Here, There Be Dragons (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica Series #1)

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Overview

The Imaginarium Geographica

"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 ...

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Here, There Be Dragons (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica Series #1)

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Overview

The Imaginarium Geographica

"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. And in the process, they will share a great adventure filled with clues that lead readers to the surprise revelation of the legendary storytellers these men will one day become.

An extraordinary journey of myth, magic, and mystery, Here, There Be Dragons introduces James A. Owen as a formidable new talent.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Owen's (the Mythworld series) clever story construction which essentially starts with a twist ending and works backwards allows for a lively hodgepodge of myth, legend and adventure story. On March 15 ( la Julius Caesar), 1917, a London professor is killed with a Roman spear, "of a make and composition that hasn't been forged in over a thousand years." His dying effort is to dispatch an arcane book to John, his student. The book turns out to be the Imaginarium Geographica, containing "all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale." John and two companions, Jack and Charles, must flee from a group of cannibal beasts who will stop at nothing to obtain it, and end up aboard the 16th-century ship of the diminutive and mysterious Bert, who knew the professor and knows even more about the book. Their travels lead them through Arthurian legend, pre-Biblical flood tales, dragon lore and the works of Jules Verne to name just a few with hints of Narnia along the way. Their mission to defeat the Winter King is linked to the real-world events of the Great War. The conclusion which may not come as much of a surprise to attentive readers reveals the true identity of the three main characters, whose future books are populated with the things they've seen on their journey. Like some of M. Night Shyamalan's films, this book might be seen more as a parlor trick than as literature, but it certainly has its pleasures. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Rachelle Bilz
Brought together after Oxford professor Sigurdsson is murdered, John, Jack, and Charles are approached by Bert, who possesses the Imaginarium Geographica, oratlas of the Archipelago of Dreams. The book had been protected by Sigurdsson, who was to entrust it to John. It is 1917, and World War I is destroying Europe. Bert explains that the war reflects occurrences on the Archipelago; the destinies of the two worlds are entwined. With the fate of mankind at stake and pursued by evil creatures, the men escape to Bert's ship and set sail for the Archipelago, land of imagination. The Archipelago is made up of islands with geographies and populations familiar to any fantasy enthusiast. The lands have fallen prey to the dreadful Winter King as he fights to claim the Silver Throne. John and friends try to save this world, learning that the Imaginarium, the Ring of Power, and the aid of dragons are needed if they are to succeed. Allied with Elves, Dwarves, satyrs, and fauns, the humans fight an epic battle to restore peace and proclaim the rightful king. From the arresting prologue, the reader is gripped by a finely crafted fantasy tale and compelled to continue. An homage to great, imaginative literature, Arthurian legend, and mythology, this superb saga has interesting characters and plenty of action. The marvelous ending reveals the true identities of John, Jack, and Charles-famous fantasy writers. Owen's magnificent story, which he also beautifully illustrated, will appeal to all fantasy fans grades six through adult.
KLIATT
On a rainy night in 1917 London, three young men meet for the first time on the doorstep of a murdered professor. John is given The Imaginarium Geographica, a book so valuable that many would kill to own it. Chased by eerie figures, John and the two other men flee across the sea and into a fantastical land of dreams and nightmares. There they begin a quest to keep the book out of the hands of those who would use it for their own ends, and to place the True King on the throne where he belongs, if only they can find him.... The three men in the book are J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams, and it's a treat to hunt for the literary Easter eggs in the story, though the author is clever enough to add twists to keep you on your toes. This astonishing book is just what a literary pastiche ought to be, and one hopes there are more adventures to be chronicled in this universe. (The Chronicles of the Imaginatium Geographica.). KLIATT Codes: JSA--Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2006, Simon & Schuster, 326p., $17.95.. Ages 12 to adult.
—Deirdre Root
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Three Oxford men, brought in for questioning in a London professor's death in 1917, become companions on a voyage through the Archipelago of Dreams where they vanquish a usurper and restore the rightful king, proving themselves worthy to be Caretakers of the Imagination of the World. The three men are Jack (C. S. Lewis), John (J. R. R. Tolkien), and Charles (Williams-a lesser known writer of fantasy thrillers who belonged to the same Oxford literary discussion group, the Inklings). Their identities aren't revealed until the end, along with the premise that their journey became the wellspring for their subsequent fiction. This twist accounts for the extensive use of material from their various imaginations. Readers who have not begun with the publisher's blurb might find the bulk of the story tediously derivative, but those with extensive reading background in both fantasies and mythology may be keen to identify the allusions. The pen-and-ink illustrations, also allusive, include the playing-card royalty of Lewis Carroll and knights that might have been drawn by Howard Pyle. The story itself is unconvincing. The three strangers are quickly identified as "friends," although they have shared nothing more than an after-interrogation drink and apparent abduction. Although John is Caretaker Principia and the apparent focus, only Jack's character is developed enough to change, and youth seems to be the only reason for his flirtation with the forces of evil. It is a series of lucky encounters that sets them on their "quest" and solves the problems that arise. Only for fans of fan fiction.-Kathleen Isaacs, Towson University, MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This ambitious fantasy falls short of the mark. Three young men meet in 1917 London, and find themselves embroiled in a dangerous quest to protect a magical book. The men are fantasy authors C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams, and the fantasy world they've entered will be familiar to many. They encounter gods and monsters from Greek, Welsh and Egyptian myth, fauns, satyrs and talking beasts alongside rings of power and talking packs of cards. Unfortunately, the muddled mishmash leads to something rather less than the sum of its parts; there's no rhyme or reason to the interconnectivity of the stories. Moreover, in a world magically created by those writers who comprise "much of the cultural and scientific history of the entire human race"-a list composed nearly entirely of northern European men-is there any reason that an evil overlord straight out of British mythology has Asian features? Clumsy racial stereotyping was forgivable in 1917, but much less so nearly a century later. (Fantasy. 11-13)First printing of 100,000; $100,000 ad/promo
From the Publisher
"Here, There Be Dragons begins in a WWI London that is both comfortable and familiar, but quickly moves into a fantastic world of myth and magic. There, talking animals drive steam-powered cars; the Green Knight watches over the remnants of a fallen kingdom; and a legendary mapmaker sits in a tower made of time itself.... In James Owen's Archipelago of Dreams, living Dragonships take the heroes — and readers — into places so filled with wonder that you never want the dreams to end."

