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From inside dust jacket: Behind the staid public rooms of an old-world gentlemen's club operates a more mysterious organization: the Explorers Guild, a clandestine group of adventurers who bravely journey to those places in which light gives way to shadow and reason is usurped by myth. The secrets they seek are hidden in mountain ranges and lost in deserts, buried in the o From inside dust jacket: Behind the staid public rooms of an old-world gentlemen's club operates a more mysterious organization: the Explorers Guild, a clandestine group of adventurers who bravely journey to those places in which light gives way to shadow and reason is usurped by myth. The secrets they seek are hidden in mountain ranges and lost in deserts, buried in the ocean floor and lodged deep in polar ice. The aim of the Explorer Guild: to discover the mysteries that lie beyond the boundaries of the known world. Set against the backdrop of World War I, with western civilization on the edge of calamity, the first installment in The Explorers Guild series, A Passage to Shambhala, concerns the Guild's quest to find the golden city of Buddhist myth. The search will take them from the polar north to the Mongolian deserts, through the underground canals of Asia to deep inside the Himalayas, before the fabled city finally divulges its secrets and the globe-spanning journey plays out to its startling conclusion. To throw light into the shadowed corners of the earth--this is the raison d'être of the secret order of kindred souls into which you have stumbled, gentle reader. So gather your maps, your compass, your courage, your wits and join us on an extraordinary journey into Terra Incognita, the Unknown World.


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From inside dust jacket: Behind the staid public rooms of an old-world gentlemen's club operates a more mysterious organization: the Explorers Guild, a clandestine group of adventurers who bravely journey to those places in which light gives way to shadow and reason is usurped by myth. The secrets they seek are hidden in mountain ranges and lost in deserts, buried in the o From inside dust jacket: Behind the staid public rooms of an old-world gentlemen's club operates a more mysterious organization: the Explorers Guild, a clandestine group of adventurers who bravely journey to those places in which light gives way to shadow and reason is usurped by myth. The secrets they seek are hidden in mountain ranges and lost in deserts, buried in the ocean floor and lodged deep in polar ice. The aim of the Explorer Guild: to discover the mysteries that lie beyond the boundaries of the known world. Set against the backdrop of World War I, with western civilization on the edge of calamity, the first installment in The Explorers Guild series, A Passage to Shambhala, concerns the Guild's quest to find the golden city of Buddhist myth. The search will take them from the polar north to the Mongolian deserts, through the underground canals of Asia to deep inside the Himalayas, before the fabled city finally divulges its secrets and the globe-spanning journey plays out to its startling conclusion. To throw light into the shadowed corners of the earth--this is the raison d'être of the secret order of kindred souls into which you have stumbled, gentle reader. So gather your maps, your compass, your courage, your wits and join us on an extraordinary journey into Terra Incognita, the Unknown World.

30 review for The Explorers Guild Volume One A Passage to Shambhala Autographed Signed Book by Kevin Costner, Jon Baird, and Rick Ross. Limited Signed Edition

  1. 4 out of 5

    Trapper

    Let me start by telling you what this book is not. It is not a casual read; a book that you can pick up at odd moments and continue the story without really caring about it or the characters, as so many books are, nowadays. No, this is a truly delicious book that demands your attention, that sucks you in from the first passage and doesn’t let you go until the last. The characters, the story, captivate you and make you want it all to continue. It’s not hyperbole to compare it with Kipling, Stevens Let me start by telling you what this book is not. It is not a casual read; a book that you can pick up at odd moments and continue the story without really caring about it or the characters, as so many books are, nowadays. No, this is a truly delicious book that demands your attention, that sucks you in from the first passage and doesn’t let you go until the last. The characters, the story, captivate you and make you want it all to continue. It’s not hyperbole to compare it with Kipling, Stevenson, Burroughs or London. They all have the same quality of storytelling, balancing the history and time period with making the characters real, not just caricatures. Set during WWI, it is the story of a search for the fabled city of Shambhala, but much more than that. It’s a tale of intrigue, of desertion, of exotic locales and encounters with the strange and mystifying. And to further immerse you in the time period, it is presented in the language of the time, that proper English and beautifully crafted turn of phrase that evokes Kipling and H. G. Wells. Great attention has been paid, as well, to the history of the moment they are trying to recreate, and it is very difficult to not believe that it is the real journal of an epic journey, especially with the sepia toned pages and writings in the margins. The addition of a graphic novel aspect to portions of the book is a brilliant device to allow the reader to experience a reminiscence, or some point of history integral to the plot. It adds another dimension to the depth of the story that couldn’t have been achieved otherwise. The art becomes an immersive experience, and does an amazing job of setting the atmosphere and helping to tell this tale. Though I’m not one for reading out loud, I found myself saying, “Oh, you have to hear this!” many times during the reading of it. And when the adventure was over, I did something I never do. I wanted to immediately read it over again, so loathe was I to give up these characters, this story. It feels wrong, somehow, to relegate it to the shelf, when it begs to be read again. It is an excellent, epic adventure, which I would encourage everyone to take. But be advised that it will only leave you wanting more.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Garrett

    People will make comparisons to H. Rider Haggard and the Adventures of Tintin because those comparisons are helpful and accurate. People will evoke Kipling and Victorian adventure tales and the authors of this thing are hoping that you will do exactly that. But there's something more pressingly obvious that this review must address before moving on to the content of the book. The corpus codex, if you will, the stuff of the book itself, the actual item you hold in your hands. If you are reading th People will make comparisons to H. Rider Haggard and the Adventures of Tintin because those comparisons are helpful and accurate. People will evoke Kipling and Victorian adventure tales and the authors of this thing are hoping that you will do exactly that. But there's something more pressingly obvious that this review must address before moving on to the content of the book. The corpus codex, if you will, the stuff of the book itself, the actual item you hold in your hands. If you are reading this book electronically, it is possible that (in this case alone, we shall restrict our judgmental assessments) you have altogether missed the point, and if not, at least a singular joy. The item is gorgeous, lovingly constructed with gilded map interiors and lavish color illustrations at the beginning of each "book" within the tale. The book is printed to look as though the pages have been affected by dust, water and age over time spent, one pictures, in a library which catches the sun about five hours a day, and the scent of brandy and pipe smoke for a minimum of ten. It closes with a reassuring "wumph" of paper and cover and authority and it's just a fun book to look at, switching as it does from rafts of antiquated typeface to sepia-graphic comic content and back again. You could buy this book and just set it out, and that would be okay, but you'd miss out on the stories within. Crafted to ape a "boy's adventure story" in the form of a collected volume of penny dreadfuls, this book capitalizes on some of the tired stereotypes - the gruff man of action, the concerned young woman, the manipulated child, the violent Irishman and sage Sikh - while reminding you that perhaps these archetypes only become tired and useless when written poorly. Each primary and secondary character is given some room to shift about, and this refreshes what could be a boring use of stock "types" by making this into a story not so much of heroes and villains and monsters and neophytes but of people with sliding motivations and complex histories. The journey is the thing: the objective / destination is only part of that trip. It's a big book at 700-odd pages, but much of that is graphic comics content, but don't let that fool you, either - some of it is quite dense. There are going to be people bored by this, because it's old-fashioned and takes every bit of its length to get where it's going, but I would ask you to get the book, pour a cold drink, put away your fucking phone and eschew the company of prattlers for the time it takes to complete an epic journey. Mssrs. Baird, Costner and Ross have completed a thing that if you don't at least look at it, you'll be poorer for the experience.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Quentin Wallace

