The Eye of Zoltar (The Chronicles of Kazam Series #3)

The Eye of Zoltar (The Chronicles of Kazam Series #3)

by Jasper Fforde


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Although she’s an orphan in indentured servitude, sixteen-year-old Jennifer Strange is pretty good at her job of managing the unpredictable crew at Kazam Mystical Arts Management. She already solved the Dragon Problem, avoided mass destruction by Quarkbeast, and helped save magic in the Ununited Kingdoms. Yet even Jennifer may be defeated when the long-absent Mighty Shandar makes an astonishing appearance and commands her to find the Eye of Zoltar—proclaiming that if she fails, he will eliminate the only two dragons left on earth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544540712
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 10/06/2015
Series: Chronicles of Kazam Series , #3
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 226,246
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: 920L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 12 Years

About the Author

Jasper Fforde is the internationally best-selling author of the Chronicles of Kazam, the Thursday Next mysteries, and the Nursery Crime books. He lives in Wales. Visit his website at


Brecon, Powys, Wales, United Kingdom

Date of Birth:

January 11, 1961

Place of Birth:

London, United Kingdom


Left school at 18

Read an Excerpt

Where We Are Now

The first thing we had to do was catch the Tralfamosaur. The obvious question, other than “What’s a Tralfamosaur?” was “Why us?” The answer to the first question was that this was a magical beast, created by some long-forgotten wizard when conjuring up weird and exotic creatures had been briefly fashionable. The Tralfamosaur is about the size and weight of an elephant, has a brain no bigger than a Ping-Pong ball, and can outrun a human. More relevant to anyone trying to catch one, Tralfamosaurs aren’t particularly fussy about what they eat. And when they are hungry—which is much of the time—they are even less fussy. A sheep, cow, rubber tire, garden shed, antelope, smallish automobile, or human would go down equally well. In short, the Tralfamosaur is a lot like a Tyrannosaurus rex, but without the sunny disposition.
   And we had to capture it. Oh, and the answer to the “Why us?” question was that it was our fault the rotten thing had escaped.
   In case you’re new to my life, I’m sixteen, a girl, and an orphan—hey, no biggie; lots of kids don’t have parents here in the Ununited Kingdoms, because so many people have been lost in the endless Troll Wars these past sixty years. With lots of orphans around, there’s plenty of cheap labor. I got lucky. Instead of being sold into the garment, fast food, or hotel industry, I get to spend my six years of indentured servitude at Kazam Mystical Arts Management, a registered House of Enchantment run by the Great Zambini. Kazam does what all Houses of Enchantment used to do: rent out wizards to perform magical feats. The problem is that in the past half century, magic has faded, so we are really down to finding lost shoes, rewiring houses, unblocking drains, and getting cats out of trees. It’s a bit demeaning for the once-mighty sorcerers who work for us, but at least it’s paid work.
   At Kazam I found out that magic has not much to do with black cats, cauldrons, wands, pointy hats, and broomsticks. No, those are only in the movies. Real magic is weird and mysterious, a fusion between science and faith. The practical way of looking at it is this: Magic swirls about us like an invisible fog of emotional energy that can be tapped by those skilled in the mystical arts, and then channeled into a concentrated burst of energy from the tips of the index fingers. The technical name for magic is variable electro-gravitational mutable subatomic force, but the usual term is wizidrical energy, or, simply, crackle.
   So there I was, assistant to the Great Zambini, learning well and working hard, when Zambini disappeared, quite literally, in a puff of smoke. He didn’t return, or at least not for anything but a few minutes at a time and often in random locations, so I took over the running of the company at age fifteen. Okay, that was a biggie, but I coped and, long story short, I saved dragons from extinction, averted war between the nations of Snodd and Brecon, and helped the power of magic begin to reestablish itself.
   And that’s when the trouble really started. King Snodd thought using the power of magic for corporate profit would be a seriously good scam, something we at Kazam weren’t that happy about. Even longer story short, we held a magic contest to decide who controls magic, and after a lot of cheating by the king to try to make us lose, he failed—and we are now a House of Enchantment free from royal meddling and can concentrate on rebuilding magic into a noble craft.
   I now manage forty-five barely sane sorcerers at Kazam, only eight of whom have a legal permit to perform magic. If you think wizards are all wise purveyors of the mystical arts and have sparkling wizidrical energy streaming from their fingertips, think again. They are for the most part undisciplined, infantile, argumentative, and infuriating; their magic only works when they really concentrate, which isn’t that often, and misspellings are common. But when it works, a well-spelled feat of magic is the most wondrous thing to behold, like your favorite book, painting, music, and movie all at the same time, with chocolate and a meaningful hug from someone you love thrown in for good measure. So despite everything, it’s a good business in which to work. Besides, there’s rarely a dull moment.
   So that’s me. I have an orphaned assistant named Tiger Prawns, I am now Dragon Ambassador to the World, and I have a pet Quarkbeast at least nine times as frightening as the most frightening thing you’ve ever seen.
   My name is Jennifer Strange. Welcome to my world.
   Now, let’s find that Tralfamosaur.

