I heard about James A. Owens’ novel Here There Be Dragons on the Dragon Page Cover to Cover podcast and was immediately intrigued. Owens spoke about how he wanted this series to be one that wove togther various bits and pieces from the stories, myths and legends all across the world and how he had a masterplan for not only this series but another one (each will run seven books) that he is currently writing. In the end, Owens says he plans to tie the two together with the final line of each of the last novels being the same, setting up a huge wrap-up fifteeenth novel for both series.
Loving the ambition of the idea, I immediately sought out the first novel Here There Be Dragons. I have to admit I was pretty eager to crack the cover and find out if the book lived up to the praise.
The good news is that this novel did. Dragons is one of those books that works on a lot of levels. Owens is clever in how he combines threads of various stories and myths, giving those who are well-read a lot of fun little easter eggs within the story. But fun easter eggs would be meaningless and wasted if the novel itself weren’t worth reading. And Dragons is an enjoyable novel on its own.
The unusual murder of an Oxford professor brings together three strangers in World War I London: John, a soldier and the professor’s correspondence student; Jack, a young Oxford student; and Charles, an editor at the Oxford University Press. One rainy night they meet a curious man called Bert who tells them that they are the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica, an atlas of imaginary lands. Forced to flee in Bert’s ship, the group sails to the Archipelago of Dreams, where a battle over Arthur Pendragon’s throne threatens to place the evil Winter King in charge. Owen brings together elements from well-known works of fantasy and legend: the lands and characters lean heavily toward Greek and Arthurian myth, while clues from the caretakers’ works point to the legendary writers they will become.
The story is intriguing and while it does have some spots that aren’t quite as page-turning as others, they are necessary to create and establish the universe Owens is working in. I expect that the next installments will be able to get to the action and conflict a great deal faster now that we’ve had the set-up and universe creation of the first book. Also, while it maybe easier for long-time readers to figure out who the three main characters are in our world based on the events presented here, this isn’t revealed until the books final pages. Other reviewers seem intent on giving this away, thus ruining most of the fun of the final few pages of the story. I strongly encourage you to stay away from anything that will ruin this nice little suprise at novel’s end.