— Kai Meyer, author of The Water Mirror

"Is there anyone who wouldn't enjoy reading Here, There Be Dragons? If there is such a person, I haven't met him, and I doubt that I would like him if I did. I am only disappointed that, because this book is so new, I'll have to wait too long to read the sequels."

— Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416912286
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 10/23/2007
  • Series: Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica Series , #1
  • Edition description: Repackage
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 162,614
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 870L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

James A. Owen

James A. Owen is the author of the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, the creator of the critically acclaimed Starchild graphic novel series, and the author of the Mythworld series of novels. He is also founder and executive director of Coppervale International, a comic book company that also publishes magazines and develops and produces television and film projects. He lives in Arizona. Visit him at HereThereBeDragons.net.

James A. Owen is the author of the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, the creator of the critically acclaimed Starchild graphic novel series, and the author of the Mythworld series of novels. He is also founder and executive director of Coppervale International, a comic book company that also publishes magazines and develops and produces television and film projects. He lives in Arizona. Visit him at HereThereBeDragons.net.

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Read an Excerpt

Here, There Be Dragons


By James A. Owen

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Copyright © 2006 James A. Owen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1416912274

Prologue

It was a very distinct sound, the quiet scraping of steel on stone, that first told him that his visitors had arrived, followed by a strange sort of tapping and the shuffling of feet.

The tapping outside in the alleyway became more pronounced, and he suddenly realized it was less the sound of tapping than it was a soft cacophony of claws, snapping together in anticipation. He set aside his pen and notebook and settled back in his chair. There was no denying it. It was time.

The strained amber light of an English afternoon streamed through the greasy windows of the door as it slowly opened into the study. He refilled his pipe with his special cinnamon tobacco mix and noted with passing interest that clouds were beginning to gather on the far horizon.

A storm was coming.

It didn't matter, he thought to himself with some satisfaction. He had said the things he needed to say to the person who needed to hear them. He had protected that precious stewardship that needed protecting, and passed it to those who would use it wisely and well.

There was, he concluded, not much more that could be asked of an old scholar, in this world, in this lifetime. The silhouette in the doorway gestured to him, and he caught a glimpse of wickedly sharp steel, which curved to apoint, as the visitor's arm rose and fell. The clicking noises in the alley grew louder.

"Greetings, Professor," the shadowy figure said. "Might I have a word with you?"

"It's not here," the professor said, lighting his pipe and drawing deeply on it. "You're too late."

His visitor appraised him for a moment before concluding that the professor was speaking the truth. "I'm very sorry to hear that," he said. "That does not bode well for you."

The professor shrugged. "What happens to me is no longer important. You may claim my life, but I've put an empire forever out of your reach -- and when all is said and done, which of the two matters more?"

The visitor gestured again, and the tapping noises outside gave way to snarls and animal howling.

There was a rush of bodies, and in seconds the small study was filled with ancient steel, and pain, and blood.

When the noises again faded to silence, the visitors left the study as they had found it, with one exception.

It would be several hours before the first raindrops from the approaching storm would begin to freckle the paving stones in the street, but the professor would not see them fall.

Copyright © 2006 by James A. Owen

Chapter One

The Adventure Begins

The slim, cream-colored note may just as well have been inserted into a bottle and tossed into the ocean rather than sent by post, for by the time John received it, the professor was already dead.

For perhaps the hundredth time, John took the note out of his pocket.

My Dear John,

Please make all haste to London. There is much, too much I'm afraid, that should have been explained to you well before now. I only pray that this letter finds you well enough to travel, and that you will bear me no ill will for what is to come. I do not know if you are ready, and that is my own burden to bear. But I believe you are able, and mayhap that is enough. I hope it is.

Professor Sigurdsson

The letter had been dated a week earlier, the ninth of March, 1917, and had reached him at the hospital in Great Haywood the day before. John cabled a reply to his mentor, requested a temporary leave, dispatched a note to his wife of less than a year at their home in Oxford, explaining that he would be absent for perhaps several days, and immediately arranged passage to London.

