Thursday, February 25, 2010

Landon Snow and the Auctor's Riddle

Landon Snow and the Auctor's Riddle is a smart fantasy by R. K. Mortenson, of Barbour Publishing. Landon, who is about to turn 11, has an unexpected series of adventures when he goes with his family to visit his grandparents in Northern Minnesota. The small town of Button Up is known only for its fantastic library. When Landon's grandparents give him an old Bible, which once belonged to the library's founder, and a stone with the word dream engraved on it, Landon never imagines he is about to embark on a quest for the meaning of life.

After Landon's birthday dinner, Landon's grandpa has an accident and is taken to the hospital. Desperate for his grandpa to be safe, Landon questions God's purpose in allowing accidents to happen and His purpose for life in general. Suddenly, Landon's new Bible opens to Joel, where he reads, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall prophesy." Soon, a bookcase in Landon's room moves and Landon finds himself exploring a dark tunnel.

Landon's journey takes him to the library, where books talk out loud and present him with a riddle questioning the meaning of life. Landon's efforts to solve the riddle take him to a giant chess set, where he befriends a knight, and to canyons and valleys and huge trees peopled with "Odds," who Landon initially mistakes for leprechauns. Landon must learn the meaning of many new words, as well as who his true friends are. Not all the creatures he meets wish him well, but in the end he remembers who he is and reaffirms his faith in the "Auctor" (Latin for "author").

What I Like: I like Landon's positive character. Although he is worried about his grandpa and questions God's plans, he genuinely wants to trust God and discover the truth about life. He tries to make good choices, even though he forgets what he knows is true sometimes. He also wants to be brave and honorable, but must learn about humility and priorities. He is a character many boys will relate to (and girls).

The book is grounded in Scripture. Landon experiences dreams and visions, as referenced in Joel, and they bring him new understanding of God as Creator and Author of life. Landon's grandparents, parents, and the founder of the library are all Christians and provide wonderful role models for Landon and readers alike.

I also like Mortenson's use of vocabulary and clever word plays. There are lots of moments in the book where unusual terms are being defined, but Mortenson handles this in a fun, subtle way. Readers will come away being able to use words like portico, interjectionally, and ex libris in conversation!

What I Dislike: I had a hard time keeping straight some of the transitions between scenes and locations. Occasionally I had to go back and reread a bit to figure out where Landon was, but the second time I read the book I followed it better.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: 8-12, but some younger children may enjoy it as well.

Publisher Info: Barbour Publishing, 2005; ISBN: 978-1-59789-972-7; Paperback, $7.95

Buy it Now at for $34.99 (complete 5-volume set)

OR Buy it at for $4.97.

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