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Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
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A fun mix of classic fantasy elements. ( )
  shaunesay | Jun 21, 2017 |
Bland, poorly-written, overwhelmingly stupid fan-fiction disguised as a novel that's clearly supposed to make fantasy nerds cream their pants from all the references but probably only made the author cream his pants while writing it. As a fantasy nerd, I was not impressed. Neat premise, sure, but terrible execution. I can't help but wonder who this is for. It is so poorly written, so pandering, so bland, so generic, so predictable, so stupid, so contrived, so utterly derivative that you'd need to be a kid to get any enjoyment out of it, and this is coming from an adult that reads a lot of kid's books. Not a single aspect of it could be called good writing by any standard.

The characters have exactly zero personality until the author needs to manufacture drama, and then they get angry with each other for absolutely no reason. Jack (C.S. Lewis) in particular is portrayed as a callous jerk, but only sometimes, when it's convenient and the author needs to add some tension to a boring scene. At the start of the book he really tears into John (Tolkien) for things that are clearly not his fault, and continues to take shots at him throughout the book when you're least expecting it and never for any legitimate reason. What the hell? Why? It's the most contrived crap I've ever read, and totally unnecessary. Like I said, it's manufactured drama. It's fake. It's false. Is this a novel or reality television?

Having fictionalized versions of beloved authors that are kind of bland is something I can totally understand. If your prose, world-building, plot, and secondary characters are all fantastic then you can easily get away with bland protagonists, and they're real people, so maybe you don't want to portray them as anything other than stereotypical upstanding Englishmen just to avoid controversy and to be respectful to their memory. But then why turn them into annoying drama queens at the drop of a hat?

It very much seems like the author tried the first method, realized his characters were completely two-dimensional and every other aspect of the book was so terrible that it didn't make up the difference, so he added a bunch of random "flavor" to them in the second draft that straight up doesn't make any sense and comes out of nowhere. Such poor character writing I have scarcely seen in my entire life. If you're a writer yourself this book is almost worth reading just as a crystal clear example of what not to do.

The plot is just generic magical nonsense. To give you an idea of how much the story cares for logical consistency, the seat of power in the Archipelago of Dreams originally became such not through military might, but because they grow fantastic apples and people really love good produce. As if someone with military might wouldn't just take over your land and your apples... It's said as an off-hand joke, sure, but it's representative of how much the book as a whole cares about having any kind of logical consistency, which is to say it doesn't care at all.

Some more extreme examples of complete logical failings:

The Winter King, the clever and powerful antagonist we're supposed to fear, steals a leather-wrapped book from our protagonists and then immediately sails away and sinks their ship without unwrapping the book to make sure it's the right one, which of course it isn't. I check my bag at McDonald's to make sure they got my order right before leaving and you can't even check to make sure your enemy didn't sneakily hand you the wrong book before sinking their ship and leaving them to drown?! The Winter King clearly has an intellectual disability and needs a legal guardian to look after him, because nobody who's that stupid is capable of looking after themselves. This book is secretly a post-modern meta-commentary about the mental health-care system (I wish).

And this happens right after one of the characters mentions that he purposefully didn't sink their ship when disabling it with cannon-fire because he really needs the book and can't have it sinking to the bottom of the ocean and getting lost forever, which it absolutely would have if the protagonists hadn't been rescued from drowning by a deus ex machina. Speaking of deus ex machinas, they seem to be the main way of moving the plot forward in this book, so get used to that.

The Winter King isn't the only dolt though. Our characters are deliberately trying to destroy the aforementioned book at this point, sailing to the original creator of the book so he can tell them how to destroy it when The Winter King boards their ship. But get this, they can't destroy it because it doesn't burn. Okay, but then why do they take great pains to keep it from getting wet? Have you tried getting it wet? Have you tried ripping the pages into a million pieces and scattering them to the winds? No, of course they haven't. That would make too much sense. The only character that does try to rip it is one of the bad guys, towards the very end of the book. It doesn't work of course, but the fact that it wasn't even tried is ridiculous. Lazy, lazy author.

And if it can't be destroyed, why do they not think to throw it in the damn ocean which, as they just pointed out, would keep it out of The Winter King's hands? Literally things would've been better if our main characters just drowned, because they're so stupid that being alive is a hindrance to the entire world. It all works out in the end, of course, because this book is contrived bullshit, but you get the point. They had a specific goal and would have been more successful as corpses.

A human steward of The Winter King (the character that actually tries ripping the pages) winds up on the sinking ship with our protagonists and the depth of his past treacheries is revealed pretty much right after they're all rescued. They loathe him, distrust him, and debate killing him in cold blood (which is a messed up thing to imagine Tolkien and Lewis debating) and yet instead of doing that, they take him along on their adventure for...some reason that is not explained, and let him walk around freely and unobserved. It backfires immediately (duh) and he runs off with the two magical items they were supposed to protect.