It was the messenger who delivered the cable who found that a murder had occurred and notified the police. John knew without asking that the officer waiting at the platform in London was there to speak with him, and why.

The train from Staffordshire had run late, but this was not unexpected, nor was it any longer even an inconvenience. It was simply one of the erosions of normality that came with a constant state of war.

John had been on leave from the Second Battalion for several months now, since before the holidays. To the doctors, he had pyrexia; it was "trench fever" to the enlisted men. In simpler parlance, his body had grown weary of the war and manifested its protest with a general weakness of the limbs and a constant fever.

On the train John fell immediately asleep, and his fever coalesced into a dream of a mountain of fire, spewing hot ash and lava into the trenches of the French countryside, consuming his comrades as they held fast against the German offensive. John watched in horror as those who fled the trenches were cut down by gunfire. Those who remained, crouched in fear, were swallowed up, the sons of England become children of Pompeii as they died in flame and smoke....

He awoke to the shrill whistle of the train, signaling their arrival at the station in London. He was flushed and sweating and looked for all the world to the awaiting constable as if he was complicit in the murder of the man he had come to see. John wiped his brow with a kerchief, shouldered his backpack out of the luggage racks, and stepped off the train.

His arrival, and his subsequent departure with the policeman, were noted by no less than four individuals, mingling invisibly within the crowds exchanging places between the platform and the trains. Three of them were cloaked and walked a bit awkwardly, due to the inverted joint in their lower legs that made them walk as if they were dogs, striding upright on two legs. Exactly as if they were dogs.

The strange figures disappeared into the throng to report what they had seen to their master. The fourth, which had been sitting alongside John on the train, slipped out of the station and turned down the street taken minutes before by the constable and the young soldier from Staffordshire.

"I'm just saying that there are a number of uses for an English night far superior to investigating a murder," said the inspector in charge of the murder scene, a stout, affable fellow called Clowes. "You can bet the killer, whoever he may be, isn't out traipsing about in this muck. No, he's home by now, having done his business for the day, warming his toes by the hearth and sipping a nice mulled brandy, while I have to be out here on the verge of catching my death...."

Clowes caught himself mid-complaint and gestured in apology. "Not that talking with you lot is all that bad, mind you. Circumstances."

It took John a few moments to realize that he was not the only

one being interviewed that evening about the professor's murder. For the first time, he noticed the other two cuckoos, shivering, nodding at the questioning police, wondering how they'd come to be in this particular dreadful nest.

Shaking hands, they introduced themselves. The younger one, called Jack, was straw-haired and fidgety; the older, Charles, was bespectacled and efficient. He was answering the constable's queries as if he were tallying an account at Barclays. "Yes. I arrived in London promptly at four forty. No, I did not vary from my planned agenda. Yes, I realized he was dead right away."

"And your reason for the visit?" asked Clowes.

"Delivery of a manuscript," said Charles. "I'm employed as an editor at the Oxford University Press, and Professor Sigurdsson was to add annotations to one of our publications."

"Really?" said Jack. "I've just been accepted there."

"Well done, Jack," said Charles.

"Thanks," said Jack.

"So, boy," said Clowes. "Your name is Jack, is it?"

"Yes sir," Jack said, nodding.

"Ah. Not the Jack from up Whitechapel way, are you?" asked Clowes.

"No," Jack replied before he had time to realize that the inspector was making a joke. "Oxford."

"Two of you at Oxford, eh?" said Clowes. "That's an interesting coincidence."

"Not coincidence," said Charles. "Selective association is a privilege, not a right."

"I'm a Cambridge man myself," said Clowes. "Oh, uh, sorry," stammered Charles. "Never actually did go to university myself, mind you," Clowes said to John behind his hand. "But he looked like I'd seen him in the Queen's knickers, didn't he? By the way -- where are you from, ah, John, is it?"

"Birmingham, although I'm billeted at the hospital in Great Hayward at present."

This was not entirely correct, but John thought that pointing out that all three of them were actually from Oxford might not make his evening any easier, nor theirs, for that matter.

There was a certain kind of brotherhood that arose from the shared experiences of warfare, particularly among young men who had shared a trench for a fortnight. It was a different kind of fraternal experience to have been brought together as strangers, who otherwise had very little in common, united only by a murder.

"Never met him," Jack said of his affiliation to the corpse. "In fact, I had just arrived here in London for the evening, to deliver papers for a solicitor in Kent."

The inspector blinked, then blinked again and turned to Charles.

"My story is not much different from his, I'm afraid," Charles said, adjusting his glasses. "I was only here on university business."

"That leaves you, John," said Clowes. "I suppose you didn't know him either."

"No," said John. "I knew him quite well. He was my tutor."

"Really?" said Clowes. "In what studies?" "Ancient languages, primarily," said John. "That was the bulk of it, with additional coursework in mythology, etymology, history, and prehistoric cultures. Although," he added, "in point of fact, I was a rather less than diligent student."

"Aha," murmured Clowes. "And why is that? Was he not a good teacher?"

"An excellent one, to be precise," said John. "But the priest who helped to raise me when my father passed, who paid for the bulk of my schooling, in fact, believes that this kind of study is, ah...not practical."

