Title: Here, There Be Dragons
Series: The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica
Author: James A. Owen
Pages: 326 pages
Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c2006.
The apparition grasped his hand in return, pumping it frenetically. “At last, at last!” he exclaimed. “So happy to make your acquaintance, John, my dear, dear boy. And what better place than here at Sir Arthur’s home-away-from, eh? So grand, so grand. Yes…”
Jack and Charles exchanged skeptical glances and Jack twirled a finger at his temple.
The little man continued undeterred. “I trust you can take it from her, correct?” he said, thrusting the oilskin-wrapped parcel in John’s direction. “You know what must be done. The professor would not have left you unprepared for this.”
John waved the parcel away. “I haven’t the slightest idea what you are talking about. We’ve only just ourselves come from the professor’s house, and I haven’t known of his death for but the last day.”(17)
John, Jack, and Charles all find themselves at the apartment of a recently murdered professor on a cold and stormy night. Although they’ve never met eachother before, they become entangled in an adventure when Bert presents them with the Imaginarium Geographica, an atlas of imaginary worlds. The Winter King however, is after the book, and all three are sent fleeing on one of seven Dragon ships. In a story that weaves mythology with recognizable classic fantasy, James Owen’s Here, There Be Dragons presents a journey to the ends of the world with the tales of King Arthur, elves, and Captain Nemo assisting the three unlikely heroes.
Fantasy nuts will recognize with great clarity the influences on this book. The Parliment aligns itself with the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, there is a ring of power that Tolkein fans will recognize from Lord of the Rings, and the humans being referred to as “Sons of Adam” traces back to Chronicles of Narnia. Literary figures are also apparent, from works like H. G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne. But even without these little glimpses into the genre, readers are still transported back into time, not only to the era of World War I, which is where our story begins, but to the lands of the Archipelago. I loved the line towards the end of the novel, where Charles says “Here, There Be Dragons,” wasn’t a caution. It was a reassurance.” and John remarks “I think that would depend on your relationship with the dragons. (313) It just shows what the book is, which is an entirely new way of thinking of mythology, mystery, and fantasy. The black and white drawings done by the author add intrigue and detail to an already compelling read, which grabs readers and holds them tightly to the very end, where there is one last curveball for readers. Highly recommended to fantasy fans, especially middle schoolers who have already gobbled up the usual suspects.