    Sadly, this is the first book in recent memory I didn't finish. I just couldn't get through it. Still, there were pros and cons. First, what I liked. I liked the book itself. The pages are browned to simulate antique paper, and I thought that was a nice touch. I also liked the format. Its part text and part graphic novel, and while I was leery at first, I don't think the format was what gave me trouble. Also, the book did manage to capture the flavor of the old time adventure writers, most notabl Sadly, this is the first book in recent memory I didn't finish. I just couldn't get through it. Still, there were pros and cons. First, what I liked. I liked the book itself. The pages are browned to simulate antique paper, and I thought that was a nice touch. I also liked the format. Its part text and part graphic novel, and while I was leery at first, I don't think the format was what gave me trouble. Also, the book did manage to capture the flavor of the old time adventure writers, most notably Kipling. But while it did capture the feel of the writing, it never quite grasped the "story" itself, if that makes sense. As in, it read like someone trying to write like Kipling, and doing a good job of imitating him, but without his imagination the story didn't support the writing style. Now, what I didn't like. I just couldn't get into it. The book never did grab me. Now, I will say that I read about 1/3 of it and then didn't read it again for a few weeks, and that may have been part of the problem. The story was much more complex than I was expecting, and I may have gotten offtrack by not reading straight through. Also, the length. It was just too long. I think the story meandered, and less pages would have meant less stalling. Granted, if the book had managed to really hook me, I don't think the length would have mattered, but because it didn't, it just felt like torture trying to get through it. And finally, the complexity. I'm sure there are several readers out there who probably loved following all the different characters and all of the different plot intricacies, but for me it just got boring. I really wanted to like this one because I'm a huge fan of graphic novels and I also love adventure tales like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Jungle Book, etc. but this one just didn't do it for me. I don't really want to tell people to avoid this one, because I think even moreso than most books this one is entirely a matter of taste. If you aren't intimidated by numerous characters, dense plots, and high page counts, you still may like this one. But it just wasn't for me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    It is really difficult to describe a book like The Explorers Guild. On the one hand, it's an adventure novel that somehow mashes Jules Verne, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling and Indiana Jones all into one. On the other, it's a graphic novel that somehow reminds me of The Adventures of Tin-Tin, despite not having a child detective nor a rascally dog. But, really, The Explorers Guild is really its own thing, which makes it difficult to review. I loved the narrator, who deigns to give you the inform It is really difficult to describe a book like The Explorers Guild. On the one hand, it's an adventure novel that somehow mashes Jules Verne, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling and Indiana Jones all into one. On the other, it's a graphic novel that somehow reminds me of The Adventures of Tin-Tin, despite not having a child detective nor a rascally dog. But, really, The Explorers Guild is really its own thing, which makes it difficult to review. I loved the narrator, who deigns to give you the information that you need while holding the mystery-solving bits to himself for later. I loved the art, which is simple yet detailed, and inked in beiges and browns, like a vintage comic book might look after years kept in a dusty attic. There are spies and starlets, adventurers and abbots, men in black cloaks and men of war, all thrown together to seek after Shambhala: the mythical city that only admits the worthy. Those that aren't worthy, are driven mad, leaving a trail for our heroes to follow as they seek after the city for themselves. And while it is a commitment at over 700 pages, I think it is well worth the effort.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nick Scott

    Yikes. This book was rough. I will say that the design here is fantastic, and the book is actually full of interesting characters, situations, and ideas. But these things could not have been presented in a more dry, boring, bloated manner. This thing is a slog. It seems like for of 4 pages of actual plot of excitement, there are 80 pages of droning on about nothing important to the story (I am well aware that math probably doesn't actually work out, but you get my point). I was desperate for Ogden Yikes. This book was rough. I will say that the design here is fantastic, and the book is actually full of interesting characters, situations, and ideas. But these things could not have been presented in a more dry, boring, bloated manner. This thing is a slog. It seems like for of 4 pages of actual plot of excitement, there are 80 pages of droning on about nothing important to the story (I am well aware that math probably doesn't actually work out, but you get my point). I was desperate for Ogden and crew to get to to the sacred city by the end of the book, not because I was drawn into the story, but because I wanted the book to end. I'm the type that finishes a book regardless, but if I wasn't I would have put this one down pretty earlier on. I really wanted to like this book, as it's right up my alley, but as I said at the beginning, yikes.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    Kevin Costner is writing books now?!??!!?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Mullens

    Got to page 500 & saw almost 300 more to go. Couldn't do it. Intrigued by format & Kevin Costner. Burned!! Boring story. Characters and driveling plot not cohesive. Read the last chapter & felt a big "so what". Breaks from narrative to "graphic novel" make no sense. This is probably the 4th book in my whole life, I've not completed but I'm getting too old for crappy reading and want to start the new year with a new book. Sorry Kevin, I hope the movie version is better. Got to page 500 & saw almost 300 more to go. Couldn't do it. Intrigued by format & Kevin Costner. Burned!! Boring story. Characters and driveling plot not cohesive. Read the last chapter & felt a big "so what". Breaks from narrative to "graphic novel" make no sense. This is probably the 4th book in my whole life, I've not completed but I'm getting too old for crappy reading and want to start the new year with a new book. Sorry Kevin, I hope the movie version is better.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I love the idea of this book. It's beautiful, well done, and historical. However, the writing was just not interesting enough to convince me to stick around for that many pages. For an adventure story, it wasn't very exciting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sarah B

    I can understand why some people may find it difficult to switch back and forth, from reading a novel to a visual novel, then back again, but I loved it. I enjoyed reading the novel portions of the book, with it's rich descriptions, but I also loved having the visual novel format for the conversations. I really appreciated being able to "watch" the action, so to speak, rather then being told it all. I also loved the setting. I can understand why the writing's been compared to Kipling. I think if K I can understand why some people may find it difficult to switch back and forth, from reading a novel to a visual novel, then back again, but I loved it. I enjoyed reading the novel portions of the book, with it's rich descriptions, but I also loved having the visual novel format for the conversations. I really appreciated being able to "watch" the action, so to speak, rather then being told it all. I also loved the setting. I can understand why the writing's been compared to Kipling. I think if Kipling had ever written about an Indiana Jones-type adventure set during WWI, he may have come up with something like this. I think he would have approved the use of the inked drawings as well. I actually deliberately drew out reading this book, reading a chapter or two each night, so I could live in this adventure for a little longer. Until the last bit anyways; my self-control's not THAT good. I understand that the style the story is presented in may not be to everyone's taste, but I loved how the book was done. I would be thrilled to read more adventures set in the same style, although preferably with new characters. I like the way the story left these people.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