"I see," said Clowes as he scribbled on his notepad with a stubby piece of graphite. "And just what is 'practical'?"

"Banking," replied John. "Commerce. That sort of thing." "Humph," snorted Clowes. "And you disagree?"

John didn't reply, but merely shrugged as if to say, What can one do?

"Well," said Clowes, "I'm just about done here. But as you seem to be the closest thing Sigurdsson had to family, would you mind taking a look at the scene of the murder? It may be that you can spot whether something is amiss, where another could not."

"Certainly," said John.

Jack and Charles waited with the constable in the foyer while John and the inspector proceeded to the library. The smell hit John first -- burned leather, accented by the cinnamon-tinged tobacco that only the professor smoked -- but the room itself was a disaster.

Books were strewn about everywhere, and the backs of the shelves had been hacked to pieces. There was not a single piece of furniture unbroken. A number of books had been placed in the hearth to burn, with limited success.

"It was the bindings what done it," said Clowes. "Leather, with metal clasps. Thick, holds moisture. Made a stench like the devil, and smoke black as his beard. That's what drew the attention of the messenger when he got no reply at the door."

John glanced around the room, settling his gaze on a dark, crescent-shaped stain on the rug near the partners desk where the professor worked.

"Yes," said Clowes. "That's where he was found. Bled out quick -- he didn't suffer, lad."

John thought this was a lie, but he appreciated the gesture nevertheless. "I couldn't tell you if anything's missing, inspector. It seems that everything that isn't chopped to bits or burned is...well, nothing worth noting. The books have some value, but only to persons like myself -- and there's nothing here worth killing for."

Clowes sighed. "That's what we were afraid of. Well," he concluded, snapping his notebook closed, "I appreciate your time and cooperation. And I'm sorry for your loss."

"Thank you," said John. He turned to leave, then stopped. "Inspector? If I might ask, just how was the professor killed?"

"That's the other thing," said Clowes. "He was stabbed, of that there's no doubt. But the point of the weapon broke off against a rib, and so we got a good look.

"As far as we can tell, he was killed with a Roman spear. A Roman spear of a make and composition that hasn't been forged in over a thousand years."

*** The gray drizzle of the evening had become a truly miserable English night, and the business of the murder investigation had kept the three newfound companions out past the last scheduled trains. "I know a club just a few streets over," Charles offered. "Shall we repair there and remove ourselves from this dismal, damp night? We can catch our trains in the morning, after we've had a bit of warmth and a nip of something to settle our nerves."

Jack and John concurred, and they let Charles lead the way through the labyrinth of streets.

"Funny that he was a book collector," Jack said after they had gone a few blocks. "A Shakespeare scholar, even."

"Funny? In what way?" asked John.

Jack shrugged. "Because -- he was killed yesterday, on the fifteenth."

Slowly it dawned on John, then Charles. "Julius Caesar," John said.

"Yes," said Jack. "It may not have meant much in Caesar's time, or even in Shakespeare's, but it would've been a warning well heeded last night, if anyone had been around to sound it. "Beware the Ides of March."

As it turned out, the club to which Charles led them had literary allusions of its own. It had been a privately rented flat not two decades earlier, and had since been transformed into a club accessible to a private group from Oxford, of which Charles was a member.

"221B Baker Street?" John said with a hint of incredulity. "Are you quite serious, Charles?"

"Completely," Charles replied. "Oxford paid for its conversion, and it's very useful to have such a retreat when on business in London."

He opened the door and ushered his two companions into the entry hall. The main establishment consisted of a couple of private meeting rooms and a single large, airy sitting room, with adjacent entryways to what John assumed were the neighboring flats, converted to a similar use. The large room was cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad windows that looked out onto a solitary gas lamp and the worsening gloom of night and storm. The fireplace, attended to by an inconspicuous manservant, was at full roar and brightened their spirits considerably as they moved toward it, their clothes exchanging dampness for a light draping of steam.

"Much better," said Jack.

Jack took up residence in an immense Edwardian wingback chair and made himself quite at home. John preferred to lean on the hearth, the better to warm himself and dry his clothes, while Charles, with an ease born of familiarity, opened the liquor cabinet at the far side of the room and began pouring drinks.

"I've let the manservant go for the night," said Charles. "I don't expect any other members will be turning out on a night such as this, and to be candid, after our adventure with inspector Clowes, I rather appreciate the privacy."

"I'm looking forward to doing as you have, John, and joining the war effort," said Jack. "I was hoping to get in a term or two at school, but it seems the chancellor has other plans."

"You're young," said Charles. "You may find time and experience curb your taste for adventure."

"That was a bit of an adventure tonight, wasn't it?" Jack continued. "Imagine getting mistaken for the student of a dead professor..."

Charles's scowl wasn't quick enough to cut off the younger man before a pained look crossed John's features.

"Oh, dear -- Look, John, I'm sorry," said Jack. "I wasn't thinking."

"It's all right," John said, staring into the fire. "If the professor had been here, he'd have thought it was funny."

"You must mind your decorum," Charles admonished Jack.

"Especially once you've begun your courses at...Jack -- I say, are you listening to me?"

