The Nitty-Gritty Details
Title: Here, There Be Dragons
Author: James A. Owen
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Sept. 2006
“What is it?” John asked.
The little man blinked and arched an eyebrow.
“It is the world, my boy,” he said. “All the world, in ink and blood, vellum and parchment, leather and hide. It is the world, and it is yours to save or lose.”
An unusual murder brings together three strangers, John, Jack, and Charles, on a rainy night in London during the first World War. An eccentric little man called Bert tells them that they are now the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica — an atlas of all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale. These lands, Bert claims, can be traveled to in his ship the Indigo Dragon, one of only seven vessels that is able to cross the Frontier between worlds into the Archipelago of Dreams.
Pursued by strange and terrifying creatures, the companions flee London aboard the Dragonship. Traveling to the very realm of the imagination itself, they must learn to overcome their fears and trust in one another if they are to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of two worlds.
An extraordinary journey of myth, magic, and mystery, Here, There Be Dragons introduces James A. Owen as a formidable new talent
I don’t think I can accurately describe how much this book truly means to me and how much I love it. I mean, I’m going to try within this review, but I’m pretty certain that I’m not going to adequately put those feelings into words.
I know I can’t do it without writing about some very specific spoilers, so major spoilers abound after this sentence.
Read onward at your own peril.
(Or, better yet, go read the book if you haven’t already and then come back and read the review if you want, but really, just jump on down to the comments section and tell me all about what you think about it, because I just want someone to squee to about this book!!)
I first read Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen…oh, I dunno, years ago. I was in high school, I think? Probably? I honestly can’t remember. I remembered loving this book, though, which prompted me to read *almost* the rest of the series. I never read the last two books and, it’s been so long, I can’t remember much of what happens anyway. Hell, even reread this one, there were moments when events would come back to me, right before they came to past, but there were other times, it felt like I was reading this book for the first time. I’ve always meant to go back and reread the first five books, so I could read the last two. And I was never nervous about outgrowing the books or not being as in love with them as I was before.
I always knew that, returning to this series, it would feel like coming home, after being away for far too long.
Thanks to my Mom this past Christmas, I finally own all seven books. My plan now? To read them all straight through (or as straight through as I can, considering that I just got a notice that a book I’ve been waiting weeks for just came in for me at the library, so I know I’m going to interrupt this straight series read eventually, but you get my gist).
This is a world and a series that has stuck with me for so, so long and I missed it. Even not remembering all the finer details, I remembered what it felt like to read this series. That feeling of home and awe and just pure happiness and…can imagination be a feeling? Because I was always so impressed and inspired by this series, this book in particular.
Because this book gave me the ultimate surprise I had never been expecting.
It came at the end.
The basic premise is blurbed above, but to sum up, our three main characters, John, Jack and Charles, escape London aboard a Dragonship, only to find themselves within the Archipelago of Dreams, a place where all of the worlds they’ve ever read about exist. And they are suddenly the Caretakers over it. Not only was this book fantastic for all the literary references and how clever they were all used and revealed (included a few from Lord of the Rings that particularly made my heart aflutter), but it was just written so beautifully and it just feels so full of magic. I seriously flew through the pages, getting chills on multiple occasions, thanks to either a reference revealed or what the characters were going through or just the writing style in general.
And then, at the end of the book, we find out who our main characters actually are.
And J.R.R. Tolkien.
The last one being, if you know me, my favorite author of all time. My mentor who I’ve never met. My greatest inspiration. The man who I am an amateur scholar about.
So to discover this character that I loved, John, who I empathized with and rooted for, was based off of my greatest hero?
It doesn’t get more magical than that.
I immediately started The Search for the Red Dragon and I feel like I will fly through this book just as quickly as I did the first. OH! I forgot to mention one other thing: the drawings. At the beginning of each chapter, these black and white drawings are positively gorgeous and just elevate this series to another level. It makes me wish more books incorporated art within them (and they were done by Owen, as well!!).
Thank you, Mr. James A. Owen, for writing this series and putting so much magic into it. I don’t think I did a great job at describing just how much I love it, but to return to it, with the goal of finally finish it, and get lost in this magic all over again?
That has been the greatest treat of all.