    This was a book of incalculable ambition but it falls short of it's goal. I am a big fan of the prose/graphic novel style and the ideas involved were fascinating (the abbot is so obese he's been turned into an island!) however in the execution of this story the actual story itself gets lost. Who are we rooting for, what is the adventure about? I feel as though I've missed something vital that would pull this book together for me. If this had been chopped up (seemingly random things just happen f This was a book of incalculable ambition but it falls short of it's goal. I am a big fan of the prose/graphic novel style and the ideas involved were fascinating (the abbot is so obese he's been turned into an island!) however in the execution of this story the actual story itself gets lost. Who are we rooting for, what is the adventure about? I feel as though I've missed something vital that would pull this book together for me. If this had been chopped up (seemingly random things just happen for no reason) and filled in (scenes are just dropped and not really explained), picking a central character and following that character throughout all of the adventures (so many points of view here I struggled to figure out who was doing what) this would have made an awesome novel and/or graphic novel. As it is though it is a book to be commended on it's beauty and the care given to it's appearance.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    I enjoyed so many things about this book; the design is superb, the narrative voice is very proper and humorous, the characters each have their own identity and a genuine camaraderie, the artwork is simplistic yet extremely effective, and its usage to illustrate key moments is downright perfect. It's a 750+ page book but much of that is artwork; nevertheless it takes a bit of an investment, time-and-focus wise. But if you enjoy classic adventure tales like Treasure Island or 20,000 leagues under I enjoyed so many things about this book; the design is superb, the narrative voice is very proper and humorous, the characters each have their own identity and a genuine camaraderie, the artwork is simplistic yet extremely effective, and its usage to illustrate key moments is downright perfect. It's a 750+ page book but much of that is artwork; nevertheless it takes a bit of an investment, time-and-focus wise. But if you enjoy classic adventure tales like Treasure Island or 20,000 leagues under the Sea, or if you enjoy reading just for the pleasure of seeing sentences unfold perfectly before you (I enjoy both), TEG will take you on a wondrous journey.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Smith

    I saw this for fifty percent off at Barnes and Noble and had to have it. It is a beautiful book. Normally, I don't buy a book based solely on its cover. The Explorers guild was an exception. It is not an easy read. It mirrors the style of old adventure books that were popular in the early 1920s and is written in an almost archaic style. It consists for traditional blocks of writing, but the story is also supplemented by comic book strips. The art in this book is as wonderful and intricate as the I saw this for fifty percent off at Barnes and Noble and had to have it. It is a beautiful book. Normally, I don't buy a book based solely on its cover. The Explorers guild was an exception. It is not an easy read. It mirrors the style of old adventure books that were popular in the early 1920s and is written in an almost archaic style. It consists for traditional blocks of writing, but the story is also supplemented by comic book strips. The art in this book is as wonderful and intricate as the writing. If you can get past the archaic writing style, this book is a wonderful read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Hillis

    A great top notch adventure novel.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Thomas

    Imagine an epic tale that takes place mostly in 1917-18 amid the backdrop of World War I, about an imaginary group of clandestine adventurers from all walks of life but with the common goal of finding the legendary mystical Buddhist city of Shambhala. Imagine further that their various journeys, often undertaken separately from one another, take them from the arctic regions of the North Pole to the desert expanse of Mongolia and just about every shadowy place in between. And finally, imagine the Imagine an epic tale that takes place mostly in 1917-18 amid the backdrop of World War I, about an imaginary group of clandestine adventurers from all walks of life but with the common goal of finding the legendary mystical Buddhist city of Shambhala. Imagine further that their various journeys, often undertaken separately from one another, take them from the arctic regions of the North Pole to the desert expanse of Mongolia and just about every shadowy place in between. And finally, imagine the writing style to be reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, and Jules Verne. I first saw this book on the shelves of an old fashioned brick & mortar bookstore and simply had to buy it. It’s a marvelously produced product with gorgeous old-world illustrations and pages that are slightly browned at the edges to provide that old-timey feeling. But even more interesting was that throughout the book, we are treated to high quality graphic novel content and artwork mixed in along with the prose. So in essence it’s an illustrated adventure novel. This really speaks to what can be done with real paper books vs. eBooks and I’m so happy to have this in my home library. As for the story itself, the novel is a real throwback to the style of those authors I mentioned previously. It’s told in five parts (or “books”). We're treated to hidden cities, underground rivers, a mysterious order of monks, zeppelins, séances, Theosophists, intrepid lady explorers, battles at sea and in the air, etc. etc. We visit places that are, as Conrad would put it in Heart of Darkness, "the blank spaces of the earth" such as found in Africa, India, South America and Manhattan. I found it best to not rush through this epic story, preferring to read on it a bit and then set it aside in favor of other, more traditional novels. But each time I left it I felt drawn back to it in short order, I was that compelled. The characters are vibrant and interesting and the settings are just plain cool. The reader must certainly keep up their level of concentration for fear of losing the threads on the many story arcs that are happening. This is certainly not a book to read in a busy airport amidst multiple distractions. You will notice Kevin Costner’s name on the cover and my research indicates he was a large part of the heart and soul of this book and was planning on developing it as a multi-platform vehicle as well (meaning movies, TV, etc.) All of the amazing artwork was done by Rick Ross and it is truly inspirational and provides a huge impact. It is evident that all of those behind the development of this book have a considerable passion for what they were doing, harking back to a very specific tradition of adventure stories, one that belonged to the nineteenth century. Wonderful stuff indeed!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hayley