Zambini Towers

Those forty-five sorcerers, Tiger, and I all lived in a large, eleven-story, ornate ex-hotel called Zambini Towers. It was in a bad state of repair, and even though we had some spare magic to restore it to glory, we had decided we wouldn’t, other than expanding the Kazam offices after business picked up. There was a certain charm about the faded wallpaper, warped wood, missing windowpanes, and leaky roof. Some argued that the surroundings were peculiarly suitable for the Mystical Arts, others argued that the place was a fetid dump suitable only for demolition, and I sat somewhere between the two.
   When the call came in, Perkins and I were in the shabby, wood-paneled lobby.
   “There’s a Tralfamosaur loose somewhere between here and Ross,” said Tiger, waving a report forwarded by the police.
   “Anyone eaten?” I asked.
   “All of two railroad workers and part of a fisherman.” Tiger was twelve and, like me, a foundling. He was stuck at Kazam for four years and after that could apply for citizenship or earn it fighting in the next Troll War, which probably wouldn’t be far off. Troll Wars were like Batman movies: both were repeated at regular intervals, featured expensive hardware, and were broadly predictable. The difference was that during the Troll Wars, humans always lost—and badly. In Troll War IV, eight years ago, sixty thousand troops were lost before General Snood had even finished giving the order to advance. The final death toll was six times higher.
   “Three eaten already?” I said. “We need to get Big T back to the zoo before he gets hungry again.”
   “How long will that be?” asked Tiger, who was small in stature but big on questions.
   I swiftly estimated how much calorific value there was in a railway worker, matched that to what I knew of a Tralfamosaur’s metabolism, and added a rough guess of how much of the fisherman had been consumed. “Three hours,” I said. “Four, tops. Which sorcerers are on duty right now?”
   Tiger consulted his clipboard. “Lady Mawgon and the Wizard Moobin.”
   “I’ll help out,” said Perkins. He smiled and added, “As long as I’m not eaten.”
   I told him I couldn’t really offer many guarantees as far as Tralfamosaurs were concerned. “Still in?” I asked.
   “Why not?” he said with a chuckle. “I haven’t been terrified for—ooh—at least a couple of days.”
   Perkins was Kazam’s youngest and newest legal sorcerer, licensed for less than a week. He was eighteen and, while not yet very powerful, showed good promise; most sorcerers didn’t start doing any really useful magic until their thirties. Perkins and I had been about to go on our first date when the Tralfamosaur call came in, but that would have to wait.
   “Okay,” I said to Tiger. “Fetch Mawgon and Moobin, and you should also call Once Magnificent Boo.”
   “Got it,” said Tiger.
   I turned to Perkins. “Okay if we go on that date later? You know how it is in the magic industry: spell first, fun second.”
   “I kind of figured that,” he replied, “so why don’t we make this assignment the date? I could bring some food and a thermos of hot chocolate.”
   Considering that neither of us had any experience in romance whatsoever, a working date would surely be easier than an actual date. “Okay,” I said, “you’re on. But no dressing up, and we split the cost.”
   “Game on. I’ll go and make sandwiches and conjure up that thermos.”

