The Indigo King (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica Series)

( 37 )

Overview

John and Jack are mystified when they discover a cryptic warning on a medieval manuscript—a warning that is not only addressed to them, but seems to have been written by their friend, Hugo Dyson. But before they can discover the origins of the book, Hugo walks through a door in time—and vanishes into the past.

In that moment, the world begins to change. Now, the Archipelago of Dreams and our world both suffer under the reign of the cruel and ...

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The Indigo King (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica Series #3)

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Overview

John and Jack are mystified when they discover a cryptic warning on a medieval manuscript—a warning that is not only addressed to them, but seems to have been written by their friend, Hugo Dyson. But before they can discover the origins of the book, Hugo walks through a door in time—and vanishes into the past.

In that moment, the world begins to change. Now, the Archipelago of Dreams and our world both suffer under the reign of the cruel and terrible Winter King. Dark beasts roam the countryside, and terror rules the land.

John and Jack must travel back in time—from the Bronze Age to the library in ancient Alexandria to the founding of the Silver Throne—to find the only thing that can save their friend and restore both words. The solution lies in the answer to a 2,000-year-old mystery: Who is the Cartographer?

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Rachelle Bilz
This third entry in The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica continues the exciting exploits of John (J. R. R. Tolkien), Jack (C. S. Lewis), and Charles (Williams) as they shoulder their responsibilities as Caretakers of the connections between the real world and the Archipelago of Dreams. Ably illustrated by the author, this book carries forward Owen's imaginative blending of mythology, Arthurian legends, and classic fairy tales. Hugo Dyson, the Caretakers' friend, disappears into the past. Aided by a cryptic message from Hugh, the three friends attempt to retrieve him and end up in an alternate England's past. Changed by the nefarious Winter King and the damage to the Keep of Time, the time line must be restored by the Caretakers. Failure to do so will destroy the present. Shocked and confused, Hugo meets and befriends Hank Morgan, sent to the past by Samuel Clemens; they are in Camelot. Owen ingeniously weaves together the two story lines, commingling the Grail legend, Odysseus, Circe and Calypso, Jack the Giant Killer, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, animals evocative of The Wind in the Willows, and twins from ancient times who become Merlin and Mordred. These elements are ingeniously combined in a compelling, literate fantasy story. This excellent tale is sure to appeal to fantasy fans, and although the author begins the book with a brief summary of the other two, it would best be enjoyed by those familiar with the series. Reviewer: Rachelle Bilz
KLIATT - Deirdre Root
Jack and John, Caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica, are in trouble up to their necks. Their friend Hugo has disappeared behind a door marked with the Holy Grail, and suddenly Britain has turned into a grim, almost lifeless wasteland ruled by Mordred. Along with an alternate-world version of their friend Chaz and two brave talking badgers, they race to find the exact time in which everything went wrong. A lively jaunt through Arthurian legend, from Malory to Mark Twain, ensues. This series started strong and just keeps getting stronger, with clever reworkings of classic fantasy stories and complex, flawed protagonists. Essential for libraries that already own the other two books, and the series itself is highly recommended for all libraries. Reviewer: Deirdre Root
Kirkus Reviews
This third entry in the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica brings 1930s caretakers John and Jack (aka J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis) into an alternate universe where history has been rewritten and the Winter King reigns supreme. Assisted by the alternate-history equivalent of their friend Charles-Wilson, a little-known British fantasy writer-the heroes travel through the past hoping to discover which of two identical twins will grow up to be Merlin and to prevent Mordred (the other twin and the Winter King-to-be) from ruining the timeline. Their adventure takes them through the muddle of mythologies that comprise this magical world; although most of the legendary figures they encounter are Arthurian or Greek, there are also brief references to Norse mythology, English and French fairy tales, Old and New Testament figures, 19th- and 20th-century literature and Monty Python. Despite the contextual chaos, John and Jack have a more coherent adventure solving the mystery of their disrupted timestream than they have in either of their previous quests. Except for those who get a kick out of playing Spot-the-Literary-Allusion, this is missable. (Fantasy. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416951087
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 3/9/2010
  • Series: Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica Series , #3
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 375
  • Sales rank: 320,805
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 790L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.28 (h) x 1.06 (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

CHAPTER ONE

The Booke of Dayes

Hurrying along one of the tree-lined paths at Magdalen College in Oxford, John glanced up at the cloud-clotted sky and decided that he rather liked the English weather. Constant clouds made for soft light; soft light that cast no shadows. And John liked to avoid shadows as much as possible.

