Arlo Finch in the Lake of the Moon – by John August (Review)

Arlo Finch #2

Fantasy, YA

Roaring Brook Press; February 5, 2019

377 pages (ebook); 8hr 30m (audio)

3.75 / 5 ✪

In the Valley of Fire, Arlo Finch swept in and stole our hearts: his different colored eyes; his exiled father; his migratory home; his quiet, worrisome demeanor. And then came the Long Woods, where Arlo came into his own. If the Valley of Fire is where he found his calling, the Lake of the Moon should be where he grows up. And it is, to an extent.

What Remains of Arlo Finch

Following the events In the Valley of Fire, Arlo has made a home for himself in Pine Mountain. While the Eldrich have ceased making attempts on his life, they’ve not yet forgotten him. Something is coming. Even with the mysterious warning from Fox, Arlo can feel it. And as the summer months loom, so does his feeling of unease.

But with the summer comes summer camp. And for Arlo and his friends in Blue Patrol, that means Rangers.

Even before he departs for camp, Arlo begins to notice some peculiar happenings. First, Connor’s cousin visits him with a warning. Then, a strange man confronts him in the diner, a conversation Arlo has no memory of. And of course there is the troll. The troll, and the other Blue Patrol. All of it is leading to something—but what, Arlo knows not.

Enter the Lake of the Moon.

The Lake of the Moon hosts the Ranger’s Summer Camp, complete with an enchanting ancient lake in possession of its own monster, a variety of summer activities and classes, a lovely mountain forest that connects to the Long Wood, a host of spirits that call it home, and a mystery surrounding its history—and that of Yellow Patrol.

But the camp also comes with its own problems. An addition to the tight-knit patrol. A squabble involving Arlo’s two closest friends. A scare for Connor—which sees him leave camp early. Dissent from within the troop. A mystery, a conspiracy, and another Blue Patrol. To navigate these, Arlo Finch must discover what it means to be a True Ranger, or die trying.

Sadly, Arlo Finch’s second adventure wasn’t nearly as compelling as his first. While it shows a lot of heart, the events surrounding Lake of the Moon were just too confusing to be anywhere near as exciting. The adventure is still fun, imaginative and mysterious, and continues the series well enough, setting up a dramatic adventure for Book #3. But overall it’s a step down from The Valley of Fire.

The time travel I object to the most. For a children’s adventure… I dunno, I’m torn. Part of me wants to say it’s pure fun and excitement. The other part claims it’s way too confusing. The ending doesn’t make much sense, little more than the lead-in to it. For me, I felt that the time-travel was ill-advised for this point in the series. It wasn’t well explained—even though, if it HAD been really well explained, I feel like it would’ve been too much for the intended audience. It just… it wasn’t a good choice for this book.

I don’t really want to focus too much on the characters, on the development, on the world-building or anything else. For anything early-YA Fantasy like this, or Children’s Fiction—it’s not important. The intention is to be a fun, fast-paced adventure with just enough mystery to keep the focus. And The Lake of the Moon does this. Up until the end, where it’s confusing.

The Lake of the Moon provides a lovely setting compared to Pine Mountain. Not that Pine Mountain was bad, just inconsistent. It provided an off-the-grid, small town setting without most of the typical limitations. It was quaint, if under utilized. Comparing it to something like Gravity Falls… it really could’ve provided more adventure, more mystery. The Lake of the Moon revitalizes the series’ setting. A typical summer camp, with atypical features. It works very well with the story (up til the end, as I’ve said). Something new, pretty, and a bit mysterious.


Where Arlo Finch triumphed in the Valley of Fire, Arlo Finch struggles through the Lake of the Moon. While most of the story was fun, exciting and mysterious—the conclusion lets everything down, due to some a convoluted mess of time-travel and thriller nonsense to tie everything together. Arlo is in the process of becoming a hero, but we’ll just have to see where his legend goes from here. While I still think Lake of the Moon was a step down from the original, it’s still a fun, interesting read. Again, James Patrick Cronin delivers an excellent narration, capturing Arlo Finch and embodying him to a T. Honestly, I’m torn as to whether it’s too much for the children the story’s intended for. It confused me, but I probably overthought it. Plus, I’m not great at anything time-travel. I’d still recommend it, the roughly 8.5 hour adventure doing just enough to keep me entertained without growing too deep or messy.

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows, the third book in the series, is due out February 4, 2020.

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