Title: Landon Snow and the Auctor’s Riddle
Author: R. K. Mortenson
Landon Snow is a logical 11-year-old who likes it when things have reasons. Which is why it’s so upsetting when his grandfather has an accident the night before his birthday. While he’s struggling to deal with the lack of reason behind the accident, Landon stumbles across a secret passage, then a mystery in the library. His attempt to read the Book of Meanings catapults him to another world where nothing makes much sense at all.
Ultimately I think this book tried to work on several levels, and that was why it failed. It begins strongly, with Landon and his family going to visit his grandparents. Landon’s distress over the accident leads to his questions about whether life has meaning—an ambitious direction for any book. I had an “ah-hah!” moment halfway through, when the meaningless adventure in a nameless fantasy land seemed to be a contrast to the story’s overall idea of meaning, but any deeper reading of the plot still fails to excuse the fact that Landon spends the entire adventure hardly thinking about meaning at all.
Most of the journey is Landon running from one place to another. Random things happen. Landon then goes to a different set of random things. With the Auctor’s Riddle repeated a half-dozen times or more at the start, I expected to see something along the lines of Landon discovering the vast diversity of life or the complexity of the life cycle, as he is being asked to answer if mere chance could explain how neatly the world’s species fit together. Or at least have an actual adventure, rather than simply reacting to everything by running away or getting captured.
There is no attempt to cohesively explain where he went or why things worked out the way they did, other than a hint that at least some of it may have been a dream. The Odds take the biggest section of the journey, and once it’s revealed they actually ARE odds (think 3-to-1 or one-in-a-hundred) they go away again, with nothing said about the evil that came and changed their forest. Or what the Odds actually are to this world, or what they do.
I agree with the answer to the riddle, but I don’t see that Landon deserved to get it. He never thinks about God at all, only a few religious things like saying grace. It’s hard to see how he concluded that was the answer other than handwaving it off as his religious upbringing must have taught him that sometime off-page.
Overall I think this had a good idea but poor direction. The insanity that was the middle nearly drove me to put down the book, and I certainly won’t be reading it again. I rate this book Not Recommended