HTBR: Here, There Be Dragons

I have another Halfway Through Book Review ready to go for you. I’ve made it halfway through James A. Owen’s Here, There Be Dragons, and here are my thoughts.

John, Jack and Charles are brought together after their mentor is found murdered. All three of them received their tutelage through correspondence, and until now have never met. It doesn’t take long after getting acquainted that they are presented with a book, the Imaginarium Georaphica, and they’re running for their lives. Chased through a rainy London, they make it to a ship and embark on a journey of a lifetime.

The first thing that struck me about this middle-grade (MG) book were the ages of the main characters. All three of them are in their early twenties. This is definitely the exception and not the rule. Most MG books place their protagonist’s age close to their target audience’s age or slightly older. Though this caught me off guard, it didn’t put me off. I did have a hard time differentiating between the characters at first. As of now, I only know them as, the “chosen one”, the angry one, and the other guy.

The setting starts out in London, sometime during the first World War. I’m not sure the significance of this, solely because the majority of the novel takes place in a fantasy world created by Owen, but also heavily borrowed from classic mythology. I’m willing to let this go only being at the midway point. Although I do hope it becomes clears by the ending why the author chose this time period to jump off from. He’s already created a gap in his characters and his audience’s age, it also looks like he might be losing readers by talking about an era that a younger reader would find hard to relate to.

As for the story itself, I’m having a hard time not thinking of it as cliché. It’s the classic hero’s journey. Even the people they meet along the way are a rehashing of characters from much earlier works. Elements from Alice in Wonderland, Arthurian legend, and even the Bible can be found, although I’m unsure if this will be noticed by the younger reader. Some sure, but not all.

Here at the halfway mark, I am completely dumbfounded by the utter stupidity of the main characters. They seem intelligent enough, then a particular event transpires that baffles me. How could they not see this coming? As to not ruin this for anyone, I’ll not spoil it, but trust me. You’ll know it when you get there.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the artwork in this book. Owen does ALL of the drawings for his series. In fact, he’s an illustrator first, and an author second. From the book cover to each chapter drawing, his illustrations are fantastic. I don’t doubt each drawing takes as long or longer to create as it does each chapter, revisions included.

So I will complete the book to see if it pays off. I’ve already heard from various other sources that it does. It’ll have to pull off something magical though. As I’m okay with the story, it’s just not gripping me like I’d want it to.

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