The Search for the Red Dragon

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 and the Cartographer of Lost Places.

NEW CHARACTERS:  Laura Glue (Peter Pan’s granddaughter), Sir James Barrie (a prior Caretaker), Richard Burton, Daedalus, Hugh the Iron and William the Pig.

Main Premise:  After beating the Winter King, the trio of Caretakers go home and don’t contact each other.  One evening, Laura Glue crash-lands in a garden looking for James Barrie.  The group visits with Barrie and learn about an old myth – “the Crusade” – which apparently has to do with all the children going missing.  Bert is summoned and the group head back to the Archipelago.  They discover, upon arrival, that the Dragonships and the children have all been stolen.  So, they head to the Keep of Time and discover that the fire that was started in book one is destroying the keep.  It was necessary in book one to escape, but now it is having disastrous effects.

The Cartographer directs the group to the Underneath – an island under the water of the Archipelago (think Dante’s circles for this one – it’s even got 9 levels).  The group had left the book in the trunk of a car but Tummeler had rough copies made (that’s the business he is in now) and that is ok for a while.  Laura shows up though with the original finally.  They get to the Underneath and are attached by indians (sort of the indians from Peter Pan and they are said to be the descendants from Roanoke).  The leader of the Indians is Richard Burton – a leader in a society created by the Queen to make the book available to anyone.  He lets them escape and captures them later, asking about his daughter.

Things get a little confusing here.  Jack continues in the Underneath, finds Peter Pan who is being manipulated by a mysterious shadow who has pipes which lead the children.  Jack has to surrender his childhood to save Peter, the Titans come to the rescue and the shadow is revealed to be the Winter King.  Peter, temporarily, beats the Shadow King.

Locations: Oxford and the (fictional) Archipelago of fabled places.  Within the Archipelago – Aiaia, Plato’s Cave, the Underneath

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.  There is some manipulation – and its not clear by whom.  And there is more to the Cartographer then there seems – what and how – we don’t know yet.

Review:  Like with the first book, I waited a little to do this review.  This was better then the first book, but still felt like an exercise in name dropping and like the author was trying to do way to much in too short a space.  Was he just lazy?  Didn’t want to give the plot and the characters the page time they were worth?  I don’t know.

This book, even more then the first was a lot about how well read the author was.  Not that I didn’t like the book – but I had a number of issues with the writing here too.  First, I had a lot of trouble with some of the dialogue and following who was saying what.  I was also very confused for a while by the fact that a number of the characters are referred to by various names.  It took considerable effort to keep reading some of the chapters.  How Pan and Barrie ended up mortal enemies is really still a little beyond me.  One might think I didn’t pay much attention to the book based on how poorly I followed it sometimes, but I really did.  After reading the first book, I made a conscious effort to try to unearth the clues and figure out things with our characters.  However, every time I thought I figured something out it would either be wrong or I would discover that it wasn’t important enough to the plot for the author to ever get around to telling us.
Aven’s relationship with Pan… seemed to come out of the blue.  Again, this was light on the character development and more about the plot.  Was a little more tolerable here then in the first book.  Like the first book (and not quite as badly as in the third book) this, I felt the author was trying to do way too much in too short a book/timeframe and as a result the execution was a little shaky.  Bringing Barrie into the picture was nice, but some of the weaving together of the mythologies with Peter Pan and “The Pan” just wasn’t given enough development.  And I still don’t know how the Winter King’s shadow survived (and how the heck is the Winter King Hook?  I totally missed the links with that one) and how the problems in this book really started.

It was funny to me to see where C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe came from in this world.  I loved the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe as a kid and it was fun to see what might have been the inspiration for it.  I also really love the badgers.

There is still this idea that the events of the Archipelago effect the real world (and vice-versa) but it still isn’t explained or demonstrated.  So, I feel like  something’s missing.  It took some doing for me to understand the real significance of the Red Dragon – and frankly, I think the Red Dragon is more important to the plot of the third book then this one.

I also felt like we never really got a very good understanding of “the Crusade” or a number of details.  Again, more evidence that the author only half-delt with much of what he set up.  I still don’t know if that is laziness – or maybe setting up for the next book?
It was interesting for those who can tolerate large leaps in plot, lots of name dropping, hints/nods to other books and authors – all tied together by a little magic and a little bit of dragons.

All in all, if you want to read what is probably the best book in the series (admittedly, I haven’t read #4) – which is #3, you need to read this one (even more so I think then the first book) first.  But otherwise, take it out from your library – don’t spend the money buying it.



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