    Originally posted on BlueAnteater The short:  A lengthy, somewhat dense book that mostly captures the aesthetic of early 20th century literature but fails in the most important aspect: heart. The long: This book wasn't at all what I expected, and that's both a good and bad thing. First, the physical aspects. It really is a gorgeous book. You open up the cover, and the gently aged appearance of the thin pages do look like a novel from the 1910s. And the illustrations, though sparse, are lush and old- Originally posted on BlueAnteater The short:  A lengthy, somewhat dense book that mostly captures the aesthetic of early 20th century literature but fails in the most important aspect: heart. The long: This book wasn't at all what I expected, and that's both a good and bad thing. First, the physical aspects. It really is a gorgeous book. You open up the cover, and the gently aged appearance of the thin pages do look like a novel from the 1910s. And the illustrations, though sparse, are lush and old-fashioned and beautiful. The most unique (and modern) aspect, however, is the graphic novel-esque comics within. There is very little regular dialogue in A Passage to Shambhala ("he said," "she said," etc.). It all is mostly contained in these panels with the characters talking in speech bubbles, with a few action sequences tossed in. This is a good thing because the rest of the text is very . . . authentic. By that, I mean near-perfect 1900s speech, of the proper excessive tone you might find in a Jules Verne novel. Whoever did the lion's share of the writing (I suspect Jon Baird) definitely did their homework. References to countries and inventions and schools of thought are accurate (as far as I can tell), and the prose is on-point. I genuinely think that if I didn't know better, I'd've thought this was actually from the World War I era. Well, besides the sexy stuff. This isn't a children's book, regardless of what you might think from the cover. The sexual content and violence is relatively tame, but it's in the adult genre for being complex, though a well-read teenager should be able to make their way through this. Unfortunately, along with old-timey speak comes the reality that this book tends to be dense and rather boring. Any English or History major will know this feel. And there's a mark against its being accurate: racism. It's one thing to say that white people, especially back then, were distrustful of foreigners. It's quite another to use actual derogatory language to describe the physical and cultural characteristics of people of color. I don't care if this was "written" by an ignorant rich fool traveling through an unknown territory; in reality, it was written in 2015, and this is inexcusable - and hurtful. I almost abandoned the book then and there but decided to keep going in hopes it wasn't repeated. Luckily, this turned out to be correct, though the bitter taste in my mouth lingered. Anyway, this is all mostly aesthetics; what about the story itself? Again, this is where A Passage to Shambhala falters. It takes awhile for the plot to get going, at least so we, the audience, understand what's going on. I'll avoid spoilers, but in short, there is a mission to find Shambhala, a city that has a tendency to disappear and then reappear halfway across the globe. There is an omniscient narrator, but we also see the perspectives of Arthur Ogden, one of the "lucky" few to have come across the mysterious city, and Mr. Sloane, an equally mysterious man with many agendas. Other characters include Miss Harrow, an actress turned explorer; Bethram, a very special boy; Corporeal Buchen, a young soldier who gets caught up in the adventure; and Major John Ogden, Arthur's brother and leader of his "dragoons," who are basically ex-military pirates. I don't remember hardly any of their names, but the most prominent are Mr. Renton (?), a boy entirely too sassy by half; Mr. P-- (?), the Major's Sikh adviser; and Mr. Giant (alright, I forgot all their names). In any case, there's a lot of characters, and it's hard to keep track of who is who. This maybe wouldn't matter so much if I cared more about them, but the narration is very detached, as per the style of the late 1800s/early 1900s, and so I rather looked forward to the comic panels, for at least I could have a visual of what was going on. All in all, it's a fascinating book, if perhaps too ambitious. I also don't quite understand Kevin Costner's role in this, as it seems to be almost entirely Jon Baird's writing, and Costner isn't even mentioned in the acknowledgments. So there's that, but I only know Costner from Field of Dreams, so though his name wasn't an impetus for me to pick up the book in the first place, it was why it was featured in Entertainment Weekly and how I learned of it. Anyway, I'm not sure that I'd recommend it beyond general interest in a modern take on an old writing style, and appreciation for the beautiful artwork.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tom LA

    I agree with the grievances shared here by other reviewers who gave this book 2 or 3 stars: its structure is a mess and many scenes are included (or dropped) seemingly with no reason at all. In short, the writing overall could have been much, much better. The visual style of the book is unique and beautiful, but I couldn’t get past the childish look of every character: with that disproportionately big head, everyone looks like a funny puppet. The tone of the book, meanwhile, is not juvenile or f I agree with the grievances shared here by other reviewers who gave this book 2 or 3 stars: its structure is a mess and many scenes are included (or dropped) seemingly with no reason at all. In short, the writing overall could have been much, much better. The visual style of the book is unique and beautiful, but I couldn’t get past the childish look of every character: with that disproportionately big head, everyone looks like a funny puppet. The tone of the book, meanwhile, is not juvenile or funny. So there’s a mismatch there that threw me off. In addition, like other readers said, the story told is just not very interesting.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nostalgia Reader

    So very, very long winded, and not any action in the first part. The combination of regular novel (for the narrating and backstory bits) and graphic novel (for the bits with the dialogue) was unique and I did enjoy the concept, but how the story was split up into these parts just didn't do it for me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    “The future remains as closed as it ever was … and I am not sure the past is any less a mystery.” A conscious throwback to the adventure tales of the likes of Verne, Burroughs, Kipling, and Haggard. Larger-than-life heroes and villains set upon a stage much like actual world history and geography to play out a great adventure. Even told, narrator and all, with a nineteenth century tone. There’s a reason we don’t write like that today. What’s starts as quaint, soon devolves into cute, and decays i “The future remains as closed as it ever was … and I am not sure the past is any less a mystery.” A conscious throwback to the adventure tales of the likes of Verne, Burroughs, Kipling, and Haggard. Larger-than-life heroes and villains set upon a stage much like actual world history and geography to play out a great adventure. Even told, narrator and all, with a nineteenth century tone. There’s a reason we don’t write like that today. What’s starts as quaint, soon devolves into cute, and decays into tedious after 700 pages. “Lost? No, you should consider, rather, that you are freed from the wheel of things.” Don’t let the page count daunt you, more than half is presented in comic book (Sorry. I mean graphic novel) format. The drawings aren’t particularly good—that is, they are good, but they’re wooden and repetitive. (I’d be tempted to duplicate the same figures and faces, too.) I think they were reaching for the type of book which they liked as children. A credible attempt, but I’ll not rush purchase of the next volume. “A man without a stake in the world loses the guiding light of his humanity.” I read the hard-cover edition. The pages were artificially browned to appear aged. It’s of a piece with the cuteness mentioned above. I can’t imagine how an electronic version will read. My experience with maps and illustrations in Nooks and iPads has not been encouraging. “I cannot tell if we are on to the greater and deeper workings of the world or only lost in some madness.” Quibbles: The putative title appears nowhere on the dust jacket. Can’t tell that Costner did anything with the writing beyond helping to imagine the story and lend his name for publicity. (I assume it worked.) “… at or about the millennium …” referring to 1900? “… strikes a match.” In a hydrogen-filled dirigible? (The continent-spanning underground river is fine; it’s that kind of book.) “You’re a d-mned little imp, too, though I know a great many good men who started out that way.” Numerous verbal oaths are softened by omitting the vowels. Perhaps that is also a practice drawn from a century ago. Only marginally effective. “These days [or childhood] are gone out of memory and we’re covered up with these wasting, old bodies.”

  19. 4 out of 5

    Therese Thompson

    This booked practically tossed me a rope to tow me in from its place on the library shelf. I’m a sucker for a good spine and cover design and the book just plain looked splendid! The old time type-face and mysterious illustrations, the inscription on the back cover addressing me as “Gentle Reader” and aged tone of the paper-they all called to me, as did the spine notation of Volume One, signifying more adventures to come! Cracking the booking, I found striking graphic illustrations interspersed This booked practically tossed me a rope to tow me in from its place on the library shelf. I’m a sucker for a good spine and cover design and the book just plain looked splendid! The old time type-face and mysterious illustrations, the inscription on the back cover addressing me as “Gentle Reader” and aged tone of the paper-they all called to me, as did the spine notation of Volume One, signifying more adventures to come! Cracking the booking, I found striking graphic illustrations interspersed with text and a gorgeous color painting to begin each of the five books inside this exciting journey, “A Passage to Shambhala.” To a girl who grew up trekking through Edgar Rice Burroughs’s jungles of Africa and tracking H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha, She-who-must-be-obeyed, this looked to be another great imaginative quest to immerse myself in. Correct! A cracking good tale of a secret society created to explore the still yet undisclosed corners of the planet, circa WWI. Our hero, young Corporal Buchan of the Third Light Cavalry, is charged to deliver a mysterious message to the legendary Major Ogden, enlisting his aide and that of his regiment of 40 crazy fighters to find the mythical Shambhala, crisscrossing the globe and crossing all manner of enemies on this dangerous quest. The illustrations rapidly move forward the fast-paced tale and also bring out its not inconsiderable humor. Further, the drawings delightfully serve in breathing life in the numerous characters, with their unique appearances and marvelous facial expressions, and perfectly complement the novel’s exposition. I now have my eye out for the Explorer’s Guild’s coat of arms over non-descript doorways…and await the next [email protected] Librum on fb

