by James A. Owen
In March, 1917, a young man named John, on medical leave from his battalion in World War I, receives a note from his mentor asking him to come. But when he arrives, his mentor is dead, the victim of an apparent murder. At the crime scene, John meets two other men: Charles, an editor at Oxford University Press, and Jack, a student at Oxford. The three young men are soon swept up in an adventure, as they become the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica, an atlas of the Archipelago of Dreams, where all the lands of myth, legend, and fairy tale are found. Accompanied by Bert, an earlier caretaker, and his daughter Aven, they take off for the Archipelago on the Indigo Dragon, a dragonship. There, they must save the Imaginarium Geographica, and the Archipelago itself, from the Winter King, who is determined to rule the Archipelago.
I have a dilemma about this review. The problem is that the book has a secret that isn’t revealed until the ending, and if you don’t know the secret, much of the book seems derivative. So I’ve decided to reveal part of the secret, but not the whole thing. All the caretakers of the Geographica have been influential thinkers, scientists, and writers, and the three heroes of this book are no exception. I won’t tell you who they are, although you may figure it out from clues in the story (or you may read it elsewhere, since it’s been widely written up). Once you understand that all the things the adventurers encounter in the Archipelago are tributes of a sort, and not just copies, then you can enjoy this as a fun adventure and appreciate all the references, and the creative way that they are put together.