Adventurous mash-up of tributes to classic tales with oddly familiar protagonists.
Three English university students, John, Jack, and Charles, find themselves caught up in a fantastical adventure when one of them is selected by his mentor to be the next caretaker of the atlas of The Archipelago of Dreams - the solid, living reality of all of the mythical places you have ever wished you could see.
The morality here seems to be fairly good. Responsibility is emphasized, debts must be paid, and shirked obligations can be fatal. The villains can be quite nasty, but then, they ARE villains. One character allows the villain to sow doubt in his heart, but he comes back to his moorings by the end. The largely magic-and-myth based spirituality may be an issue for some, though.
Magic is real, and not considered inherently moral or immoral. Some men have literally transformed themselves into monsters by engaging in terrible acts. Three women are referred to as witches: they speak interchangeably, own magic artifacts, and prophesy. Shadows and souls can be stolen and stored in a magic container, and later they are restored: the power seems to be the in the container, not in who is using it. A man seeks peace for his soul by fulfilling a ceremonial duty. Pagan myths (specifically, Greek) are referenced.
One thing conspicuously absent, considering that three main characters were supposedly based on men who, in real life, were all Christians, is the Christian faith. This is not to say that there are no Christian references whatsoever —Adam and Eve are mentioned in passing, and humans are called “sons of Adam” by one character, for example — but characters do not seem to be Christians, and when prayer is spoken of it is not a means of communication with God, but a means of affirming one’s own belief, whatever that may mean.
The book opens with a murder, which is not graphically shown. The crime scene is viewed afterward. A character dreams about battle. Enemy minions are said to be cannibals. Characters speak of the drowning of Atlantis, of casualties of war, and of the slaughter of a young boy’s family. Rioting breaks out in a council session. Characters are chased by an angry dinosaur. The enemy is interested in a coup of the Archipelago: this necessarily involves fighting, including skirmishes and one major battle. A man is dropped from a great height.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Glasses of brandy are poured, but not visibly consumed. Satyrs are said to only be interested in drink and women - fauns are supposedly better about this, liking their drinks, but liking them less often and milder than satyrs.
Jack is keenly interested in a young woman, shown wearing form-fitting clothing in the illustrations. He is not the only one interested in her. A previous Caretaker is said to have abandoned his duties in order to marry. Satyrs are said to only be interested in drink and women.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
"Drat and darn" is used once.
While it took awhile for me to connect with the characters, this is a fun read, with its many shout-outs to and re-imaginings of myths and classic stories, its clearly drawn good versus evil confrontation, and the "twist ending" which many of its potential readers may have already encountered in publicity online, but which still adds depth to the story. Also, its black-and-white inked illustrations are luscious. Considering who the characters are, however, the lack of Christian presence in the story may be bothersome. It is nice, but it could have gone so much deeper.