Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen

When John receives a note from his professor urging him to go to London to see him, John sets off immediately. But before he arrives, his professor is discovered murdered in his study.
After John and two other young men, who were also on their way to see the professor at the time of his death, are questioned by the police inspector, they are approached by a strange old man who tells them they are the caretakers of a magical atlas. This atlas -- the Imaginarium Geographica -- contains all the worlds described by myths, legends and fairy tales and can be used to guide a person to and from imaginary lands. John is sure there is some kind of mix-up, but before he can protest, they are chased by mythical man-eating creatures and he finds himself running for his life.
What follows is a quest to save both the "real" and imaginary worlds from the evil Winter King who is taking over with his army of Shadow-Born, terrible, lifeless creatures that cannot be killed.
This isn't a nail-biter thriller, but it definitely is a great adventure story with plenty of action. The first chapter starts off with the murder and from then on the main characters are moving from one fantasy world to the next. There are plenty of talking animals, trolls, magic rings, and treachery. The language is a bit archaic, but it fits the 1917 England setting and is not unlike the writing found in many of the more classic fantasy novels. What kept me reading though, was all the references to characters, places and plots of myths (Greek, Eqyptian, Norse), legends (e.g. Arthurian) and other famous literary works (Jules Verne, Dickens). It was really neat to have them merge and interact together and kind of entertaining to look for the more subtle allusions throughout the book as well. The problem with this of course, is that readers who are not familiar with these tales will miss the references, especially since not all of them are explicitly explained in the book. However, this being said, those who like the more classic fantasy style will most likely still enjoy the book, as it the plot itself is intriguing enough.
This is the first in the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series. James Owen is also the illustrator and author of the StarChild comics and books.

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