasper Fforde’s books (one reviewed for Reading Wales #dewithon) and have always admired his inventive out-there writing style. Try the series Thursday Next or Nursery Crimes, or one of his stand-alone novels like The Constant Rabbit. GBW.