As he passed through the elaborate gate that marked the entrance to Addison's Walk, he looked down at his watch, checking his progress, then looked again. The watch had stopped, and not for the first time. It had been a gift from his youngest child, his only daughter, and while her love in the gift was evident, the selection had been made from a child's point of view and was therefore more aesthetic than practical. The case was burnished gold (although it was most certainly gold-colored tin), the face was painted with spring flowers, and on the back was the embossed image of a frog wearing a bonnet.

John had absentmindedly pulled it out of his pocket during one of the frequent gatherings of his friends at Magdalen, much to their amusement. Barfield in particular loved to approach him now at inopportune moments just to ask the time — and hopefully embarrass John in the process.

John sighed and tucked the watch back in his pocket, then pulled his collar tighter and hurried on. He was probably already late for the dinner he'd been invited to at the college, and although he had always been punctual (mostly), events of recent years had made him much more aware of the consequences tardiness can bring.

Five years earlier, after a sudden and unexpected journey to the Archipelago of Dreams, he'd found himself a half hour late for an evening with visiting friends that had been planned by his wife. Even had he not taken an oath of secrecy regarding the Archipelago, he would scarcely have been able to explain that he was late because he'd been saving Peter Pan's granddaughter and thousands of other children from the Pied Piper, and had only just returned via a magic wardrobe in Sir James Barrie's house, and so had still needed to drive home from London.

His wife, however, still made the occasional remark about his having been late for the party. So John had since resolved to be as punctual as possible in every circumstance. And tonight he was certain that Jack would not want to be on his own for long, even if the third member of their dinner meeting was their good and trusted friend, Hugo Dyson.

Hugo had become part of a loose association of like-minded fellows, centered around Jack and John, who gathered together to read, discuss, and debate literature, Romanticism, and the nature of the universe, among other things. The group had evolved from an informal club at Oxford that John had called the Coalbiters, which was mostly concerned with the history and mythology of the Northern lands. One of the members of the current gathering referred to them jokingly as the "not-so-secret secret society," but where John and Jack were concerned, the name was more ironic than funny. They frequently held other meetings attended only by themselves and their friend Charles, as often as he could justify the trip from London to Oxford, in which they discussed matters that their colleagues would find impossible to believe. For rather than discussing the meaning of metaphor in ancient texts of fable and fairy tale, what was discussed in this actually secret secret society were the fables and fairy tales themselves...which were real. And existed in another world just beyond reach of our own. A world called the Archipelago of Dreams.

John, Jack, and Charles had been recruited to be Caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica, the great atlas of the Archipelago. Accepting the job brought with it many other responsibilities, including the welfare of the Archipelago itself and the peoples within it. The history of the atlas and its Caretakers amounted to a secret history of the world, and sometimes each of them felt the full weight of that burden; for events in the Archipelago are often mirrored in the natural world, and what happens in one can affect the other.

In the fourteen years since they first became Caretakers, all three men had become distinguished as both scholars and writers in and around Oxford, as had been the tradition with other Caretakers across the ages. There were probably many other creative men and women in other parts of the world who might have had the aptitude for it, but the pattern had been set centuries earlier by Roger Bacon, who was himself an Oxford scholar and one of the great compilers of the Histories of the Archipelago.

The very nature of the Geographica and the accompanying Histories meant that discussing them or the Archipelago with anyone in the natural world was verboten. At various points in history, certain Caretakers-in-training had disagreed with this doctrine and had been removed from their positions. Some, like Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle, were nearly eaten by the dragons that guarded the Frontier, the barrier between the world and the Archipelago, before giving up the job. Others, like the adventurer Sir Richard Burton, were cast aside in a less dramatic fashion but had become more dangerous in the years that followed.

In fact, Burton had nearly cost them their victory in their second conflict with the Winter King — with his shadow, to be more precise — and had ended up escaping with one of the great Dragonships. He had not been seen since. But John suspected he was out there somewhere, watching and waiting.

Burton himself may have been the best argument for Caretaker secrecy. The knowledge of the Archipelago bore with it the potential for great destruction, but Burton was blind to the danger, believing that knowledge was neither good nor evil — only the uses to which it was put could be. It was the trait that made him a great explorer, and an unsuitable Caretaker.

Because of the oath of secrecy, there was no one on Earth with whom the three Caretakers could discuss the Archipelago, save for their mentor Bert, who was in actuality H. G. Wells, and on occasion, James Barrie. But Barrie, called Jamie by the others, was the rare exception to Burton's example: He was a Caretaker who gave up the job willingly. And as such, John had realized early on that the occasional visit to reminisce was fine — but Jamie wanted no part of anything of substance that dealt with the Archipelago.

