Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum by R. K. Mortenson

Regular readers of this site know that I enjoy well designed and well written fiction for children or young adults. And like most fiction aficionados, I enjoy a good series as well. So when the latest Landon Snow adventure by R.K. Mortenson was featured by the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance I made a mental note to read it. I recently managed to do just that.

Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum is the third book (following Landon Snow And the Auctor’s Riddle and Landon Snow and the Shadows of Malus Quidam) in this Christian fantasy series for younger readers.

Like the other books in the series, this one finds Landon in Minneapolis anticipating a trip to his grandparents in Button Up, Minnesota. This time Landon is playing football. But things get a little weird when, as he tries to avoid the tackle of a large classmate, he starts seeing weird animals instead of fellow football players. Given his past adventures, Landon wonders how this vision ties into his pending trip up north and whether he will once again visit Wonderwood and see his friends from that magical world.

After an disappointingly uneventful night of sleep, Landon heads out to the library where his previous adventures began, but this time he has both his sisters with him. At first it seems as if nothing unusual is going to happen on this trip, but soon a leak in the library roof turns into a flooding torrent and they are struggling to survive the churning waters. When a stone rowboat turns to wood, and with the help of a magical book, Landon and his sisters soon find themselves out to sea on a huge boat.

The children spend a restless night at sea, but soon meet up with some of Landon’s old Wonderwood friends like Melech the talking horse; the Odds Hardy and Ditty; and poet/prophet Vates. They explain that they are traveling to Island of Arcanum to rescue the animals of Wonderwood who are trapped there by Malus Quidam. But in order to accomplish their mission they must somehow defeat the Arcans, the evil servants of Quidam that control the island and hold the animals hostage. And once again, Landon’s vision holds the key; if he could figure out what it means.

Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum, like the previous books in the series, is a good natured, and often humorous, adventure story with an explicit Christian slant. Mortenson has a light touch and so the Christian elements aren’t over done. While there is danger, and the characters are involved in the battle between good and evil, the story avoids the focus on darkness that many fantasy stories of this type. The focus is instead on how Landon’s faith helps him face these challenges and how he must trust the Auctor if he is to succeed. All of this endears the series to parents and children alike.

While I can see the value in this series and appreciate the imagination involved, and the skill it takes to weave in the faith elements without overtaking the story, I think this is the weakest of the books so far. It has the feel of a filler story; a book that introduces some characters or plot elements but whose own story is a little slow. There just wasn’t as much creative adventure involved this time around. Nothing much happens as they travel on the boat and, unlike previous books, there doesn’t seem to be as strong an overarching theme (the meaning and purpose of life in book one and courage and faith in book two). The pace quickens once they reach the island, but the resolution involving Landon’s vision didn’t make much sense to me and seemed a little too easy.

It could be that I have come to expect too much from a series aimed at young children. I have a hard time judging what is a thin plot for certain age groups and what is appropriate. The Landon Snow series is certainly an imaginative and wholesome series for parents seeking to avoid the darker side of fantasy fiction. But for me, Landon Snow and the Island of Arcanum, while still entertaining, just didn’t have the zip of the earlier books.

It seem clear, however, that the next book will build on the details of this one. With Landon Snow and the Igneus Forest coming out this summer, I will be interested to see where Mortenson takes the series. Fans of Landon Snow, I am sure, can’t wait for the next adventure.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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