Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

With Illustrations by James A. Owen

Summary: The mysterious death of a professor draws together three strangers from Oxford, John, Jack, and Charles.  Informed by a friend of the professor’s that they are now the Caretakers of an atlas of imaginary lands called the Imaginarium Geographic, the three set sail for the Archipelago of Dreams, where all the places of myth and literature exist.  Chaos threatens the Archipelago, however, as the throne remains empty and a man called the Winter King covers the lands with shadow, turning the people into his slaves.  To defeat the darkness, the Caretakers will have to battle not only legendary monsters, but also the monsters within themselves.  The first in the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica.

Review: Owen’s story rests on a brilliant premise—that somewhere a world exists with all the lands and creatures and characters from myth and legend, and that men and women from our world have traveled there.  Those who feel the need to describe their adventures do so by disguising their experiences in literature.  This concept allows Owen to bring together the best elements of some of the world’s greatest stories, creating an air of playfulness even as unfolding events make the outcome look grim for the protagonists.  Some readers may find it difficult to accept the explanation that their favorite authors did not truly invent everything in their books and plays, and that they only based these on the true people and places found in the Archipelago, but, if one can get past this (after all, I would argue that the “true” characters are generally less exciting and original than their portrayals in other fiction), the Archipelago proves a magical and wondrous place where just about anything can happen.

One peculiar aspect of the series, however, is Owen’s attempt, or non-attempt, to explain the faith of Christian authors who traveled to the Archipelago.  The Archipelago is peopled by creatures and characters from myth, suggesting either that their gods also exist, or that no gods actually exist.  One character in Here, There Be Dragons insists that prayer is nothing more than a reminder to one’s self of what one beliefs, not a conversation with any deity.  Owens only addresses how one of the protagonists responds to these suggestions and that in a subsequent book.  I found his explanation weak and was also troubled by his failure to raise the subject before that point.  To say more would spoil the story, but Owen deals with some pretty significant Christian figures, and I had difficulty believing they would not have explored more the implications of the Archipelago on their faith.

This aside, Here, There Be Dragons proves a fast-paced adventure any fan of fantasy is sure to love.  Finding the references to other works of literature is half the fun, but the generous amount of danger, action, and humor helps the work stand on its own.

Published: 2006

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