Uhhhh, hey guys? You realize there's a grey area between murdering people you distrust like a freaking psycho killer and letting them just do whatevs, right? Tie the dude up, or have someone watch him at all times, or leave him behind and don't take him along on your super important mission in the first place. How hard is that? I swear, between The Winter King and our "heroes" this book is like watching two village idiots engage in a battle of wits. You just want it to end so the cringe-inducing second-hand embarrassment will go away.

Okay, let's not get too bogged down in specific examples here or I'll be at it all day. You get the idea. It's far too idiotic, poorly written, and generic for adults to enjoy, even adults (like myself) that regularly enjoy books written for children.

On the other hand, is it even enjoyable for kids? I didn't even know who Charles Williams was, so I know for sure kids don't have a clue. Why is his name some big reveal? Kids won't give a crap. And while I'll easily accept that a kid could be familiar with C.S. Lewis or Tolkien, would they know H.G. Wells or Jules Verne? Do they know what Avalon is? Are they going to be familiar enough with Jason and the Argonauts to recognize the reference to Argo? Do they know who the hell Nemo is, or is the adorable clown fish the only Nemo they know?

Maybe a kid wouldn't notice how utter crap this book is because kids don't know shit and have atrocious taste in entertainment, but the vast majority of the references would be lost on them. And the story often grinds to a halt for the sake of those references, or relies on those references to add context to what's happening or what's being said. The big reveal of The Winter King's true identity is Mordred, for instance, which no kid is going to get. The references seem to be the entire point of the book, and there's really not a ton of action or excitement, so you have to wonder if it would even hold their attention.

This really shouldn't have any audience whatsoever because it seems to please no one, and yet a decent number of people seem to love it anyway. Unabashed, five-star love! From adults! Madness! I won't even begin to try and understand what anyone sees in this masturbatory, self-congratulatory, fan-fic garbage. It's too confusing and I lose faith in the human race with every second that I spend thinking about it. Best just to move on and try to forget. This is the dictionary definition of a one-star book, and that's what it gets from me. ( )
1 vote ForeverMasterless | Apr 23, 2017 |
An interesting mash-up of many legends, tales, and myths into a WWI Era adventure. The main character suffers from trench fever (Aka PTSD) from his time in the war which gave an interesting twist to the story. If you like British characters in classical adventure stories with a heaping helping of fantasy you'll like this book. ( )
  jrashk | Mar 3, 2017 |
Here there be dragons is a book about three people, Charlie, Clive, or Jack, and John, all scholars. One day, a strange man named Bert knocks on their door and gives them a big book-- the Imaginarium Geographica, or the Imaginary Geography. Bert says it will be safe with them, since John's professor was murdered that very night. However, they are attacked by evil bad guys, and they get on their ship, the Indigo Dragon, and sail to the Archipelago of Dreams in a different dimension. there, they meet Aven and Artus, two people skilled in completely different categories. Still, they weren't safe yet. The Winter King and his "average intelligence" assistant, Magwich, were coming after them. The Winter King destroyed their ship, and they had to find a new one.
The strange team does find a new boat--The White Dragon. They travel to the island of the Cartographer of Lost Places to destroy the Imaginarium Geographica, so that the Winter King doesn't get it--ever. however, the book was stolen by Magwich. Now their only hope is to fight back against the Winter king until Artus, the heir, can claim the throne. as they prepare for battle, however, Aven sees that Jack has no shadow anymore. that means that Jack is now a Shadowless-- a very close relative to the Shadowborn, the arch enemy of the team. Jack is arrogant, however, and doesn't go back to being a human. Later, during the battle, Jack, John, and Charlie are doing completely different jobs--all with the same outcome--the defeat of the Winter King. however, a few of their friends, like Nemo, the captain of a fellow ship at sea, die in the process. At the end of the battle, most people had their shadows taken by the Shadowborn, but the Winter King was sucked into oblivion by a friend of theirs, a dragon. Jack, John, and Charlie write a story about what happened. ( )
1 vote EthanR.G1 | Oct 28, 2016 |
So good! ( )
  katieloucks | Feb 26, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James A. Owenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Owen, James A.main authorall editionsconfirmed
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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.
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John, Jack, and Charles are strangers brought together by the Imaginarium Geographica - an atlas of all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale. On the eve of the murder of a caretaker of the Geographica, the men learn that it is now up to them to protect the atlas from the Winter King, an evil conqueror gaining strength in the world of the imaginary. After securing of the just seven ships that can cross into the imaginary lands, the three men set out to find the Winter King before he builds a deathless army that no force on Earth can defeat.
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Three young men are entrusted with the Imaginarium Geographica, an atlas of fantastical places to which they travel in hopes of defeating the Winter King whose bid for power is related to the First World War raging in the Real World.

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