I recommend this book for: high school fantasy fans
This was sooo cool. Many times as I was reading I started flipping out, then tried to explain to my husband how cool the thing that had just happened was, but I couldn't approach being coherent at all. That's the kind of book this was.
During WWI, Jack, Charles, and John, three young Oxford men, meet in London. All they have in common (other than their school) is that they are being questioned by the police in connection with the murder of a professor. John was his student, but the others are completely unconnected. As they go to get a drink together (at 221B Baker Street, mind you), they are approached by a strange man who insists that their lives are in danger and convinces them to flee with him to his ship. They narrowly make it aboard with their lives.
The professor was the custodian of a book, the Imaginarium Geographica - an atlas of all the fantasy worlds ever created. A long line of illustrious writers had passed it down through the ages, and John is the next one. The peculiar challenge that these three must face is the Winter King, who is using some terrible magic to put lands in Shadow, turning the inhabitants into fearsome creatures who do his bidding. John, Jack, and Charles sail with their guide, his daughter, and a young man named Bug in a living dragonship on a mission to save all of the worlds.
My, that's a wordy explanation. Clearly, there's a lot going on in this book. It was completely delightful - since all of the fantasy worlds are inside the Archipelago of Dreams, from Prydain to Avalon, there are all sorts of interesting characters and places - it's a bit like reading Lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Alice in Wonderland all at the same time. But then there are the author's own additions, like the Cartographer, who lives in the Keep of Time, an ever-growing tower, and the real origin of the Loch Ness Monster. Simply brilliant. It made me laugh and gave me chills. I think Owen did a fantastic job in paying tribute to the authors he mentions, as well as to the mythology of various cultures. A must-read for serious fantasy fans!
Not everyone agrees . . . don't read the first review if you don't want the coolest plot point spoiled!