The younger man shook his head, stood, and crossed the room. "There's a very strange man outside," said Jack. "He was standing across the street under the lamp for several minutes, and then he crossed to the corner, where he stood for several minutes more, and he is now standing outside with his face pressed to the window...."

As one the three companions swung around to meet the surprised gaze of a strange apparition: a smallish man, seemingly cloaked in rags and wearing an outlandishly tall pointed hat. He was indeed pressed to the window, his nose pushed flat and his handlebar mustache askew with dampness.

The tatterdemalion at the window abruptly disappeared. Almost immediately came a solid rapping on the door.

"...and now he's at the door," finished Jack.

"Bother," said Charles. "This is a members-only club. We can't simply be catering to every vagrant who hasn't the sense to be home on such a night."

"Oh, come now, Charles," said John, rising to answer the door. "If it wasn't for you, Jack and I would be in the same boat, and we've only just met."

"That's different," Charles sniffed. "You're Oxford men."

"I haven't actually begun yet," admitted Jack.

"A technicality," said Charles.

John opened the door and the strangest little man any of them had ever seen stepped inside and shook himself like a mongrel, spraying water all throughout the entry hall.

His appearance was what might result if you shredded an illustrated edition of the works of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, then pasted the pieces back together in random order. His coat and trousers were equal parts Old Sultan, Rumpelstiltskin, and Hans-My-Hedgehog; his shoes, the unfulfilled aspiration of a hundred cobbler tales. And his hat was some ruthless combination of The King of the Golden Mountain and The Shroud. His eyes twinkled, but his hair and mustache were sopping, and he looked as if he'd been beaten about the head and shoulders with some sort of shedding forest mammal. The only organized aspect of his appearance was a large parcel wrapped in oilskin, which he clutched tightly under one arm.

"Dreadful night," said the man, still dripping. "Dreadful. Twenty pounds of misery in a ten-pound sack. If I'd ever known such a night was going to come about, I'd have told my own grandmother not to bother having my father, just to avoid the trouble."

"Well, once you've dried off a bit, you'll have to leave," said Charles, covertly hiding the good bottle of brandy behind the inferior brands. "This is a private club. What were you doing watching us?"

"Is this a question for a question?" asked the man. "I answer yours, then you answer mine?"

"Can't say that isn't fair, Charles," said Jack.

"All right," said Charles.

"Good," said the strange visitor. "I was watching to make sure no one else was."

"What kind of answer is that?" sputtered Charles. "That's not a proper answer."

"Oh, come on," said John. "Be a sport." He turned to the little man. "Your turn. So what's your question?"

"I thank the gentleman," the man said with a slight bow. "And now my question:

"Which one of you is John? And do you know that Professor Sigurdsson is dead?"

Copyright © 2006 by James A. Owen

Chapter Two

An Unusual Tale

After a brief , stunned silence, John regained his composure. "That would be me," John said, standing and proffering his hand.

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 here, 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."

"I see. Well then, if your apprentices might help me unwrap the Geographica, we can get down to business."

"Assistants?" said Charles. "I'm not -- we're not -- sorry, Jack -- his assistants -- apprentices," he sputtered. "I'm an editor for the -- "

"Yes, I'm sure you are, and a fine one at that," the little man interrupted. "But that can only mean...John, tell me, are you -- were you -- the professor's only student? Were there others?"

John shook his head. "Not with the war going on. We had to prepare well in advance just to meet. I don't think he had the time for much correspondence and private tutoring with anyone else."

"Interesting," said Charles. "How did you come to such an unusual arrangement?"

"Hard to say, really," said John. "He came upon a few stories I'd written -- trifles, really -- and took a liking to them. He found I'd been billeted in Great Haywood after my return from France and came to see me with a proposal that he tutor me."

The little man did not respond to this but simply nodded, watching.

"It is a terrible loss for you, I'm sure," said Charles. "I now regret even more the lost opportunity to meet him. He sounds like an extraordinary man."

"He was," said the strange visitor.

"We only came here tonight because of Charles's membership in the club," said Jack, "but you came specifically seeking John. How is that?"

"Happenstance. Turned the wrong way and saw you enter. I can't keep these streets in order any more. Always lose my way. But even that is providence, for if I'd found the harbor earlier, when I was supposed to, I'd never have found you."

"What's at the harbor?" asked Charles.

"My ship is anchored there. Now, we must -- "

"One moment," John said. "For all we know, this could be the murderer. He knew of Professor Sigurdsson well enough to know of me, but we know nothing of him."

In response, the little man rooted around inside his threadbare cloak for a moment before locating a crumpled note, which he proffered to John. It was, save for the person to whom it was addressed, identical to the one John had received from the professor.

"I trust that will suffice as evidence?" he asked. "I arrived from my travels abroad just yesterday and removed the Geographica from the house for safekeeping. The professor insisted on remaining there to wait for you. We were to reconvene in his library, this evening."

"This is the Geographica, then?" asked Jack, gesturing at the parcel.

"It is."

"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."

Without waiting for a further response, the man carefully hefted the large parcel onto a table and began to unwrap the layers of oilcloth.

"It looks like a book," said Jack.

"I can see you're the smart one of the group," said the little man.

"Thanks," said Jack, beaming. "I'm Jack."

