Monday, 9 July 2007

The last elf - Silvana De Mari

I’ve read this in two days, lying on the beach and enjoying the sun on my skin. It was a perfect summer reading. Not those silly, frivolous books that people associate with summer. But something that can keep you glued to it, for hours and hours, except for a quick dip into the sea to freshen up a little. Summer reading means pure, undiluted pleasure. And this book was all of this.
Imagine “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” mixed with a classic fantasy tale, all spiced up by irony and intelligence. This is “The last elf”.
I’ve read this in Italian, because I know it has been translated recently into English and wanted to check if it was worth it for the bookshop where I work. I will definitely order in some copies, hoping that the translation will be just as good.
It’s the story of Yorsh (short for Yorshkrunsquarkljolnerstrink), the last elf in a fantasy world where elves are despised, feared and deported, just like the Jews were. The reference to the Jews is more than obvious when the author mentions their ability with trade, and also, at the end, when Yorsh leads a group of slaves through a land of freedom and peace (yes, I’m telling you the end, but you’d better read it all anyway!).
However, this is not a simple retelling of Moses and his journey. It’s an extremely funny adventure that involves an old annoying dragon who loves sentimental fairy tales, a brave little girl in a “oliver twist” sort of orphanage, and a prophecy engraved on a wall.
It’s mainly a condemn of any kind of dictatorships and racism. A hymn to freedom, friendship and love. It’s a fairy tale that speaks to children but with a wittiness that should appeal to adult as well.
Some scenes are so hilarious that made me laugh out loud. Especially the meeting between the little ingenious elf and the big bad troll (“You’re beautiful!"), or the funny, old way the dragon speaks, a kind of medieval Italian. But the whole book is full of these great comic scenes entwined with a moving story of loss and pain, poverty and hate. Silvana De Mari is a true storyteller.


Unknown said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I like yours very much. You are a bit more eclectic like me. I kind of had a problem with my reading, because I wasn't really being true to what I love to read....I am cured now!!!

Erin said...

I loved this book. Very nice review.

Stephanie said...

This sounds really good (and so does reading on the beach!) I love the Classic Fantasy Tales most of all!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like such an intriguing concept. Perhaps I'll look for the translation.

alehcim81 said...

Hi, I've created a link to this post in my blog.
I love this book and I've written a small post about it but in Italian.

Very nice blog and review,I like your room,it reminds me that mine is the same! :)

Unknown said...

I just finished reading De Mari's first book "The Last Dragon" which I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend. Some of the comments you made about "The Last Elf" sound very similiar. Is "The Last Elf" a sequel, or a rewrite of the same story?? Anyway I loved her writing and her thinking.

valentina said...

The Last Dragon is the american title for the same book.I don't know why they felt the need to change it but they did.
There is a sequel to this book but it hasn't been translated it yet. It should be probably called The last ogre.
thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

one of the best book i've read...a lot of laughs and a lot of tears...
still waiting for the third and last book!

grossmans said...

I have just finished reading Silvana de Mari's book in Hungarian. The translation was brilliant. Initially, I got this book as a gift for my nephew but when I started reading it I kind of, sort of kept it. It was a terrificly poignant, bitter-sweet, supremely funny story and masterful metaphor against racism, and fear of others who are different.

Iri said...

Hi, if you read italian there are 3 other books of the saga:
- L'ultimo orco (the last ogre)
- Gli ultimi incantesimi (the last spell)
- L'ultima profezia (the last prophecy)
Silvana has written many other books:
Il gatto con gli occhi d'oro
(the cat with golden eyes) a beutiful story against infibulation.

L'ultima stella a destra della luna (the last star to the right of the moon)

La bestia e la bella (the beast and the beauty)

Il cavaliere, la strega, la morte e il diavolo(the kinght, the witch, the death and the devil) a collection of short stories.

Happy new year

Roxa David said...


This is one of my favorite books. I`ve re-read it so many times and I`m currently reading the sequel, "The last orc".

I`m Romanian so I have read the Romanian translation, but Italian and Romanian are so similar that I could read it in Italian if I found the original book somewhere...

I agree with all the things you said about the book. I wanted to say the same on my blog, but now that I founded yours, I guess it is useless.

Roxa David