Main Characters: Charles, Jack and John. Turns out John is JRR Tolkien, Jack is CS Lewis and Charles is Charles Williams. Bert (who is HG Wells), Aven is Bert’s daughter, Aven/Artus who is a descendant of King Arthur, the Winter King who is also Mordred, Ordo Maas, the Cartographer of Lost Places, Richard Burton.
Chaz – new but not new. He’s really Charles – but he’s the Charles that has been a result of the world he lives in, which is very different then the one the original Charles is from. This world has no imagination and is ruled by the Winter King, and has been for a very long time.
Hugo Dyson – a close friend of John and Jack. He ends up with a book sent to him from Charles (who is in France) which has a weird note in it. He also disappears through a door in the garden and that change turns the Archipelago into a totally different world then the one the Caretakers know.
Jules Verne – ok, not really new. But he comes back with a vengeance here, so I am treating him as new. Especially since he is the architect of the plot here (well, to the extent the Cartographer isn’t the architect of the whole darn story arc).
Uncas and the Royal Animal Rescue Team – the talking badgers who are Tummeler’s descendants.
Locations: Oxford and the (fictional) Archipelago of fabled places.
Other Important Things to Remember Later: Every fictional story, author, historical or mythological person is fodder for this author. He likes having characters be revealed to be someone else. Barton and his society are not on the side of our current caretakers.
Review: Books that involve too much time travel make my brain hurt. I thought this one was going to give me an aneurism. This is much more about time travel and the implications of the time paradox then anything else. Yikes. And it still had lots of the holes/problems of the first two. Granted, I think I liked the story of this one best – finding out who the cartographer is. But, I am utterly unsatisfied with the way it ended. Learning that there were additional conflicts between who the Winter King was and Arthur – but none of them amounted to much… really? That’s what you are going to tell me?
The first thing I had to do was accept that the time travel stuff makes virtually no sense. If Verne could do all he could, and knew all that he knew, so that our trio (as modified here) could change history, why didn’t he just do it himself? Because the author would have to be even lazier then he already is and we wouldn’t need all these pages!
You need the background of the first two books for this one to really make any sense. This author, unlike a lot of then in the serial YA novel business, doesn’t really provide much summary/background if you’ve missed the predecessors. So, one would probably be a little lost without having read the first two books. Although after reading the first two, my brain was a little overloaded with all the (what I am calling) “name dropping” that went on here. It is back with ferocity – to the display of all that the author has read. And if you are not as well read as he is, then it’s hard to appreciate some of this.
The idea to better tie the Arthurian legends to all the other stuff going on here is a neat idea. Although these days, it seems that’s what everyone is trying to do. But, here, the author is again trying to cram thousands of nods to hundreds of legends and myths into very, very little space. I again found myself reading at a much slower pace then normal to make sure I was paying enough attention, trying to catch all the clues. But often, the characters would say something like “Could it be…” like the reader has come to the same place and has the conclusion in their minds – and my thoughts at those moments were “what in the world is this about?” And the conclusion left me totally perplexed.
As for the characters here – well, Chaz is the most interesting. And he’s sort of a new character. The new badgers are cool. And so is Archie. Jack, John and Hugo – almost don’t need them in this book. Which is a shame. But, then again, all three of these books so far have been pretty poor when it comes to the character development. The trio is clearly not the trio, with Chaz instead of Charles. And Hank? Well, my opinion of that was that he was unnecessary and merely another way for the author to show off what he’s read.
The method for time travel here was interesting. A projector? Really? The talking animals and the Whatsit are more believable.
I struggled with the idea of Jesus being a “myth” – I am not saying that he was real or not. My problem is the fact that it is really hard for me to see how modern religions mesh with the notions of ancient mythology or fictional writing and putting it all together. If I was a religious fanatic (which I am totally not) I probably would have been very offended by a number of things in this book. It turns out to be an awful lot about “faith” – in what, it’s left for each reader to decide. But that’s the end message.
I would have loved to have some of the time travel stuff make a little more sense – or be explained a little. I don’t like that in the universe Owen has created is the idea that I don’t have many of the rules. It feels like he makes them up as he goes along. Which is very inconsistent with what he must be doing because of the way all the characters are weaved together. There were also a number of abrupt chapter jumps in this book which did not have smooth transitions. When we first meet Circe we don’t have any clue as to why. Why introduce us so early if we don’t have any idea why. Again, this too tries to weave together too many legends, myths, etc., in much too little plot and writing. And the premise that we need to find out the true name of the Winter King – it turns out to not matter at all. So, why send me on that wild goose chase. Finally, I really don’t like the wimpy half-hearted effort to set up what must be the next book. The last little chapter with Burton – please. That was a waste of my time. I am left wondering if I really want to read the 4th book. I know at a minimum, I am reading a few other things first.
I am bored of this world. Which is a shame since I think it’s a great idea, I am just not sure the writer has faith that it is too. And I am bummed that they changed the cover art with my version of this one. But, oh well, not buying the 4th installment anyway (might library loan it, if I can get the energy to do so).