"Pleased to meet you, Jack," said the little man. "Call me Bert."

"Okay, Bert," Jack said, stepping forward to help uncover the parcel.

Under the oilcloth lay a largish leatherbound volume, worn smooth with use -- or great age. It was tied at the open edge with cloth straps, and debossed on the front, its letters still bearing glittering traces of golden embellishments, were the words Imaginarium Geographica.

"Hmm. 'Geography of the Imagination,' is it?" said Charles. "Interesting."

"Close," said Bert. "A better translation would be less literal: 'Imaginary Geography.'"

"Imaginary?" said John, peering at the large book. "Of what use is an atlas of imaginary geographies?"

The quick smile almost hid the shadow that passed over Bert's features before he answered. "Why, you are of course having a game at our expense, young John. It serves exactly the use one would think: to guide one to, from, and across imaginary lands. "All the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale, can be found within," continued Bert. "Ouroboros, Schlaraffenland and Poictesme, Lilliput and Mongo and Islandia and Thule, Pellucidar and Prydain; they are all there.

"Collectively, the place where these lands exist is called the Archipelago of Dreams -- and it was for this book, this guide to the Archipelago, that the professor was killed."

"This looks like Greek," said Jack, his nose an inch from the open spread of the first map.

"Smart lad, Jack," said Bert. "There are a number of such maps at the beginning, but as you can see, several have been annotated in other languages, including English -- although most of them are still untranslated," he finished, elbowing John. "Lucky we have you here, eh, my lad?"

"Wait a moment, just wait," said John, backing away. "I don't understand what this has to do with me, or how you even knew who I was, for that matter."

"I knew who you were, John, because I was the one who read your writings first. I was the one who sought you out and advised the professor that you were the ideal man to become his successor. I was the one who saw within you the potential to become the greatest Caretaker of them all.

"I had assumed that your companions were in turn your apprentices -- no offense, Charles -- but only because there have always been three."

"Three? Three what?" asked Jack.

"Caretakers of the Geographica," said Bert. "Now, we don't have time to dawdle," he continued. "The race has already begun."

"What race?" asked Charles.

"The race," said Bert, "to avoid catastrophe, my boy -- with the whole of human history as the stakes. We can only hope the education you have had thus far has been enough."

"My education?" John said, incredulous. "But why is -- "

Before he could continue, the night air was split with the long howl of a hound. It rang deeply and loud, finally fading into profound silence. Then the howl came again, joined by another, and another.

And another.

But this time, it was closer. Much closer.

Behind the horrible harmonies of the howling was a faint staccato -- the shouts of men, angry, seeking. The sounds of a mob.

For the first time since he had entered 221B Baker Street, Bert's face became drawn and somber, and tinged with fear. "That's it then, lads. We have to go."

"We?" sputtered Charles. "I'm not going out in this! Especially with some kind of...of beasts running amok in the streets!"

"You have no choice, I'm afraid," said Bert. "They're coming for John and me, so we must leave -- but if they come here to find we've gone, you would fare the worse for it."

"Coming for me?" said John. "Why?"

"Did you think they would stop with the professor?" asked Bert. "They can't -- won't. They haven't gotten what they're seeking -- this," he said, slapping his hand on the Imaginarium Geographica. "And as it is now yours, I'm sure they'll have no problem cutting you down as easily as they did him."

Bert began to wrap the atlas in the oilcloth, and Jack stepped in to help him. "Quickly, now," he said to the three young men. "We must fly!"

"Fly where?" said Charles.

"To the harbor, of course," said Bert. "To my ship. My crew is waiting for us now, and they are beginning to worry, no doubt." Charles began to protest, but Bert cut him short.

"These are not rioters coming for us. They are not soldiers. They are not even, in point of fact, men as you know them. But whether or not you believe my warnings, or that I have a ship awaiting us in the harbor, or that anything I have told you tonight is true, believe this: If we stay here a minute longer, we shall all be dead."

If Bert's appeal was not convincing enough, the shadows that appeared on the opposite street corner pushed the companions' motivation to the fore.

The band hunting them brandished swords and spears of an unusual make. But stranger still was the fact that they appeared to walk on all fours, claws clicking on the cobblestones, only occasionally standing upright to sniff at the air before rending the night with more earsplitting howls.

"Wendigo," Bert murmured to himself. "He's pulling out all the stops -- and it can only get worse. Charles," he asked, turning quickly, "did Sir Arthur have a back exit to this place?"

"Yes," said Charles. "This way. Hurry."

Bert, Jack, and John followed Charles through a warren of small rooms to a door at the end of the apartment. "Here," said Charles. "They expanded into the adjacent flat, and it has a door that opens onto an alleyway."

As they entered the hallway, there was a crash and a splintering of wood from the foyer behind them.

"Hurry, lads!" said Bert. "Hurry!"

Finding the exit, the four companions moved quickly but cautiously into the alley, which was empty. Heading for the intersecting street, their steps became more and more hurried, realizing that it would only be a matter of time....

When they were a block distant, the angry howls of their pursuers told them their path away from the club had been discovered. The hunt had ended. It was now a race.

In moments the companions were running at full speed toward the harbor.

Copyright © 2006 by James A. Owen

Continues...