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I loved this book! Though it is long and takes some commitment of time, it is worth it. Baird and Costner have written a fully developed adventure story that keeps you guessing and at times nail-biting and yet they never vary the pace of the story from one of an elderly gentleman, sitting in the guild, sharing his tale with no regard to time. This goes against today's society of movie-goers and thrill-mongerers and yet it works beautifully. The story and its band of misfits made me laugh, cry, g I loved this book! Though it is long and takes some commitment of time, it is worth it. Baird and Costner have written a fully developed adventure story that keeps you guessing and at times nail-biting and yet they never vary the pace of the story from one of an elderly gentleman, sitting in the guild, sharing his tale with no regard to time. This goes against today's society of movie-goers and thrill-mongerers and yet it works beautifully. The story and its band of misfits made me laugh, cry, gasp, and--most importantly--read and wonder. At it's core is Major John Ogden and his troop of dragoons who have deserted the British army in favor of an adventure that Ogden hopes will save his brother's life. While all these men are rough around the edges, we get to know them well throughout the story and it was hard to say good-bye at the end. They are joined by Corporal Buchan, Miss Harrow, Bertram. But how do their paths connect? And is Mr Sloane a good guy or a bad guy? Those lines often get blurry for most of the people we meet in this story. Perhaps the most unique feature of the book is how it is told. Baird and Costner easily slip between traditional prose and graphic novel panels to relate their tale. The art is beautifully done and truly adds to the story in a way that just throwing in an occasional illustration couldn't do. I hope to see a volume two from The Explorer's Guild so that the adventures might continue!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Miranda

    This is the first graphic novel that I have ever finished though I have started several others. I would give it some credit for being engaging enough to see me through a genre I wasn't certain of. I got this novel for Christmas from my husband after falling in love with the cover of the novel in Chapters. This novel is a victorian style adventure story in the vein of Indiana Jones and other treasure hunting adventurers. I recently bought the board gamae Fortune and Glory and this reminded me of i This is the first graphic novel that I have ever finished though I have started several others. I would give it some credit for being engaging enough to see me through a genre I wasn't certain of. I got this novel for Christmas from my husband after falling in love with the cover of the novel in Chapters. This novel is a victorian style adventure story in the vein of Indiana Jones and other treasure hunting adventurers. I recently bought the board gamae Fortune and Glory and this reminded me of it a lot. Apparently, I have a thing for treasure hunting adventures! The novel follows a rogue set of men during WWI as they follow their leader on an adventure to save his brother. His brother has been stricken ill be apparently discovering Shambhala in the Arctic. The adventure traipses around the world as they get into various shenanigans, collecting even more unusual characters and eventually discover what they are looking for. I was surprised to discover by reviews that people either love or hate this novel. I suppose it is a bit slow to start and full of a fairly intense story. It is certainly not a novel you would want to give to children despite modelling itself off of old children's stories. If you can get through the slower bits it is definitely worth the read. I was sad when the novel ended and can't wait for the next adventure.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I wish that I liked this book as much as I wanted to. It wins some points for presentation, as the book itself is a nice thing to look at. The idea of creating a novel/graphic novel hybrid is also creative and interesting. However, I do not feel that the story was very good. First of all, I will admit that I am not a fan of sci-fi or fantasy and "The Explorer's Guild" has elements of both. Secondly, and I don't want to be too pedantic, but this book's complete disregard for history drove me batt I wish that I liked this book as much as I wanted to. It wins some points for presentation, as the book itself is a nice thing to look at. The idea of creating a novel/graphic novel hybrid is also creative and interesting. However, I do not feel that the story was very good. First of all, I will admit that I am not a fan of sci-fi or fantasy and "The Explorer's Guild" has elements of both. Secondly, and I don't want to be too pedantic, but this book's complete disregard for history drove me batty. It's fine to blend different eras if that's what you want to do, but "The Explorer's Guild" quite explicitly takes place during the First World War and is full of references to things that were out of period and that drives me crazy.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    This book was gorgeous. It's reminiscent of old Tin Tin stories and I loved it. It's a great mix of traditional novel and graphic novel and perfectly well made. It dragged quite a bit, and should have been way less than its 750 pages, but I forgave it because of how much I liked looking at the book itself.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Sedinger

    I loved this book! But I can see why a lot of people would hate it. I'm not sure if this book is an homage or a pastiche...maybe it's a bit of both. But it looks back to stories like those Jules Verne spun, and it is written in much the same way, with prose that is dense and verbose (if not actually prolix). This is the type of book where each part (there are five parts) begins with a page like this (quoting directly): BOOK ONE of Five Introduces a STRANGE DIVERSION alongside the ROAD OF HISTORY While t I loved this book! But I can see why a lot of people would hate it. I'm not sure if this book is an homage or a pastiche...maybe it's a bit of both. But it looks back to stories like those Jules Verne spun, and it is written in much the same way, with prose that is dense and verbose (if not actually prolix). This is the type of book where each part (there are five parts) begins with a page like this (quoting directly): BOOK ONE of Five Introduces a STRANGE DIVERSION alongside the ROAD OF HISTORY While the GREAT WAR proves INSUFFICIENTLY GREAT for one CORPORAL BUCHAN This is alongside a full-color illustration of an episode to come, captioned with a bit of the text. This device will be a welcome sight for those who remember the way books like this used to be made. THE EXPLORERS GUILD is clearly intended as a throwback to a very different time, when adventure books were very long and very wordy. The prose style here does make it hard, at times, to really home in on the characters; everything feels like it is being described from a certain respectable distance. My own reading experience was that this book does not lend itself to quick sips of a page here, two pages there; this is a book best savored in long drafts. Not all of it is in prose, though! At times the book switches to a graphic novel format, with art that is excellent but spare and every bit as reserved as the prose. The book is also stunning in its physical design. It's not just WRITTEN like an old-school adventure story, but MADE like one, so it feels like something you might see in the back of a used bookstore, where the REALLY old stuff is. Illustrations throughout. Antiquated type-faces. Ornate title pages and endpapers. The pages themselves are yellowed to look old. This book probably shouldn't be read, if it can be avoided, on an electronic platform. If you like stories about secret societies that meet in privilege behind unmarked doors, about adventurers to far-flung locales where the maps are vague, where water ships and airships are used to cross huge distances, where old stiff-upper-lip soldiers have to venture into the unknown, then I do recommend this book. Beware of the stylistic pitfalls, because I can see them tripping up many a reader.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Frederik