What made keeping the secret difficult was that John, Jack, and Charles had found a level of comfortable intellectualism within their academic and writing careers. A pleasant camaraderie had developed among their peers at the colleges, and it became more and more tempting to share the secret knowledge that was theirs as Caretakers. John had even suspected that Jack may have already said something to his closest friend, his brother Warnie — but he could hardly fault him for that. Warnie could be trusted, and he had actually seen the girl Laura Glue, when she'd crashed into his and Jack's garden, wings askew, five years earlier, asking about the Caretakers.

But privately, each of them had wondered if one of their friends at Oxford might not be inducted into their circle as an apprentice, or Caretaker-in-training of sorts. After all, that was how Bert and his predecessor, Jules Verne, had recruited their successors. In fact, Bert still maintained files of study on potential Caretakers, young and old, for his three protégés to observe from afar. Within the circle at Oxford, there were at least two among their friends who would qualify in matters of knowledge and creative thinking: Owen Barfield and Hugo Dyson. John expected that sometime in the future, he, Jack, and Charles would likely summon one (or both) colleagues for a long discussion of myth, and history, and languages, and then, after a hearty dinner and good drink, they would unveil the Imaginarium Geographica with a flourish, and thus induct their fellow or fellows into the ranks of the Caretakers. Other candidates might be better qualified than the Oxford dons, but familiarity begat comfort, and comfort begat trust. And in a Caretaker, trust was one of the most important qualities of all.

But none of them had anticipated having such a meeting as a matter of necessity, under circumstances that might have mortal consequences for one of their friends. Among them, Jack especially was wary of this. He had lost friends in two worlds and was reluctant to put another at risk if he could help it.

He had requested that all three of them meet for dinner with Hugo Dyson on the upcoming Saturday rather than their usual Thursday gathering time, but as it turned out, Charles was doing research for a novel in the catacombs beneath Paris and could not be reached. He'd been expected back that very day, but as they had heard nothing from him, and he had not yet appeared back in London, John and Jack decided that the meeting was too important to delay, and they confirmed the appointment with Hugo for that evening. It was agreed that the best place for it was in Jack's rooms at Magdalen. They met there often, and so no one observing them would find anything amiss; but the rooms also afforded a degree of privacy they could not get in the open dining halls or local taverns, should the discussion turn to matters best kept secret.

This was almost inevitable, John realized with a shudder of trepidation, given the nature of the matter he and Jack needed to broach with Hugo. Oddly enough, it was actually Charles who was responsible for setting the events in motion, or rather, a small package that had been addressed to him and that he'd subsequently forwarded to Jack at Magdalen. Charles worked at the Oxford University Press, which was based in London, and very few people knew of his connection to Jack at all — much less knew enough to address the parcel, "Mr. Charles Williams, Caretaker." Charles sent it to Jack, with the instruction that he open it together with John — and Hugo Dyson.

Invoking the title of Caretaker meant that the parcel involved the Archipelago. And Charles's request that Hugo be invited meant that whether their colleague was ready for it or not, it might be time to reveal the Geographica to him.

When they were not adding notations — or more rarely, new maps — John kept the atlas in his private study, inside an iron box bound with locks of silver and stamped with the seal of the High King of the Archipelago, the Caretakers, and the mark of the extraordinary man who created it, who was called the Cartographer of Lost Places. In that box it was the most secure book in all the world, but now it was wrapped in oilcloth and tucked under John's left arm as he walked through Magdalen College. Still safe, if not secure.

John shivered and hunched his shoulders as he approached the building where Jack's rooms were, then took the steps with a single bound and opened the front door.

The rooms were spare but afforded a degree of elegance by the large quantity of rare and unusual books, which reflected a wealth of selection rather than accumulation. A number of volumes in varying sizes were neatly stacked in all the corners of the rooms and along the tops of the low shelves that were common in Oxford, which all the dons hated. Jack commented frequently that they'd probably been manufactured by dwarves, just to irritate the taller men who'd end up using them.

As John had feared, Hugo was already there, sitting on a big Chesterfield sofa in the center of the sitting room. He was being poured a second cup of Darjeeling tea by their host, who looked wryly at John as he came in.

"The frog in a bonnet set you back again, dear fellow?" said Jack.

"I'm afraid so," John replied. "The dratted thing just won't stay wound."

"Hah!" chortled Hugo. "Time for a new watch, I'd say. Time. For a watch. Hah! Get it?"