Excerpted from Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen Copyright © 2006 by James A. Owen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 98 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(54)

4 Star

(25)

3 Star

(12)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 99 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2008

    A Unique and Fun Fantasy Adventure

    I am not a fantasy lover, normally. However, I was able to ditch those prejudices against dragons and magical pirates while reading this fun story. The story is set in World War I England, for one thing, and the characters are based on real literary masters of our world. I had fun picking out the characters borrowed from other stories (my favorite being Captain Nemo) and learn how they had an impact in shaping our history. This story begins with three men, John, Jack, and Charles, who are thrust into a fantastical dimension of this world. They are enlisted aboard the Indigo Dragon (a ship with a life of its own) to help fight the evil Winter King (a man with a striking resemblance to Captain Hook) and keep him from ruling over the many diverse, supernatural lands. John is made the keeper of the Imaginarium Geographica, a magical map of the world. It is a position that has been held by former literary masters, and it is his job to use this map to find out how to destroy it if it falls into the hands of the Winter King, than he will be able find his way to the ring of power, which will, he thinks, make him invincible. James A. Owen seems to borrow character sketches and elements from other works (Captain Hook, Lord of the Rings¿ Ring Wraiths, power rings, etc) but as you continue to read you realize that these seemingly borrowed elements are the reason for this fantasy world. It¿s set in the past so authors of the future actually borrowed from this story. It becomes a prequel of the stories we grew up with. The story moves like any other fantasy novel, sticking to the canon fantasy-lovers have come to expect, but its history of literary figures is what makes this book unique. It is very cleverly written, and my favorite part is the end, when the real identities of the three heroes are revealed. This story is a fast read and doesn¿t contain any offensive material. There is a tiny bit of swearing, mostly toward the end. A twelve-year-old or an adult could read this story, and both would be drawn in to the fast-paced adventure story, and would be craving the sequel to find out what happens to the characters we have always loved.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2011

    Amazing Book

    I am writing in reply to a review I read that said the author had not done his research. This review stated many errors that you may find if you had not read the complete series. For instance, this reviewer pointed out that Jack was not given his nickname by his brother, it was his own idea. But if you were to read the second book, you would find that Jack does confess to this fact. I suppose the reason for this review is to remind people not to write off a series due to some inaccuracies. Because, as it is a series, one book (especially the first) has the purpose of opening doors for future books to come. This series is incredible, do not give up on it if you did not like the first book. The series is fascinating and causes the reader to think. You will thoroughly enjoy this series.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2011

    Great Book Overall

    I read this book very quickly. The plot us very quick and at timesit is very confusing. YOU SHIULD NOTE THAT THIS IS A 13 YEAR OLD READING A BOOK WITH ALL-ADULT CHARACTERS. So be aware that my review is from a teenage boy. Overall though, great book, great story, four stars.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2012

    excellent fantasy!!!

    Good as a stand alone, but sequels work well, too. You will find little tidbits thru-out, referencing mythologies of various cultures, as well aslegends, folklore, refernces to literature (you don't get Bert's full identity till one of the later sequels!), and famous people thru history. Encourage jr hi on up to read and check out anyone they don't recognize. I recognized John & Jack immediately. (smirk)

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2014

    By the time I had read the first third of this book, I began for

    By the time I had read the first third of this book, I began formulating an equation in my head to describe the story.  I had to adjust my proportions slightly as I read further, but I was delighted to find that by the time I had read the last page, my equation was justified.
    Here is my equation:  This book, text and illustrations, is two parts C.S. Lewis; two parts Jules Verne; two parts mythology (all mythology); one part H.G. Wells; one part T.H. White; one part Tolkien; and one part Victorian fairy tales and fiction (which would include George MacDonald, J. M. Barrie, Conan Doyle, Dickens, Arthur Rackham and the PreRaphaelites).  And all tied together with humor and a fresh and unique voice.
    Other readers might adjust their numbers, and probably with their own personal bias.  But no matter how the math is done, the parts should add up to a perfect 10.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    Doesn't Live Up To It's Potential

    I was really disappointed with this book. The theme was excellent, the "world behind the veil" was inciting and interesting, the characters had serious potential... but thats just it. Nothing was completely fleshed out or described. This one book alone could have been a series of at least 3 books, but it just left me hanging. I wanted to get lost in this world, but James Owen didn't give me enough details and descriptions to do so. I was so disappointed I will not read anything else from this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2013

    Super book

    One of the best books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2012

    .

    .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2012

    Man only if

    Man only if i could read his other book2 well i am right now he is awsome

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2011

    Another Great Classic

    I love this book and the whole series! If you like the following authors you will like it too...Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Barrie
    This series reads like the (exciting) classics, and includes mythology, mystery, and adventure in every book. The audio for these books are great as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Search No More, "Here, There Be Dragons"

    This review comes from an avid reader of many fantasy novels. Most of the novels that I have read span anywhere from Lord of the Rings to the Wheel of Time, but nothing, nothing was quite like the journey I embarked upon on "Here, There Be Dragons." James A. Owen has done a marvelous job at producing a piece of work that inspires you to look back and reflect upon certain events in history and to challenge the common point of view placed on such events. Throughout the story you meet many colorful characters spanning from the legend of Arthur Pendragon all the way to modern day characters of Charles Dickens. This novel is a quick read for those of you who are more familiar with lengthy fantasies such as the Wheel of Time, and it is for this reason I believe that I enjoyed it so much. It was such a great change of pace for me that I found myself turning page after page; I NEEDED to know what was going to happen next. With all this being said, the novel stands great as a standalone novel. Upon finishing the book there is no cliff-hanger leaving you to run onto the next in an instant. With that said, if you are looking for a great single fantasy novel that will keep you hooked and interested to the last page, "Here, There Be Dragons" is the novel you have been looking for.