    As with many books thick enough to serve as masonry units, The Explorer’s Guild is slow to start and all too easy to set aside for more appealing distractions – and this despite the fact that the book is part graphic novel. Where there’s a case to stick with for the first few hundred pages or so, it lies in Rick Ross’ clean artwork and, most of all, Jon Baird’s beautifully crafted writing mannered after the style of Victorian/early 20th Century. Unlike Susanna Clarke’s clever but twee pastiche o As with many books thick enough to serve as masonry units, The Explorer’s Guild is slow to start and all too easy to set aside for more appealing distractions – and this despite the fact that the book is part graphic novel. Where there’s a case to stick with for the first few hundred pages or so, it lies in Rick Ross’ clean artwork and, most of all, Jon Baird’s beautifully crafted writing mannered after the style of Victorian/early 20th Century. Unlike Susanna Clarke’s clever but twee pastiche of English literature in her Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Baird’s prose succeeds as a charming recreation because it emphasizes the earnest rather than the ironic. It succeeds perhaps a little too well, however. The narration, set as a personal relationship between the narrator and the gentle reader, casts us along the lines of a guest of the Explorer’s Guild. All that’s missing is the brandy and cigar as the narrator regales us with the tale of adventurers in pursuit of a mysterious city alternately known throughout history as Shambala, El Dorado, Atlantis, and so on. But this approach creates a distance between us and the characters, precisely because the narrative is explicitly narrated, which means it is also interpreted. And when characters are filtered through the narrator before reaching us, there is less room for one of reading’s best delights: interacting with the characters through our own perspective and imagination. The result is that even by the time we reach the book’s end, it’s hard to feel all that vested in the characters’ welfare and purposes except in the most general, abstracted sense. Still, when the going finally gets adventurous, the adventure gets going with increasing gusto. Alas, where it leads is straight to an anticlimax. As we follow John Ogden, a British major and force of nature during World War I, along with his rough band of dragoons on a global hunt for the fabled Shambhala at the behest of his brother Arthur, we are treated to an artful catalog of perilous classics: airships, underground cities, strange machines, hidden castles, and nostalgic parties inhabited by the closest approximation to zombies Old Europe could muster, namely, displaced and obsolete Aristocrats. Along the way, Baird treats us to innumerable details of this and that, many of which only serve to create a mood rather than develop characters or kick the plot forward. Yet none of that changes the fact that the narrative is resolved, not by the protagonists whose journey we followed, but by a quasi-antagonist who essentially shares the same goal yet operates on information the narrator purposefully withholds from the reader. In other words, our protagonists are sent on a wild goose chase only for their rival to swoop in and complete their task – for obscure reasons. It’s a sleight-of-hand, which isn’t at all like the charming deception of a stage magician but rather that of the con artist playing a shell game in a dingy back alley. Baird’s, and fellow co-creator Kevin Costner’s, muddled conception of Shambhala does little to salvage an enduring sense of satisfaction from the ending. Never defined or described concretely, we are given oblique references that present the mystical city as surprisingly unappealing despite its supposed heavenly character . The city, which only appears at specific times in various places around the world, comes across as an elitist by-invitation-only paradise that offers amnesia, or death, to interlopers. Baird attempts to relate the city to the course of history, with Arthur’s early foray to the city serving as a violation of metaphysical etiquette that has to be redressed at the risk of some kind of cataclysm. Yet the final panel, which implies the restoration of world order brought about by our protagonists’ rival, rings false given what we know of the 20th Century after World War I: a century of horrors that Alan Moore grasped more keenly in From Hell than Baird and Costner do in this book. Also unfortunate is how Shambhala is presented as a rebuke to science’s ability to know the world. For a book that celebrates adventure, it misses the point: science isn’t a dogmatic collection of facts, but an active pursuit of the unknown infused with a sense of awe. Even if we were to be charitable and apply Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of non-overlapping magisteria, assigning science and spirituality their own territories, the book succeeds even less as a spiritual journey. Where the exploratory scientific aspect is given some weight thanks to the Explorer’s Guild concept – despite Shambhala looming over the narrative as the universe’s way of spanking materialists – none of the characters approach their quest as a spiritual one. And by the end, they certainly don’t achieve any sort of enlightenment. The mystical might as well be called by its real, if not entirely accurate, name: MacGuffin. Finally, and this is a minor grievance, the book isn’t even really about the secretive yet globe-spanning Explorer’s Guild, that august club of adventurers (or perhaps genteel drunkards with a talent for fanciful storytelling). Other than launching the narrative when one of its members, Arthur Ogden, sets out to deliver a comeuppance to a hated social rival by setting out for adventure in the North Pole, the Guild puts in but cameo appearances. For the most part, the book’s major characters really have little to do with the Guild except for sporadic encounters. Altogether, The Explorer’s Guild Volume 1: A Passage to Shambhala is a handsomely printed book with more potential than is realized and little incentive to look forward to further volumes.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This will probably be a long and rambling review. I'm sorry. This book is a lot of things. An action adventure reminiscent of Indiana Jones. A graphic novel with beautiful illustrations. A mystery. A piece of art. It's hard to pick just one. There are few books out there that I care to have the physical copy of. My house is vomiting books. It's ridiculous. I have them everywhere. Collected over the course of a lifetime because, you know, we didn't always have ebooks, and I only hopped on the Kind This will probably be a long and rambling review. I'm sorry. This book is a lot of things. An action adventure reminiscent of Indiana Jones. A graphic novel with beautiful illustrations. A mystery. A piece of art. It's hard to pick just one. There are few books out there that I care to have the physical copy of. My house is vomiting books. It's ridiculous. I have them everywhere. Collected over the course of a lifetime because, you know, we didn't always have ebooks, and I only hopped on the Kindle train a year or two ago. Stephen King, Bernard Cornwell, and Karen M Moning, among others, all get coveted shelf space. Why do I mention this? Because if you decide to read this book, or borrow it from the library, under no circumstances what so ever, should you get the ebook format. It gets five stars for presentation. The pages are delicate and antique looking, pictures of artifacts can occasionally be found woven into the text, the "graphic novel parts"(can I just call them comic strips? How are you supposed to refer to these?) anyway, they are lovely, and there are a handful of beautifully rendered color illustrations which I absolutely adored. I repeat- no ebook. Moving on to the story itself. It is slow. I won't lie. I read some reviews before hand, and it seemed this was a book people either loved or didn't finish. I was undecided until about the two hundred page mark. After that I found myself unable to stop at some parts. By four hundred pages I was pretty addicted. And towards the end I was almost crying for some characters. I don't know how it happened. I don't know where it happened or when. This is a novel that cannot be devoured in a day. Not even if you had the time or wanted to. Nor do I recommend anyone should. It needs pacing. 50 pages here- 50 pages there. But I also don't think it's a book that should be read too slowly because you will likely become bored and give up. The plot is very interesting, and there are enough action points, but not necessarily many action scenes. I know that makes no sense. I think it's due to the story telling. It's told from a disconnected narrator looking back on the past. Sort of like: oh, and then there was a long car chase and this is how it happened. You want to know what happens next, but you aren't really speeding through the book to see how it all ends. The parts of this that are graphic novel were sometimes confusing for me to follow. Many of the characters had similar clothes and similar hair. Sometimes they're just shadows or silhouettes. I found my footing eventually, but it is tough for someone who has no experience reading comics or other graphic novels. There are still some parts I'm not sure exactly what happened. Mostly the ending. No idea what happened to Sloane. Or Arthur. Not even really sure if John is following through with Pomeroy's offer. So you might be asking, if I found it slow and confusing at times, why the four stars? It was the characters and the imaginative, creative story. The characters, though it took me half the book to straighten them all out, were fucking awesome: Renton (the 13/14 year old boy and my standing favorite) has more heart and more courage than any other man in the 5th dragoons. He's sassy and clever to boot. Mulcairn, the giant fightin' Irish, was a beast with a soft spot. Buchan, the gentle good natured soul with manners, who'd sacrifice himself to be accepted by them. Major John Ogden, fearless leader, hell raiser, cares deeply for his men and his sister. Pennsette, the wise cracking trigger happy Scotsman with a soft spot for Bertram. Mr. Priddish, the middle eastern sage, who is certainly dangerous in his own right, but is not so impetuous as the others. O'Hara the other, not gargantuan, Irishman. There are several other important characters in the book, but they are all easy enough to keep straight, so I won't mention them here. Above I have listed the more important members of the Fifth Dragoons, who are not, in fact, explorers, but army deserters, not at all loyal to the army but completely loyal to Ogden, assembled from all parts of the world by happenstance. They read just like you'd expect a rag tag group of ruffians and army deserters during WWI to read. Shoot first, ask questions later. There was no challenge too great, and though they fought amongst themselves like brothers, they stood united against a common enemy. They were just so much fun. And though I didn't experience the immediate sense of closeness with them as you might with books told from first or third person, most of them worked their way into my heart eventually. Because most of them proved more good then bad. It was a subtle thing and I didn't even realize I cared until they were very nearly on the verge of death. As I mentioned above the story is very imaginative and will take you to all kinds of places. The arctic. The desert. A castle in the Ukraine. You'll attend a seance. Meet a man who is literally an island. Visit strange cities underground unknown to the vast wide world. The storyline here and the places were so imaginative you can't help but be sucked in by it. I need a break for now- but I'm hoping in the future I can find the time to read it again with the knowledge I now have and take even more away from it. It is definitely not a novel everyone will enjoy, but if you can push to the end I think most will find themselves pleasantly surprised. I'm actually pretty disappointed to see there isn't a Volume 2 of The Explorer's Guild yet, and am hoping for one in the future.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Ambrose

