From School Library Journal
Grade 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
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The unusual murder of an Oxford professor brings together three strangers in World War I London: John, a soldier and the professor's correspondence student; Jack, a young Oxford student; and Charles, an editor at the Oxford University Press. One rainy night they meet a curious man called Bert who tells them that they are the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica
, an atlas of imaginary lands. Forced to flee in Bert's ship, the group sails to the Archipelago of Dreams, where a battle over Arthur Pendragon's throne threatens to place the evil Winter King in charge. Owen brings together elements from well-known works of fantasy and legend: the lands and characters lean heavily toward Greek and Arthurian myth, while clues from the caretakers' works point to the legendary writers they will become. Although the episodic plot is overlong, and the period narration's formality occasionally slows things down, there's still plenty of action, and Owen's amazingly detailed pen-and-ink illustrations, dark and atmospheric, lend a real storybook flavor. This is the first volume in the Chronicles of Imaginarium Geographica series. Krista HutleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved