Lucian is a young clerk in the king's palace in
Metara; when he discovers a plot masterminded by the king's own
soothsayers, he runs away rather than accept their "generous" offer
to learn sacrificial procedures first hand. Joy-in-the-Dance, a
pythoness, gives the king a prophecy he does not like. While
searching for inspiration, the poet Fronto falls into a magic pool
and becomes a donkey. The irrepressible goat-boy Catch-a-Tick runs
away from home so he can watch Lucian being a hero.
Together, they and others who join them visit the Goat People, the
Horse Clan, and the Lady of Wild Things, who advises Fronto that
maybe he can regain his human shape on the island of Callista. While
trying to reach Callista, they land on (and narrowly escape from )
the island of Taurus; and, missing Callista a second time, find
themselves shipwrecked near the city of Metara.
Well. Lucian might be back where he started, but this time he has
The Arkadians is another charming young adult novel from
Lloyd Alexander in the spirit of The Marvelous Misadventures of
Sebastian, The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha,
Westmark, and The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen.
It is impossible to read Alexander's novels and not notice their
recurring similarities, especially in the cast of characters: the
well-intentioned but inexperienced protagonist; the feisty female who
begins at odds with the hero but is his good friend (or better!) by
the end; an older (but not necessarily wiser) character to act as a
sort of chaperon or guide; and, of course, the wicked nasties,
usually intent on usurping control of the kingdom.
That being said, no two books are alike. The characters of each
have their own adventures to live and lessons to learn, and the end
is not always what they or the reader might expect (which is exciting
indeed). Unfortunately, The Arkadians is less satisfying than
some of those earlier novels.
Despite the small wisdoms scattered throughout, The
Arkadians has an impression of being all surface and little
depth. Perhaps this is fostered by the glib retelling of so many
tales and adventures nested within the larger story: Fronto's
history, the mythic origin of the Goat People, the cautionary tale of
Think-Too-Late, and many more. One character condenses his version of
the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Golden Fleece in less than a chapter.
One final note of interest: Instead of the usual author
photograph, the inside dustjacket has a portrait of Lloyd Alexander
by Trina Schart Hyman, the cover artist.
This review copyright 1997 by Wendy Morris