Sunday, July 13, 2008

A -bit- of a Drag...

I’ve begun reading a book I’ve had on my shelf for a long time. I bought it because upon hearing the premise, it stirred curiosity. I believe I had been reading one or more of The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones (author of Howl's Moving Castle) at the time. Eventually the book became one of the daily fixtures that barely get noticed.

But I recently read what is contained within the sequel to this book, which made me after all this time, reach for Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen. The story revolves around Jack, John and Charles who find themselves in possession of a magical book and thrust into an adventure into the Archipelago of Dreams to stop the Winter King. The twist is that these gentleman are none other than C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. It’s based on the fact that they were all Oxford men, so what if they all met, had a supernatural adventure and returned to write fantastic tales? Intriguing.

Even more intriguing is that I find myself reading another book that fictionalizes real people.

What I read that prompted me to pick it up, finally, is that reportedly J. M. Barrie and Peter Pan himself are in the next book, The Search for the Red Dragon. All right. Now I have to be involved in reading it.

First let me say that Barrie is already alluded to in this first novel: Jamie, who liked playacting in Kensington Gardens. Who else could it be?

I am not wholly impressed so far, but then I am not wholly disappointed either. There are some rather overused conventions coming together to make this tale occur. A stormy night, a mysterious stranger, a sudden upheaval into another world… Not that these elements can’t be used effectively. But here they seem a bit too contrived to create a fairy tale . Perhaps this is part of the goal. To make our own world feel and seem as if it could turn into a fairy tale at any given moment. A concept dear to my heart, as my profile indicates. But here it doesn’t yet feel cohesive. I’m too aware of the conventions. Maybe it just lacks atmosphere. Perhaps I would feel more immersed and willing if it did not go so quickly. Rapid action has its time and place, too, of course. But here these elements here just don’t seem to mesh.

Also, it’s a bit obvious where and how the story pieces from the three authors are woven into their adventure. For instance, the Winter King obviously becomes Jadis, the White Witch and Ruler of Narnia for a century. Forced, perhaps.

And then there is the, for me, gratuitous use of literary characters. For example, what should sail up and along to help them out in a dire situation at sea? Verne’s Nautilus, complete with Captain Nemo. He exists in the Archipeligo of Dreams because….well…anything can….actually, I’m not really sure. That aspect hasn’t fully explained to satisfaction.

But I am not disliking enough that I’m not turning pages. The premise is still fun. It may be too early to judge. I am only going into Chapter Six of Twenty-Four. A lot can happen in that time. I’ll see where it leads and get back to you.

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