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  • Posted January 28, 2011

    Best book.

    Literally i cannot descibe how amazing this book is. It is simply the best book i have ever read.

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  • Posted January 1, 2011

    Pretty Good

    An interesting read if you know or have read books by different older authors. (Classic type ones) Three men, John, Jack, and Charles, (whose identity as authors are revealed at the end of the story) are brought to another world by Bert who is Caretaker to an important book of maps. Bert wants to train the three men as Caretakers. They travel into another world where old classics seem to come to life, but in reality, all old classic stories were based on the place. Soon, a villian comes into the story who eants to steal the book and use instructioms inside to summon dragons and become the ruler of the Archipelago (the land). John, Jack, and Charles have to figure out how to stop him with the help of some interesting comrades, including a boy named Bug, Captain Nemo, and a talking badger.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Imagination for Adventure

    Here, There be Dragons is a captivating tale filled with adventure, pirates, kings, elves, talking animals, and, most importantly, dragons. Taking place in England during WWI, three young strangers are swept away into a land of imagination called Archipelago. These strangers-John, Jack, and Charles-become the caretakers of a book known in this magical world as the Imaginarium Geographica. It is a map that contains all the lands but some are starting to vanishing into shadow. With the help from a former caretaker, Bert, they set off to find out what is causing the lands to disappear and to restore order to Archipelago. A long the way, the companions run into some pirates, an evil overlord, a young knight, and other interesting characters.
    I enjoyed the twists that James A. Owen brought to the book and how he made the creatures of well beloved myths to be his own creation. The description pulls the reader in and pulls them through the story. It is one of those stories that is hard to put down, making the reader feel like they are apart of the adventure. I found it to be a fast pace and easy reader, suitable for any age. It is a welcome addition to my book collection.

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  • Posted May 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Here, There Be Dragons Review

    In England, three men, Jack, John, and Charles, are chosen to be caretakers of an extraordinary world know as the Archipelago. They are the holders of the map of the entire place, the Imagenairium Geographica. With this, the three must go on a life changing adventure to stop the Winter King, and evil ruler trying to take over the Archipelago. His goal is to take the Geographica and unlock its power to summon the dragons for aid in his conquest. Will these three men defeat him, or is the whole Archipelago doomed? This book has a vast amount of positives. I truly enjoy the plot as it uses many allusions from other stories. Most of the characters are from literature stories. I also like the description. It helps me visualize the story in my head so I can see things clearly. Though a very nice book, it also has its share of negatives. For starters, the beginning is VERY confusing. As you get on in the book, things clear up and you then understand. I also didn't like his character's choice of words. They could be saying easier things, but they sometimes say all these fancy words. Other then that, great story. James A. Owen is mainly a fictional storywriter. He has written graphic and fantasy novels. He used 3rd person omniscient for this story. He has a very clear and descriptive writing system that is easy to enjoy. His sentences are usually short. In his writing, I find many different tones. I recommend this novel because it is a great story, filled with action and adventure. People enjoy this story from James's little twist in putting all of these allusions in the novel. At the end of the book, it all makes sense. So if you need an adventure fantasy, go out and try this book. If you enjoy this story, you will LOVE the Chronicles of Narnia. Kind of the same story. Kids go to another world and have to defeat an evil queen trying to destroy and rule. I HIGLY recommend this book if you too enjoy fantasy adventure such, as "Here Be Dragons".

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2009

    Dragons are mostly NOT there

    The premise of the book is interesting, with the fantasy worlds of books actually existing somewhere, but the writing does not make one really care about the characters. Then again, I will be reading the rest of the series. (Note, this is at a slightly higher reading level than many currently published fantasy novels with regard to vocabulary and sentence structure.)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Series

    These books are fabulous. I bought them for my 10 year old. He loves them, I love them, we buy them for presents for his friends and THEY love them.
    Very smartly written books. Wonderful stories. Future classics.

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  • Posted March 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    all books should be this awesome

    i just got this book and already i can't put it down with all the fantasy and the adventure. so far the book is awesome.B)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2008

    Great Book to Take You Away.

    If you like The Lord of The Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, or even the Harry Potter books, you will find these books intrigueing. The author has created a world of fantasy and adventure with imperfect characters who sometimes make mistakes, but learn from them and grow. These are books that a parent can read and enjoy and share with their kids. Everyone needs to get away sometimes and a little adventure, fantasy and the occassional dragon is a great way to do it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2008

    A unique fantasy delight

    any jr.r. tolkien or c.s. lewis fan will love this book. why? read the book. you will absolutely love this book. just read it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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