Here There Be Dragons by James Owen. Recommended by Gina Dalfonzo at Breakpoint.
A murder brings three Oxford “scowlers” together on a dark and stormy night in a club at 221B Baker Street, London. When an eccentric stranger, Bert, crashes the party, or wake, and tells the three that they are all in danger, they are forced to believe him by the appearance of strange, bloodthirsty creatures called Wendigo outside the window and clamoring to get in. So they flee, in Bert’s ship, and the adventure begins.
Shades of Narnia: There’s a Dawn Treader-like ship, and an island voyage, and nightmare creatures, and talking animals. Oh, and the world has an edge where you can fall off.
Shades of Alice in Wonderland: The trio feel as if they’ve landed in a world turned upside-down and backwards, and the King and Queen of Hearts make an appearance, croquet mallets in hand.
Shades of Morte d’Arthur: One of the islands is Avalon, and King Arthur has some influence on events in the book.
Other cameo appearances are made by Dickens’ Magwitch and the Green Knight and Captain Nemo and the Three Fates and Pandora and assorted goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, and even the evil Mordred. To me anyway, none of the references to classical mythology and more recent fantasy felt derivative or plagiaristic, merely allusive and suggestive. I had lots of fun trying to place the various literary allusions and trying to figure out where the appearance of this character or that plot element, reminiscent of a particular classic work of fiction, was leading the story.
There’s a nice surprise at the end, and if you read the reviews at Amazon, the surprise will be spoiled. I want to say I had it figured out, but I really only had it partially figured out. Suffice it to say that fantasy fans won’t be disappointed in Mr. Owens’ tribute to the best imaginative writers of all time.
Colleen at Chasing Ray loved it as much as I did: “Here There Be Dragons is all about stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing and being smart and brave and saving the world and readers are going to love it from start to finish.”
Oh, and Computer Guru Son walked by while I was reading and stopped to looked at the cover art. He really liked the art, which I think was also done by James Owen.
According to the author’s website, there’s a sequel called The Search for the Red Dragon, and the next book in the series is coming out in October, 2008. It’s called The Indigo King, and I sure wish I could get an ARC of that one.
Mr. Owen also has a Livejournal sketchbook and blog here, last updated August 22nd of 2008.