Book Review: A Passage to Shambhala (The Explorers Guild #1) by Jon Baird and Kevin Costner

Why have I never heard of this book before? It has been out for three years and only when my mother took it out at the library did I ever hear of it’s existence, which just astonishes me. And yes, the second author, Kevin Costner, is the same actor and filmmaker that so many people know and love (for me, his movies are hit or miss but I do like his acting).

How do I describe this book? I have so many words and yet so few which truly encompass it.

Release: Oct. 20, 2015

Synopsis: The book centers around the mysterious “The Explorers Guild” organization, a place where adventurers come to feel at home. Set during WWI, the plot follows brothers Arthur and John Ogden and a cast of truly unique characters as they journey through the world in search of the legendary city of Shambhala.

Non-Spoiler Review

This book is intimidating even to start, considering it sits at nearly 800 pages, a mash between a graphic novel (like the Tintin series) and a classic lost world book like King Solomon’s Mines or The Lost World. Some pages will be written in proper prose, while others deviate into a comic book. Just for the incredible design of this book (the pages meant to look old, the artwork, the detailed descriptions), I could easily recommend it. The humor is hilarious and, while the plot and pacing is not without its faults, if you like the Lost World genre, I highly recommend this book.

I happen to love the Lost World genre. I grew up adoring comics series like Tintin and movies like The Mummy. The idea that there are unbelievable historical mysteries still hidden beneath the earth is fascinating to me. And this book certainly delivers.

The story starts off with Arthur Ogden, an adventurer who, on a dare from his cousin, sets off to the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic to find the legendary city of Shambhala in 1912. What he finds changes his life. But we don’t see that immediately, as we move forward in time to 1917, to Mesopotamia, where Arthur’s brother John and his Fifth Dragoon Guards receive a message from his brother that they must aid him in a crazy quest to bring his Shambhala expedition to closure.

On the way, we meet an array of very…unique characters, including actress Evelyn Harrow, who has given up acting for an obsession with Shambhala; Corporal Buchan, a young soldier tasked with delivering Arthur’s message to John and ends up following him and his dragoons; Mr. Sloane, a mysterious man who seems in charge of the expedition; and of course all the violent and slightly insane dragoons who follow John Ogden. And that’s just mentioning a few of the characters, most of which seemed to have left their sanity behind years ago. But the characters by far were my favorite part of this book.

The plot is quite long, and quite a bit of information is kept from the reader, making it both confusing and frustrating at times. Because we are often following so many storylines (side plots, backstories, etc.), it can make it a bit difficult to keep everything straight. I found myself wondering how the characters had gotten from point A to point B, and at times I felt the authors were keeping information purposely from the reader for no reason.

Saying that, I was really happy with the ending, despite a few of my favorite characters dying, and even though the book is extremely long, the break up between comic sections and prose sections helps to make the book feel not so overwhelming (mostly because the comic sections go so fast).

I’m actually not going to do a spoiler section on the ending, because it would have completely ruined this book if I had known what was going on when I started it. So I want to keep it a surprise for all my fellow readers if you decide to read it.


This is a long book, but in my opinion it’s well worth reading.

But disclaimer! If you are sensitive to slight crude humor or swearing (even if they are censored, like bloody becomes bl–dy), this probably isn’t the book for you. I didn’t mind it because neither was used often, but if it’s something that bothers you, be forewarned.

In conclusion, I loved this book! The history. The adventure. The characters. Everything was so much fun. Since it says volume 1 on the front, I checked to see if there might be a sequel, but none is up on Goodreads. However, if there was a sequel, I would certainly by the first to read it! I’m amazed that I have never heard of this book before, because it is just my cup of tea!

Have you ever heard/read this book? What are your thoughts on the Lost World genre in general? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

21 thoughts on “Book Review: A Passage to Shambhala (The Explorers Guild #1) by Jon Baird and Kevin Costner

  1. Hi there — Jon Baird here, the non-Kevin half of the Explorers Guild writing team. Wanted to thank you very much for this thoughtful review! (And addl thanks to the elder Mme Writer for spotting this title in the library.) As you note above, our length, subject, language, format &c. &c. pretty well disqualify this book as a big-market blockbuster, so we appreciate the kind words we do get all the more, even — or especially — after 3+ years. Thank you again, and take care! — jb

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey, I like the idea of a traditional novel taking turns with a graphic novel! Funky. πŸ˜€ Were the graphic novel parts well done, in your opinion? It sounds like something I’d enjoy, but only if the art was top notch. I love Tintin, too (kinda), and that sets a certain standard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would say the graphic novel parts are very similar to Tintin, with slightly less cartoonish humor. I enjoyed the graphic novel parts, but when my mother tried to read it she did not like the simplistic drawings. So you could like it or not…it all depends.


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