    Sorry, I usually like to give books more of a chance than this, and the art is beautiful, but this book is way too pretentious for me. I'm not sitting through nearly 800 pages of "And as the Near-East salaams to the tents and pavilions of her Indian guests, as the sentries challenge a young rider on the Basra Road, we find Lieutenant-General Sir John Nixon, our red-phized John Bull, commander of the Company armies in the theatre, behaving preciously as he would at this hour in his club in Madras Sorry, I usually like to give books more of a chance than this, and the art is beautiful, but this book is way too pretentious for me. I'm not sitting through nearly 800 pages of "And as the Near-East salaams to the tents and pavilions of her Indian guests, as the sentries challenge a young rider on the Basra Road, we find Lieutenant-General Sir John Nixon, our red-phized John Bull, commander of the Company armies in the theatre, behaving preciously as he would at this hour in his club in Madras." Hard pass.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Austin Storm

    An incredible labor of love. It's not a pastiche of adventure stories, it's the genuine article. Like H. R. Haggard and similar. The writing is tremendous, it does lose some momentum around page 500 but saves some of its best moments for the last 3rd. I wish there would be more volumes, but I can't imagine such a work (which took 4 years and many, many co-authors and artists) succeeding well enough to warrant another. Nor can I quite imagine it on the screen without significant changes. But I'm An incredible labor of love. It's not a pastiche of adventure stories, it's the genuine article. Like H. R. Haggard and similar. The writing is tremendous, it does lose some momentum around page 500 but saves some of its best moments for the last 3rd. I wish there would be more volumes, but I can't imagine such a work (which took 4 years and many, many co-authors and artists) succeeding well enough to warrant another. Nor can I quite imagine it on the screen without significant changes. But I'm hoping against hope for either.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sean Harding

