Thursday, December 4, 2014

Land Of Imagination

I love books, I love books about books, I love books about authors, I love books that have adventure and spirit and heart, I love books that combine all of these, ergo I love Here, There Be Dragons by James Owen, the first book in the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica Series.  I picked this book up because it promised all of the above and for the most part it delivered in spades.  But first as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Three Oxford scholars, Charles, John and Jack are all in some way summoned to a Professor Sigurdsson's residence, where it turns out he has been murdered.  The trio are soon met by a strange man called Bert who helps them escape a group of Wendigo's who are after them for some reason.  The group makes good on their escape through the use of a special ship named Indigo Dragon.  After the chaos has calmed the trio are told that they are to be the Caretakers of an extremely special book called the Imaginarium Geographica, which principally holds maps and information on a world known as the Archipelago of Dreams, a place where all the mythical and fictional worlds exist.  John is to be the principal Caretaker with Jack and Charles assisting.  The group starts their adventure on the island of Avalon, where they pick up a stowaway by the name of Bug.  The group which now also includes Bert's daughter Aven, who is the captain of the Indigo Dragon.  The group is told that the
Silver Throne has been empty for 20 years after the last king went bad and killed his whole family, leaving the Archipelago without a ruler. This has left an opening for the Winter King to try and take over.  To this end he has been using Pandora's Box to steal people's souls and turn them into Shadow-Born.  He has also been conquering the various islands by cloaking them in Shadow.  They land on Paralon and meet Tummler, a talking badger who not only knows the secret of steam power, but is a budding cookbook author as well.  After a major upset in Parliament, where the current island king and queens turn out to be clockwork all chaos breaks lose.  The group goes to visit the last remaining dragon Saramanth (the other dragons left when the old king went bad) who gives them some advice, including the key to translating the Imaginarium Geographica.  He also gives them the High King's ring, which he had taken from the last King when he went bad.  The group leaves and is soon attacked by the Winter King, who steals what he thinks is the Geographica and tries to recruit Jack.  The Indigo Dragon is destroyed and the group, along with the sniveling traitor Magwich are marooned on an island.  Lucky for them the island belongs to Ordo Maas who supplies them with a new boat the White Dragon and sends them to the Cartographer.  On to another island they climb the Keep of Time, which continues to grow as time goes on.  They learn more stuff and head to the island at the end of the world.  The group joins with their allies, the dwarves, the elves, and the other mythological creatures (centaurs and such).  They face down the enemy army the Winter King has assembled which consists of trolls, goblins, Shadowborn, wendigo's and the Winter King himself.  Bug is revealed to be the last remaining heir to the throne and summons the dragons which help them win the battle.  Jack, who's cockiness cost the life of their good friend Nemo, redeems himself by figuring out how to return the Shadowed lands to their natural state.  Once everything starts to settle the trio of Caretakers head back to London, but not before they sign their names to the Geographica.  It is here we learn that Charles is Charles William, John is J.R.R.Tolkien, Jack is C.S. Lewis, and Bert is H.G. Wells.  We learn that most of the Caretakers were either author's or artists or people with big imaginations.  The men return to London and await their next adventure.
Whew that was a super, huge, long synopsis that does not even remotely begin to capture to coolness of this book.  This book has a good plot and great characters, but it's biggest strength for me is the treasure trove of literary awesomeness this book is.  I do wonder however if a non-book fanatic would enjoy this book as much as I did.  It was a bit of a crazy ride, going to a myriad places, meeting a ton of people and all the while maintaining a plot and character development.  It is a bit hard to keep track of on occasion, trying to figure out exactly what a Caretaker does, or how the process of passing the Geographica down is handled, or exactly what the Geographica is was all a bit of a blur.  All of the confusion aside, I kept turning the page waiting to see what tidbit would pop up next.  Like I said before, my favorite part was all of the literary nuggets that were put in.  You could see the bits and pieces that supposedly "inspired" the great authors to write their masterpieces.  It was a bit surreal, knowing that it is all fiction, but it was still fun pretending that the authors were inspired by a real alternate world.  So I realize I am doing a horrible job trying to talk about this book.  It's one of those books that you just have to read and you will either love it or not.  Go read it, find the gems, laugh, love, lose, cry and sail with your beloved authors an see what you think.  I give this book 9 out of 10 Dragonships.
What author should be the next Caretaker?  What fictional world would you like to see?  How horrible job did I do on this rambling?

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