Jack rolled his eyes, but John gave a polite chuckle and took a seat in a shabby but comfortable armchair opposite Hugo. The man was a scholar, but he wore the perpetual expression of someone who anticipates winning a carnival prize: anxious but cheerily hopeful. That, combined with his deep academic knowledge of English and his love of truth in all forms, made him a friend both John and Jack valued. Whether he was suited for the calling of Caretaker, however, was yet to be determined.

The three men finished their tea and then ate a sumptuous meal of roast beef, new potatoes, and a dark Irish bread, topped off with sweet biscuits and coffee. John noted that Jack then brought out the rum — much sooner than usual, and with a lesser hesitation than when Warnie was with them — and with the rum, the parcel that had been sent to Charles.

"Ah, yes," said Hugo. "The great mystery that has brought us all together." He leaned forward and examined the writing on the package. "Hmm. This wouldn't be Charles Williams the writer, would it?"

Jack and John looked at each other in surprise. Few of their associates in Oxford knew of Charles, but then again, Charles did have his own reputation in London as an editor, essayist, and poet. His first novel, War in Heaven, had come out only the year before, and it was not particularly well known.

"Yes, it is," said John. "Have you read his work?"

"Not much of it, I'm afraid," Hugo replied. "But I've had my own work declined by the press, so I might find I like his writing more if my good character prevails when I do read it.

"I'm familiar with his book," continued Hugo, "because the central object in the story is the Holy Grail."

"The cup of Christ, from the Last Supper," said John.

"Either that, or the vessel used to catch his blood as he hung on the cross," answered Hugo, "depending on which version of the story you believe is more credible as a historian."

"Or as a Christian," said John, "although the Grail lore certainly blurs the line between history and myth."

"It's very interesting that you feel that way," Jack said, unwrapping the parcel and casting a sideways glance at John, "because the line between history and myth is about to be wiped away entirely."

Inside the brown wrapper was a book, about three inches thick and nearly ten inches square. It was bound in ancient leather, and the pages were brown with age. The upper left-hand side of the first few pages had been torn, and the rest bore several deep gashes. Otherwise, the book was intact. The cover itself was filled with ancient writing, and in the center was a detailed impression of the sacred cup itself: the Holy Grail.

Hugo stood to better take in the sight. "Impressive! Is it authentic?"

Jack examined the book in silence for a few minutes, then nodded. "It is. Sixth century, as closely as I can estimate."

Hugo gave him an admiring look. "I didn't realize you were an expert in this sort of historical matter."

"I have some knowledgeable associates," said Jack. He turned to John. "Can you read it?"

John dusted off the cover with a napkin. "Absolutely. The forms are Anglo-Saxon, but the writing itself is Gothic."

"Gothic!" Hugo exclaimed. "No one's used Gothic since..."

"Since the sixth century," said John. "But it was one of my favorite languages to play with when I was younger."

"That's what makes him a genius," Hugo said to Jack. "It's all play to him."

The two men refilled their glasses (this time adding a bit of hot water to the rum) and stood back to let John work through the translation. After a few minutes had passed, John turned to Jack and grinned.

"It bears closer study," he said. "If I can refine the actual letterforms, I might even be able to compare it to some of the Histories and narrow down who the author might be. If I didn't know better, I'd say it is one of the Histories."

"The author?" Hugo exclaimed. "Surely you're having a joke at my expense, my dear fellow. Narrowing down the century would be impressive enough, but I doubt the author signed his work. Not in those days."

"You'd be surprised," said Jack. "In a way, that's why I asked you to come, Hugo."

"It's quite exceptional, really," John exclaimed. "It purports to be a historical accounting of the lineage of the kings of England. And that history is intertwined with the mythology of the Holy Grail. Except..."

"What?" blurted Hugo.

"Except," John finished, "it starts at least five centuries before the birth of Christ."

"So, pure mythology rather than history," said Jack.

"That's debatable," said Hugo, "but you yourself said this would wipe away the line between history and myth."

"Indeed," Jack said, turning to John. "Was Charles's note correct? About the writing?"

John nodded. "The cover text is relevant, but it's the first page that really has me baffled, the same as it did Charles." He lifted the cover. "And for that page, there's no need for me to translate."

Instead of the Gothic writing on the cover, the words on the first page were written in a reddish brown ink in modern English. The page had been torn crosswise from left to right, but the message was largely intact:

The Cartographer

He who seeks the means to

the islands of the Archipelago

will follow the true Grail and

Blood will be saved, by willing choice

that time be restored for the future's sake.

And in God's name, don't close the door!

— Hugo Dyson

Hugo clapped them both on the shoulders. "I knew it! Well done, you old scalawags! An excellent joke! Oh, this will be a tale to dine out on! But tell me this: Who is the Cartographer?"