    Stylistically beautiful, but the plot didn't always hold my interest. Quite long as well.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    3.5 I had low expectations for this book. It's got a 3.3 average rating on GoodReads, for goodness's sake. And then there's the Kevin Costner of it all. But I also wanted it to be good. So much about this book seemed aimed squarely at my interests—the art direction making it a wholly immersive experience, with a beautiful, unified cover and dust jacket, the pages yellowed to seem like a 19th-century tome; the multimedia use of prose and comics together; the very premise of explorers and secret soc 3.5 I had low expectations for this book. It's got a 3.3 average rating on GoodReads, for goodness's sake. And then there's the Kevin Costner of it all. But I also wanted it to be good. So much about this book seemed aimed squarely at my interests—the art direction making it a wholly immersive experience, with a beautiful, unified cover and dust jacket, the pages yellowed to seem like a 19th-century tome; the multimedia use of prose and comics together; the very premise of explorers and secret societies and epic, Verne-like quests across the globe in an earlier era. To deal first with the bad: this book earns its comparisons to Kipling in the worst way possible: racism! This review explains the situation pretty well. Was Arthur Ogden's "ill treatment" (the book's own mild term for it) of the Inuits realistic for the era and the character? Undoubtedly. Was it in any way necessary to the story? Not remotely—take it out and the plot doesn't change at all. Worst of all, by the time those uncomfortable several pages come about, we're so embedded in Arthur's POV that it's extremely difficult to separate out character from narration—that is, the authorial voice seems not to be condemning this blatant racism, nor even presenting it in the factual and detached way of historical scholarship, but actually supporting it. There were two shorter moments that also left a disgusting taste in my mouth on a different subject: sexual harassment. This story follows a group of lovable rogues—you know the type. Think Pirates of the Caribbean. They're criminals, thieves, deserters, brawlers, murderers, but of course we never see them do anything too bad. The people they harm are mostly stuffed-shirt types or even worse evildoers who we can be absolutely sure deserved it. Their antics are played for laughs, we see their bonds of friendship with each other, we see how their own code (honor among thieves!) is in some ways more noble than anybody's (again: Jack Sparrow, pirate, freer of slaves), we come to appreciate their charm. And we brush quickly past anything that might make us question the lovableness of these rogues (how many innocent people were hurt when they started that riot? surely they're spreading PTSD wherever they go? aren't they technically war criminals?). This is standard procedure in these types of stories, and I'm absolutely fine with that. Pirates of the Caribbean would be a lot less fun if it featured a subplot dedicated how to the impoverishment, humiliation, and trauma resulting from the actions of our merry band of pirates led an entire family to starve to death. That sort of realism would make the story much less entertaining—and since PotC is the kind of story whose primary goal is to entertain, that sort of realism would make the story worse. In these two instances, we see members of the dragoons, our lovable rogues, sexually harass women they encounter. And these are portrayed as part and parcel of their general antics, exactly as "haha, how fun and naughty these guys are! they're too cool to play by the rules!" as their other exploits. One of these harassers is later executed as a traitor, but the other never suffers any kinds of consequences to suggest the narrative condemns his actions, which indicates that the traitor's sexual harassment of Miss Harrow wasn't intended as foreshadowing of his secretly evil nature. Just more lovably roguish behavior. These are still the good guys! Wasn't it hilarious how one of them forcibly grabbed a maid and held her as she struggled to get away, telling her how much she turned him on and trying to "persuade" her into having sex with him, while his friends laughed and cheered him on, until she managed to break free and literally fled in terror? WHAT CHARMING SCOUNDRELS. This book was published in 2015. I'd hope, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, someone would have caught these instances and made the authors cut them—better, that the authors never would have written those moments at all, much less used them for humor. Of course it's ridiculous that it took the #MeToo movement for people to realize that women fearing rape at the hands of our "heroes" isn't particularly funny, but that's a tenet of the movement, isn't it? It's ridiculous that we even have to say these things, that they're not already incredibly obvious, but here we are. Unfortunately, these three things (Arthur Ogden's racist tirade, the instances of sexual harassment) were only the most blatant, should've-been-caught-by-any-reasonable-person-in-the-year-2015 examples of -isms in the book. The other examples are the more subtle, insidious, and unfortunately common expressions of an (often unconscious) privileged worldview that's unsurprising to see from a bunch of well-off straight white male authors in the 21st century. Things like there being only one female character of any significance, and her falling into all of the most predictable tropes left and right (femme fatale, defrosting ice queen, damsel in distress, redeems herself as a person and a woman through discovering her motherly instincts). Or how, even as we trek all over the world, all our main characters are white men, with people of color playing (at best) one-dimensional stock roles (i.e. Mr. Priddish, the wise Sikh who's devoted his life to offering advice to his white commander), (at medium) background and scenery/prop roles (i.e. every non-white member of the dragoons, who barely feature), and (at worst) stereotyped villains (the lecherous perversions of middle eastern men, with their harems). I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Now, as I said, I love the premise of this story, because I'm always drawn to this kind of adventure story with secret societies and maps and airships and pirates and hidden histories. That is, I love the idea of this kind of story, but so often the execution falls short. And one of the ways they most frequently fall short is that in all the excitement about plot and setting and worldbuilding, they forget to pay attention to the things that make people actually invested in a story: character and relationships and heart. The Explorers Guild falls somewhere in the C-range on this subject. Most of the dragoons seem entirely interchangeable in personality/background/skills/accents, and in one case, looks—meaning I was over halfway through the book before I realized that what I had thought to be one character was actually two characters, with nearly identical haircuts/stubble/features/outfits/ways of speaking and behaving. Miss Harrow and Corporal Buchan's relationship was as predictable as it was boring. And it would have been nice to have more development between John and Arthur Ogden, whose brotherhood technically fueled the story, except it sure didn't feel like it (especially because John kept claiming to be helping his brother because his sister wanted him to, because of course men can't care for other men without some intermediary woman—something that was never dealt with or used as an opportunity for character growth). But honestly, I've seen books (and movies, etc.) do a lot worse when it comes to investing us in characters. I would've liked more character development, more focus on relationships, but we did get some, and I did get invested in certain relationships and characters through a combination of sometimes-the-authors-did-try and I've-just-spent-so-much-time-reading-this-book-that-I've-bonded-to-the-characters-despite-their-thinness. In roughly ascending order of investment, I cared about: the general brothers-in-arms bond of the dragoons (and Buchan's acceptance into this), the O Captain! My Captain! dynamic between Ogden and his men (Mr. Renton especially), Sergeant Pensette's protectiveness of little Bertram, and Mulcairn's devotion to his horse. There were all sorts of opportunities the book missed to make me care more (chief pet peeve: the sidelining of Betram and Pensette for Miss Harrow and Bertram, because of course the one woman has to be the one who takes care of the kid and grows to love him as her own, even though she's never liked children before). But I did care. This review has been almost entirely criticisms, I realize. Partially because they needed to be said (particularly the racism and sexism stuff), partially because it's just easier to write in detail about the stuff that was bad than the stuff that was good. For the record, and in much shorter terms, here are the things I liked about the book: as a physical object, it's beautiful. A work of art that you can tell a lot of work went into, and a lot of attention was paid to detail. I'm always a sucker for multimedia storytelling, and this book's mix of comics and prose was wonderful. I cared about some characters and relationships, as written above. The adventure and mystery of it all kept me intrigued and moving quickly along. (The fact that so much of this book is comics keeps it from feeling like a slog, too. Not only did I not get that "ugh, this book is so fucking long feeling," I actually got to feel extremely accomplished for gobbling up so much of the book at a time.) And most of all, the prose is delightful. It's rare to find a pastiche that really works well, that doesn't feel like a hollow imitation but actually captures the spirit and charms of the genre/inspiration it's trying to. (Let's just say I wasn't as impressed with those Star-Wars-in-the-style-of-Shakespeare books as everyone else was.) John Baird's writing succeeds. So many turns of phrase made me smile. It's got exactly the clever wit and humor of the late 19th-/early 20th-century books it's imitating, adjusted to 21st-century conventions just the right amount. At times (needless to say, not that time) Arthur Ogden's diary reminded me of P.G. Wodehouse's writing, which is one of the highest compliments I can give. All told, this is a tremendously flawed but tremendously fun book. They're always the toughest to grapple with, these stories with such extremes of high and low, good points and bad—much more difficult to reconcile than books that are just consistently mediocre. I'm glad I read it, but I'm also glad I got it for free. I'll keep it on my shelves, but I won't eagerly press it into the hands of friends and insist they've got to read it. If Volume 2 ever materializes, I'll add it to my TBR, but I won't be disappointed if it never does. I don't think it deserves as low a rating as it currently has on GR, but I'm also glad its low rating sent me in with accordingly low expectations, because that probably helped me like it more. (Incidentally, The Explorers Guild has a lot in common with The Mongoliad, another ambitious project with multiple authors telling a multimedia tale of epic adventure in an alternate/"secret" history setting. The latter is still on my TBR, but I've seen the same type of criticisms lobbed at it—the lack of heart, of characters and relationships the reader actually cares about in the midst of all the bells and whistles. Though I've yet to read the "main" story, I have read Cimarronin, a graphic novel set in that world. In terms of character and plot, I would say much the same things as I did about The Explorers Guild: I could've cared more, but I did care, and I found the story/setting enjoyable. But Cimarronin does much better in terms of the whole straight white male author thing. Women and characters of color have purpose and agency and prominence and multidimensionality! I'm not going to hold it up as some paragon of representation, but there's a counterexample to go along with The Explorers Guild's what not to do.)

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