“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 Explorers Guild: to discover the mysteries that lie beyond the boundaries of the known world.” – Inside cover of The Explorers Guild
The Explorers Guild is a unique book that is both wonderfully archaic and inventively modern. It blends stylized writing that recalls the golden age of adventure books by Jules Verne and Rudyard Kipling with graphic novels like The Adventures of Tintin. This does not mean that this heavy tome is meant for children or to be undertaken by the faint of heart. The language used is old-fashioned and the style even more so. That is not to say that it is dull or boring, but for anyone looking for a light read on the bus home, this is likely not for them.
The story itself follows a few different perspectives, and while it is not always easy to tell at first when there is a perspective change, each character and story arch is unique. From the washed up pseudo-adventurer, to the leader of a fearsome mercenary band, to the young boy with a mysterious past, each character has something deep and meaningful to add to the journey to discover the fabled passage to Shambhala. While it is obvious that the most growth is experienced by the youngest character, Bertram, it is exciting to watch the story unfold around Major John Ogden and his rough-around-the-edges dragoons.
The blend of dense, traditional prose and beautifully rendered graphic novel sections make this an endearing, amusing romp through the golden age of Victorian style adventure stories. However, the length at over 700 pages and the archaic languages make this a “love it or hate it” kind of book. If you love adventure, mystery, and old-fashioned storytelling, and you don’t shy away from the more difficult reads, this book is for you!
A solid 4 out of 5 stars. Gorgeously rendered, beautifully written, and co-written by one of the best storytellers in modern film, Kevin Costner, this book is highly recommended.