While I waited for the other sorcerers to arrive, I read what I could about Tralfamosaurs in the Codex Magicalis, which wasn’t much. The creature had been created magically in the 1780s on the order of the Cambrian Empire’s Emperor Tharv I, because he wanted “a challenging beast to hunt for sport,” a role it played with all due savagery. Two hundred years later, people still pay good money to try to hunt them, usually with fatal consequences for the hunter. Oddly, this made Tralfamosaur hunting more popular; it seemed that citizens were becoming increasingly fond of danger in these modern, safety-conscious times. The Cambrian Empire now made good money out of what it called jeopardy tourism: vacations for those seeking life-threatening situations.
   The first to arrive in the lobby was Wizard Moobin, who, unlike all the other sorcerers, was barely insane at all. Aside from his usual magical duties, he worked in magic research and development. Last month, Moobin’s team had been working on spells for turning oneself temporarily to rubber to survive a fall, as well as a method of reliable communication using snails. He was good company, aged a little over forty, and was at least polite and gave me due respect for my efforts.
   “The Tralfamosaur escaped,” I told him. “When you and Patrick surged this afternoon during the bridge rebuilding, two quarter-ton blocks of stone were catapulted into the sky.”
   “I wondered what had happened to them,” said Moobin thoughtfully.
   “One fell to earth in an orchard near Belmont, and the other landed on the Ross-to-Hereford branch line, derailing a train that was transporting the Tralfamosaur to Woburn Safari Park for some sort of dangerous animal exchange deal.”
   “Ah,” said Moobin, “so we’re kind of responsible for this, aren’t we?”
   “I’m afraid so,” I replied, “and it’s already eaten three people.”
   “Whoops,” said Moobin.
   “Whoops nothing,” said Lady Mawgon, who had arrived with Tiger close behind. “Civilians have to take their risks with the rest of us.”
   Unlike Moobin, Lady Mawgon was not our favorite sorcerer but was undeniably good at what she did. She had been the official sorcerer of the Kingdom of Kent before the downturn of magical power, and her fall from that lofty status had made her frosty and ill-tempered. She had recently turned seventy, scowled constantly, and had the unsettling habit of gliding everywhere, as though she wore roller skates beneath the folds of her large black dress.
   “Even so,” I said diplomatically, “it’s probably not a good idea to let the Tralfamosaur eat people.”
   “I suppose not,” conceded Lady Mawgon. “What about Once Magnificent Boo?”
   “Already in hand,” I replied, indicating to where Tiger was speaking on the phone.
   Once Magnificent Boo had, as her name suggested, once been magnificent. She could have been as powerful as the Mighty Shandar himself, but was long retired and saddled with a dark personality that made Lady Mawgon seem almost sunny. The reason was simple: Boo had been robbed of her dazzling career in sorcery by the removal of her index fingers, the conduit of a sorcerer’s power. Lost for over three decades, the fingers had been recently recovered by us—but even when Boo was reunited with the dry bones, the only magic she could do was wayward and unfocused. These days she studied Quarkbeasts and was the world’s leading authority on Tralfamosaurs, which was the reason we needed her.
   “She’ll meet you there,” said Tiger, replacing the receiver. “I’ll stay here and man the phones in case you need anything sent over.”
   Once Perkins had returned with the sandwiches, we trooped outside to my Volkswagen Beetle. There were better cars in the basement at Zambini Towers, but the VW had huge sentimental value: I had been found wrapped in a blanket on the back seat outside the Ladies of the Lobster orphanage one windswept night sixteen years earlier. There was a note stuffed under one windshield wiper:

Please look after this poor dear child,
as her parents died in the Troll Wars.
PS: I think the engine may need some oil
and the tire pressure checked.
PPS: We think her name should be Jennifer.
PPPS: The child, not the car.
PPPPS: For her surname,
choose something strange.

The car had been kept—all items found with a foundling were, by royal decree—and was presented to me when the Blessed Ladies of the Lobster sold me to Kazam. After checking the tire pressure and adding some oil, the engine had started the first time, and I drove to my first job in my own car. If you think fourteen is too young to start driving, think again. The Kingdom of Snodd grants driver’s licenses on the basis of responsibility, not age, which can frustrate forty-something guys no end when they fail their responsibility test for the umpteenth time.
   “Shotgun!” yelled Lady Mawgon as she plunked herself in the passenger seat. Everyone groaned. Being in the back of the Volkswagen meant sitting next to the Quarkbeast, a creature often described as a cross between a Labrador and an open knife drawer, with a bit of velociraptor and scaly pangolin thrown in for good measure. Despite its terrifying appearance and an odd habit of eating metal, the Quarkbeast was a loyal and intelligent companion.
   “Right,” I said as we drove off, “does anyone have a plan for how we’re going to recapture the Tralfamosaur?”
   There was silence.
   “How about this,” I said. “We modify our plans with regard to ongoing facts as they become known to us, then re-modify them as the situation unfolds.”
   “You mean make it all up as we go along?” asked Perkins.
   “It’s worked before,” said Lady Mawgon.
   “Many times,” replied Moobin.
   “Quark,” said the Quarkbeast.