Copyright © 2008 by James A. Owen

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Prologue

Part One: The Mythopoeia

Chapter One:

The Booke of Dayes

Chapter Two:

The Door in the Wood

Chapter Three:

The Royal Animal Rescue Squad

Chapter Four:

The Unhistory

Part Two: Fractured Albion

Chapter Five:

Tatterdemalion

Chapter Six:

The Serendipity Box

Chapter Seven:

Noble's Isle

Chapter Eight:

The Infernal Device

Part Three: After the Age of Fable

Chapter Nine:

The Storyteller

Chapter Ten:

The Shipwreck

Chapter Eleven:

The Grail

Chapter Twelve:

Imaginary Geographies

Part Four: The Iron Crown

Chapter Thirteen:

Betrayal

Chapter Fourteen:

The Sword of Aeneas

Chapter Fifteen:

The Stripling Warrior

Chapter Sixteen:

The Crucible

Part Five: The Isle of Glass

Chapter Seventeen:

Animal Logic

Chapter Eighteen:

The Sacrifice

Chapter Nineteen:

The Enchantresses

Chapter Twenty:

The Good Knight

Part Six: The Silver Throne

Chapter Twenty-one:

The Fallen

Chapter Twenty-two:

Exiled

Chapter Twenty-three:

Restoration

Chapter Twenty-four:

