Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen – Book Review

 Here There Be Dragons“I’m sorry if I was oblique. Let me try to summarize things in a more concise manner. You need the Imaginarium Geographica to avert whatever disaster is looming on the world at large. You are the caretaker of the Geographica. You lost the Geographica. Ergo, you and everyone you know, love, care about, or exchange pleasantries with as you gather your mail are about to perish in darkness and misery. I hope that’s cleared things up for you.” The Cartographer of Lost Places.

That’s a pretty good summary of what this book is about. But if you’d like me to start at the beginning . . . A WWI soldier who is recuperating from an injury at home in London suddenly finds himself being chased by imaginary hell-hounds. Then he finds his good friend, an eccentric professor, dead amongst his beloved books and antiquities. That’s when an odd little man appears with an offer to hide John and his friends on a boat in the harbor, where the dreadful shadow beasts can’t get to them. Everyone runs for the docks, and then it really gets weird. The living ship sets sail for the Archipelago of Dreams, otherwise known as the lands of imagination. It seems that John has been chosen as the latest caretaker of the Imaginarium Geographica, a magical atlas of every land that has ever existed in myth, legend, or fairy tale. The problem is, the Shadow King is after the book in his mad bid to rule the worlds, both real and imagined, and he’ll stop at nothing to get it. John and company set off on a fantastic voyage to save not only the Geographica, but the entire world and everyone in it.

Though it’s really written for a much younger audience than myself, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The humor written into the book is excellent (death or tea, anyone?), and if you’ve read fantasy before you’ll see a lot of familiar things here – remember, the Archipelago encompasses all the imaginary places, and we’ve already been to some of them. It is kept on a kid-friendly level, implying rather than describing some of the scarier aspects of the story, so if you’re more of a hard-core person this may not be for you. But overall, it was an amusing way to spend a few afternoons, and there’s even a little surprise for fans of the genre at the end of the story. If you’re reading for yourself, I’d rate it 7 out of 10, but if you’re reading aloud to your kids, bump that up to 11 out of 10 (they’ll think it’s that good, believe me!)

And for anyone who has already read it – Who is the Cartographer?? It’s driving me nuts!

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