Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Here, There Be Dragons

Here, There Be Dragons (The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica) by James A. Owen was originally published in 2006. My hardcover copy has 326 pages. It's recommended for young Adults (YA) 8th grade and up, although I wouldn't hesitate giving it to a younger reader.

This book is one of those that is going to be hard for me to review. It's a YA book, so reviewing it as a book for it's target audience would be much different from reviewing it for adults. Some YA books are easily assimilated into favorite books for adult readers, The Book Thief comes readily to mind, but some books should stay YA books and be reviewed as such for a reason. Here, There Be Dragons is definitely a YA book and I'll review it as one. If I reviewed it as the adult reader I am, it would suffer. Besides, I personally know that there are some great kids out there who really like Here, There Be Dragons and count it among their favorites.

This is classified as "fan fiction". If you are a fan of Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, H.G. Wells, or Jules Verne, to name just a few authors, then this might appeal to you. Woven throughout the story as part of the plot are references to many other author's work. It's a clever concept and will likely appeal to many young readers. Be forewarned that flaws in the flow of the plot are numerous and a scientifically minded kid may scoff at a few sections breezily written that could never occur in real life (such as swimming into and out of a sinking cabin on a ship - without getting sucked under), but these kids, along with adult readers, need to suspend disbelief and simply read this for pleasure.

Basically, the story begins when, after a murder, three young men are pressed into service to protect the Imaginarium Geographica. They are being pursued by the villain who wants it for himself. At the end you learn that these young men are the future authors of books most kids will know and love. Apparently movie rights for Here, There Be Dragons have been negotiated, which should increase its YA popularity.

I can't say I'm a fan of fan fiction and probably would not have been a fan of this book when I was in the target age range. My thoughts are quite simple. If you enjoyed the original, then why not reread it? Here, There Be Dragons is never going to be considered a great piece of literature or even a classic, like the works of many of the authors Owens alludes to in his story, but it does fill a certain niche in the market that has opened up in recent years. To enjoy it, sit back, relax, turn off your inner reviewer, and enjoy. It's an easy read. I'm continuing the series with the second recently released book, The Search for the Red Dragon. I will also be passing this book along to some readers that better fit the demographic for which it is intended. (Sorry, no rating on this book in deference to the young adult fans who love it.)


"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?" pg. 2

"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." pg. 15

"It is the world, my boy... 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." pg 20

"It serves exactly the use one would think: to guide one to, from, and across imaginary lands." pg 21

"Power, true power, comes from the belief in true things, and the willingness to stand behind that belief, even if the universe itself conspires to thwart your plans. Chaos may settle; flames may die; worlds may rise and fall. But true things will remain so, and will never fail to guide you to your goal." pg. 105

"Secrecy is the weapon of those like the Winter King - they have power only so long as the secrets are kept." pg. 163

"A sea monster loose in Scotland. That's going to have some interesting repercussions." pg. 183

"Our weaknesses are always evident, both to ourselves and to others. But our strengths are hidden until we choose to reveal them - and that is when we are truly tested." pg. 191

"I know you, don't I?...You seem familiar to me. Not in a 'blood brothers' way, but more of a 'so-you've-come-to-date-my-daughter' sort of way." pg. 197

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