The Bird and Baby

Epilogue

Author's Note

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First Chapter

Chapter One
The Booke of Dayes

Hurrying along one of the tree-lined paths at Magdalen College in Oxford, John glanced up at the cloud-clotted sky and decided that he rather liked the English weather. Constant clouds made for soft light; soft light that cast no shadows. And John liked to avoid shadows as much as possible. As he passed through the elaborate gate that marked the entrance to Addison's Walk, he looked down at his watch, checking his progress, then looked again. The watch had stopped, and not for the first time. It had been a gift from his youngest child, his only daughter, and while her love in the gift was evident, the selection had been made from a child's point of view and was therefore more aesthetic than practical. The case was burnished gold (although it was most certainly gold-colored tin), the face was painted with spring flowers, and on the back was the embossed image of a frog wearing a bonnet. John had absentmindedly pulled it out of his pocket during one of the frequent gatherings of his friends at Magdalen, much to their amusement. Barfield in particular loved to approach him now at inopportune moments just to ask the time-and hopefully embarrass John in the process. John sighed and tucked the watch back in his pocket, then pulled his collar tighter and hurried on. He was probably already late for the dinner he'd been invited to at the college, and although he had always been punctual (mostly), events of recent years had made him much more aware of the consequences tardiness can bring. Five years earlier, after a sudden and unexpected journey to the Archipelago of Dreams, he'd found himself a half hour late for an evening with visiting friends that had been planned by his wife. Even had he not taken an oath of secrecy regarding the Archipelago, he would scarcely have been able to explain that he was late because he'd been saving Peter Pan's granddaughter and thousands of other children from the Pied Piper, and had only just returned via a magic wardrobe in Sir James Barrie's house, and so had still needed to drive home from London. His wife, however, still made the occasional remark about his having been late for the party. So John had since resolved to be as punctual as possible in every circumstance. And tonight he was certain that Jack would not want to be on his own for long, even if the third member of their dinner meeting was their good and trusted friend, Hugo Dyson.
Hugo had become part of a loose association of like-minded fellows, centered around Jack and John, who gathered together to read, discuss, and debate literature, Romanticism, and the nature of the universe, among other things. The group had evolved from an informal club at Oxford that John had called the Coalbiters, which was mostly concerned with the history and mythology of the Northern lands. One of the members of the current gathering referred to them jokingly as the "not-so-secret secret society," but where John and Jack were concerned, the name was more ironic than funny. They frequently held other meetings attended only by themselves and their friend Charles, as often as he could justify the trip from London to Oxford, in which they discussed matters that their colleagues would find impossible to believe. For rather than discussing the meaning of metaphor in ancient texts of fable and fairy tale, what was discussed in this actually secret secret society were the fables and fairy tales themselves . . . which were real. And existed in another world just beyond reach of our own. A world called the Archipelago of Dreams.
John, Jack, and Charles had been recruited to be Caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica, the great atlas of the Archipelago. Accepting the job brought with it many other responsibilities, including the welfare of the Archipelago itself and the peoples within it. The history of the atlas and its Caretakers amounted to a secret history of the world, and sometimes each of them felt the full weight of that burden; for events in the Archipelago are often mirrored in the natural world, and what happens in one can affect the other. In the fourteen years since they first became Caretakers, all three men had become distinguished as both scholars and writers in and around Oxford, as had been the tradition with other Caretakers across the ages. There were probably many other creative men and women in other parts of the world who might have had the aptitude for it, but the pattern had been set centuries earlier by Roger Bacon, who was himself an Oxford scholar and one of the great compilers of the Histories of the Archipelago. The very nature of the Geographica and the accompanying Histories meant that discussing them or the Archipelago with anyone in the natural world was verboten. At various points in history, certain Caretakers-in-training had disagreed with this doctrine and had been removed from their positions. Some, like Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle, were nearly eaten by the dragons that guarded the Frontier, the barrier between the world and the Archipelago, before giving up the job. Others, like the adventurer Sir Richard Burton, were cast aside in a less dramatic fashion but had become more dangerous in the years that followed. In fact, Burton had nearly cost them their victory in their second conflict with the Winter King -- with his shadow, to be more precise -- and had ended up escaping with one of the great Dragonships. He had not been seen since. But John suspected he was out there somewhere, watching and waiting. Burton himself may have been the best argument for Caretaker secrecy. The knowledge of the Archipelago bore with it the potential for great destruction, but Burton was blind to the danger, believing that knowledge was neither good nor evil -- only the uses to which it was put could be. It was the trait that made him a great explorer, and an unsuitable Caretaker. Because of the oath of secrecy, there was no one on Earth with whom the three Caretakers could discuss the Archipelago, save for their mentor Bert, who was in actuality H. G. Wells, and on occasion, James Barrie. But Barrie, called Jamie by the others, was the rare exception to Burton's example: He was a Caretaker who gave up the job willingly. And as such, John had realized early on that the occasional visit to reminisce was fine -- but Jamie wanted no part of anything of substance that dealt with the Archipelago. What made keeping the secret difficult was that John, Jack, and Charles had found a level of comfortable intellectualism within their academic and writing careers. A pleasant camaraderie had developed among their peers at the colleges, and it became more and more tempting to share the secret knowledge that was theirs as Caretakers. John had even suspected that Jack may have already said something to his closest friend, his brother Warnie -- but he could hardly fault him for that. Warnie could be trusted, and he had actually seen the girl Laura Glue, when she'd crashed into his and Jack's garden, wings askew, five years earlier, asking about the Caretakers. But privately, each of them had wondered if one of their friends at Oxford might not be inducted into their circle as an apprentice, or Caretaker-in-training of sorts. After all, that was how Bert and his predecessor, Jules Verne, had recruited their successors. In fact, Bert still maintained files of study on potential Caretakers, young and old, for his three protégés to observe from afar. Within the circle at Oxford, there were at least two among their friends who would qualify in matters of knowledge and creative thinking: Owen Barfield and Hugo Dyson. John expected that sometime in the future, he, Jack, and Charles would likely summon one (or both) colleagues for a long discussion of myth, and history, and languages, and then, after a hearty dinner and good drink, they would unveil the Imaginarium Geographica with a flourish, and thus induct their fellow or fellows into the ranks of the Caretakers. Other candidates might be better qualified than the Oxford dons, but familiarity begat comfort, and comfort begat trust. And in a Caretaker, trust was one of the most important qualities of all. But none of them had anticipated having such a meeting as a matter of necessity, under circumstances that might have mortal consequences for one of their friends. Among them, Jack especially was wary of this. He had lost friends in two worlds and was reluctant to put another at risk if he could help it. He had requested that all three of them meet for dinner with Hugo Dyson on the upcoming Saturday rather than their usual Thursday gathering time, but as it