The Arkadians

Lloyd Alexander

Dutton Children's Books. $15.99
(paper $4.99)

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 friends.

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

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