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The Eye of Zoltar 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
J_Tinker More than 1 year ago
Heroine Jennifer Strange is not magical herself, but she manages a group of wizards with varying degrees of skill and sanity. The Eye of Zoltar is a dangerous gem of great power. Sent by The Mighty Shandar, Jennifer, her friend Perkins, a princess turned handmaiden, and a "jeopardy tourism" guide set out to find the Eye in the wilds of Cambria. What and who they find on their journey lends a bit of mystery to the story as well. Written in a breezy and witty style, the story is over much too soon. Third in a series, I await the fourth. If you like Terry Pratchett (Discworld series), you'll like this series, too. Don't let the young adult or fantasy labels dissuade you from checking it out.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
The Eye Of Zoltar is the third book in the Chronicles of Kazam series by Welsh author Jasper Fforde. Aimed at the Young Adult reader, the heroine is a 16-year-old foundling raised by the Blessed Ladies of the Lobster, Jennifer Strange. This book is set some weeks after the events of The Song of the Quarkbeast, and while it is not essential to have read that book, it does help with understanding this one, and it, too, is a brilliant read. Jennifer is summoned by the Mighty Shandar, who is annoyed with her Dragon saving exploits (see book 1). He gives her an ultimatum: either she and all the wizards battle against him for the two remaining Dragons (sure to end badly for both wizards and Dragons); or she finds for him the Eye of Zoltar. A bit of research reveals that this legendary magical jewel was last seen by ex-sorcerer, Able Quizzler, around the neck of the legendary Sky Pirate Wolff. Legend has it that Wolff had tamed a Cloud Leviathan and had a hideout in the Leviathans Graveyard on the mountain Cadair Idris, near Llangurig in the Cambrian Empire, but most believe it highly unlikely. Undaunted, Jennifer heads to Cambria with newly minted wizard Perkins in tow, as well as the very spoiled Princess Shazine (luckily in not quite recognisable form), entrusted to Jennifer for a bit of character-building by Queen Mimosa. Their secondary mission is to retrieve the Once Magnificent Boo from the Ransom Clearing House in Cambrianopolis where she is being held for importing a captured Tralfamosaur. Colin, the Dragon, will back them up aerially. They pose as adventure seeking tourists, Cambria being a popular Jeopardy Tourism destination, and soon acquire the services of young Addie Powell as their guide into a dangerous region where their estimated chance of survival is 50%. This instalment features a riddling gravedigger, a trial that lasts less than 20 seconds, quite a lot of human drones, a Bugatti Royale, a succinct lesson in basic economics, and a slug farm; someone turns to stone; another to rubber, many turn to lead, others are eaten and stuffed and one regenerates into an Australopithecine; a hand is lost in battle; an ornithologist and wizard give their lives to save others; the reader learns about the importance of licquorice, angel feathers, goats and homing snails; about the tenacity of Railway companies; and the Cambrian penalty for share market manipulation. Fforde gives the reader a clever plot with plenty of turns and an ending that leaves ample scope for further books. Readers will look forward to the fourth instalment, Strange and the Wizard. The illustrations by Roger Mason are excellent. Once again, Fforde does not disappoint.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Found it boring and really disappointing. Repititious.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you have read the first two in this series (The Last Dragonslayer and The Quarkbeast) you do not need my review to persuade you to read this one. If you have not read the first two, I heartily recommend this series. Here are most of the same beloved characters, plus a few more that will be beloved after you read this one. Amusing, inventive (a princess who is a financial wizard), trucks that deliver emptiness but then return lighter than when they went in -- Wow! Remarkable! Read it!