turned out, Charles was doing research for a novel in the catacombs beneath Paris and could not be reached. He'd been expected back that very day, but as they had heard nothing from him, and he had not yet appeared back in London, John and Jack decided that the meeting was too important to delay, and they confirmed the appointment with Hugo for that evening. It was agreed that the best place for it was in Jack's rooms at Magdalen. They met there often, and so no one observing them would find anything amiss; but the rooms also afforded a degree of privacy they could not get in the open dining halls or local taverns, should the discussion turn to matters best kept secret. This was almost inevitable, John realized with a shudder of trepidation, given the nature of the matter he and Jack needed to broach with Hugo. Oddly enough, it was actually Charles who was responsible for setting the events in motion, or rather, a small package that had been addressed to him and that he'd subsequently forwarded to Jack at Magdalen. Charles worked at the Oxford University Press, which was based in London, and very few people knew of his connection to Jack at all-much less knew enough to address the parcel, "Mr. Charles Williams, Caretaker." Charles sent it to Jack, with the instruction that he open it together with John -- and Hugo Dyson. Invoking the title of Caretaker meant that the parcel involved the Archipelago. And Charles's request that Hugo be invited meant that whether their colleague was ready for it or not, it might be time to reveal the Geographica to him. When they were not adding notations -- or more rarely, new maps -- John kept the atlas in his private study, inside an iron box bound with locks of silver and stamped with the seal of the High King of the Archipelago, the Caretakers, and the mark of the extraordinary man who created it, who was called the Cartographer of Lost Places. In that box it was the most secure book in all the world, but now it was wrapped in oilcloth and tucked under John's left arm as he walked through Magdalen College. Still safe, if not secure. John shivered and hunched his shoulders as he approached the building where Jack's rooms were, then took the steps with a single bound and opened the front door.
The rooms were spare but afforded a degree of elegance by the large quantity of rare and unusual books, which reflected a wealth of selection rather than accumulation. A number of volumes in varying sizes were neatly stacked in all the corners of the rooms and along the tops of the low shelves that were common in Oxford, which all the dons hated. Jack commented frequently that they'd probably been manufactured by dwarves, just to irritate the taller men who'd end up using them.
As John had feared, Hugo was already there, sitting on a big Chesterfield sofa in the center of the sitting room. He was being poured a second cup of Darjeeling tea by their host, who looked wryly at John as he came in.
"The frog in a bonnet set you back again, dear fellow?" said Jack.
"I'm afraid so," John replied. "The dratted thing just won't stay wound."
"Hah!" chortled Hugo. "Time for a new watch, I'd say. Time. For a watch. Hah! Get it?"
Jack rolled his eyes, but John gave a polite chuckle and took a seat in a shabby but comfortable armchair opposite Hugo. The man was a scholar, but he wore the perpetual expression of someone who anticipates winning a carnival prize: anxious but cheerily hopeful. That, combined with his deep academic knowledge of English and his love of truth in all forms, made him a friend both John and Jack valued. Whether he was suited for the calling of Caretaker, however, was yet to be determined.
The three men finished their tea and then ate a sumptuous meal of roast beef, new potatoes, and a dark Irish bread, topped off with sweet biscuits and coffee. John noted that Jack then brought out the rum-much sooner than usual, and with a lesser hesitation than when Warnie was with them -- and with the rum, the parcel that had been sent to Charles.
"Ah, yes," said Hugo. "The great mystery that has brought us all together." He leaned forward and examined the writing on the package. "Hmm. This wouldn't be Charles Williams the writer, would it?" Jack and John looked at each other in surprise. Few of their associates in Oxford knew of Charles, but then again, Charles did have his own reputation in London as an editor, essayist, and poet. His first novel, War in Heaven, had come out only the year before, and it was not particularly well known. "Yes, it is," said John. "Have you read his work?" "Not much of it, I'm afraid," Hugo replied. "But I've had my own work declined by the press, so I might find I like his writing more if my good character prevails when I do read it. "I'm familiar with his book," continued Hugo, "because the central object in the story is the Holy Grail." "The cup of Christ, from the Last Supper," said John. "Either that, or the vessel used to catch his blood as he hung on the cross," answered Hugo, "depending on which version of the story you believe is more credible as a historian." "Or as a Christian," said John, "although the Grail lore certainly blurs the line between history and myth." "It's very interesting that you feel that way," Jack said, unwrapping the parcel and casting a sideways glance at John, "because the line between history and myth is about to be wiped away entirely." Inside the brown wrapper was a book, about three inches thick and nearly ten inches square. It was bound in ancient leather, and the pages were brown with age. The upper left-hand side of the first few pages had been torn, and the rest bore several deep gashes. Otherwise, the book was intact. The cover itself was filled with ancient writing, and in the center was a detailed impression of the sacred cup itself: the Holy Grail. Hugo stood to better take in the sight. "Impressive! Is it authentic?" Jack examined the book in silence for a few minutes, then nodded. "It is. Sixth century, as closely as I can estimate." Hugo gave him an admiring look. "I didn't realize you were an expert in this sort of historical matter." "I have some knowledgeable associates," said Jack. He turned to John. "Can you read it?" John dusted off the cover with a napkin. "Absolutely. The forms are Anglo-Saxon, but the writing itself is Gothic." "Gothic!" Hugo exclaimed. "No one's used Gothic since . . ." "Since the sixth century," said John. "But it was one of my favorite languages to play with when I was younger." "That's what makes him a genius," Hugo said to Jack. "It's all play to him." The two men refilled their glasses (this time adding a bit of hot water to the rum) and stood back to let John work through the translation. After a few minutes had passed, John turned to Jack and grinned. "It bears closer study," he said. "If I can refine the actual letterforms, I might even be able to compare it to some of the Histories and narrow down who the author might be. If I didn't know better, I'd say it is one of the Histories." "The author?" Hugo exclaimed. "Surely you're having a joke at my expense, my dear fellow. Narrowing down the century would be impressive enough, but I doubt the author signed his work. Not in those days." "You'd be surprised," said Jack. "In a way, that's why I asked you to come, Hugo." "It's quite exceptional, really," John exclaimed. "It purports to be a historical accounting of the lineage of the kings of England. And that history is intertwined with the mythology of the Holy Grail. Except . . ." "What?" blurted Hugo. "Except," John finished, "it starts at least five centuries before the birth of Christ." "So, pure mythology rather than history," said Jack. "That's debatable," said Hugo, "but you yourself said this would wipe away the line between history and myth." "Indeed," Jack said, turning to John. "Was Charles's note correct? About the writing?" John nodded. "The cover text is relevant, but it's the first page that really has me baffled, the same as it did Charles." He lifted the cover. "And for that page, there's no need for me to translate." Instead of the Gothic writing on the cover, the words on the first page were written in a reddish brown ink in modern English. The page had been torn crosswise from left to right, but the message was largely intact:
The Cartographer
He who seeks the means to
the islands of the Archipelago
will follow the true Grail and
Blood will be saved, by willing choice
that time be restored for the future's sake.
And in God's name, don't close the door!
-Hugo Dyson
Hugo clapped them both on the shoulders. "I knew it! Well done, you old scalawags! An excellent joke! Oh, this will be a tale to dine out on! But tell me this: Who is the Cartographer?"
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2014

    Amazing book Amazing

    I love the whole series!

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  • Posted April 23, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Sadly disappointing

    This book has probably the best prose and most engaging story of the Chronicles so far. I also enjoyed seeing how the characters developed in other timelines. Except for one major disappointment with the book, I felt this was the most enjoyable of the series.

    The major disappointment I have with this book is its reference to the ridiculous idea that Jesus sired children during his time on earth. I'm not sure why the author decided to include this plot element, since it played a minor part in the story and the problem it dealt with could have been resolved some other way. But the fact that it's there almost made me put the book down for good. I decided to finish the story, hoping something would come to light showing this idea is completely false, but nothing of the sort happened.

    Adding and subtracting elements to myths and legends that everyone agrees are false is not an issue. But when you make major changes to a historical figure that is worshiped by many, it becomes a problem. It's especially disturbing because the protagonists in the stories are all well known Christians, and none of them believed that Jesus had children. In fact, they would have been quite offended at the notion. The author mentions in his notes at the end that part of the inspiration for this story was a C.S. Lewis letter that mentioned a walk with Tolkein and Dyson that led him to believe in Christ. I wish the author would have focused more on what the conversation would have really been about instead of including this ridiculous idea about Christ's children that completely undermines the hope given by the true story of Christ.

    I understand that this is fiction, and the author has made changes to myths and other fictional stories throughout the series, but I believe that this issue crosses the line of what is appropriate and what is not. I've already purchased the fourth book in the series so I will be reading that hoping that a better explanation is given for the Rose character. If not, my time with the Caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica will be done.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Indigo King

    This book was amazing. If you've read the first two, then this is a must read. I don't want to say anything so not to spoil what happens, but I will say that it's worth your while to read it. Also if you like the way that Owen has taken legends and myths and twisted them into this story then I think you'd also like the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Brilliant Books!

    This trilogy is very smartly written. James Owen ties in fiction and fact
    seamlessly for a very interesting perspective on 'myths' and 'legends'. I
    bought these books for my son but I personally loved them. Great gifts for kids(or adults) who love reading.

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  • Posted November 5, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    GREAT BOOK AND SERIES

    i read all three of these books. i found my slef drawn into them and i could not put it down. james own does a great job taking myths,fantasy and combing them together. i reccomend this to any fantasy lover. they all show how the mind can take us to places we never thought of before!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2008

    OHMYGARNIT

    I ABSOLUTLEY LOVE THIS SERIES!!!!!!!! I'm so happy that the next one is coming out!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2008

    Should be spectacular

    I have read Here, There Be Dragons and The Search for the Red Dragon so I am anxiously awaiting the release of The Indigo King. James Owen is a wonderful story teller. He ties in fantasy, adventure, suspense, mystery and a bit of romance. You really fall in love with the characters in this series. At the end of book one he delivers a twist that I never saw coming. Do yourself a favor and pick up these books. They will draw you into a world where fantasy is tied in with real characters.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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