by John Flanagan
Conditional Recommendation: Trapped in Skandia by the invading Temujai army, Will, Horace, Evanlyn, Halt and Erak must unite to defend themselves against the threatening enemy.
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
The epic fantasy tale of Ranger Apprentice Will, his mentor Halt, and his friends Horace and Evanlyn continue in this fourth installment in the series. With the same thrill of The Burning Bridge, the group again faces overwhelming odds and employs all of their skill, trust, and ingenuity to prevail. It’s another engaging adventure and a great addition to the series.
Far from home after escaping slavery in Skandia, Will and Evanlyn’s plan to return are spoiled when Evanlyn is taken captive. Will employs his Ranger training to locate his friend, but soon finds himself fatally outnumbered—until Halt and Horace make a daring, last-minute rescue. But their reunion is cut short by the discovery that Skandia’s borders have been breached by the Temujai army—and Araluen is next in their sights. Only an unlikely union can save the two kingdoms, but can it hold long enough to vanquish a ruthless new enemy?
This book is a conditional recommendation because it contains swearing and drinking (those Skandians are a rough, rowdy bunch), violence (arrow wounds, sword fights, cavalry charges, and war), and instances of the Viking religion influencing the story. The Araluens don’t seem to adhere to any religion and don’t ever mention God but Skandian culture is based on their religious traditions (like making vows to certain gods).
Friendship and loyalty remain the themes that carry the characters through the book. Rescuing one another, strategizing together, covering each other’s backs, and fighting side by side, the bonds of friendship between the characters is so strong that it seems natural.
With each book, the young apprentices, Will and Horace, grow up while learning more about their craft and more about their place in the world. In the beginning, Will is making a slow recovery from his addiction to warmweed, but he doesn’t let his weakness stop him when Evanlyn is captured and he must track her down. Will is just as good-hearted and dedicated as he’s always been—the goodness of his character never disappoints and he remains an excellent point of view in the story.
Horace has become a knight in his own right due to his skill and chivalry. The friendship between him and Will make both boys better and the reader gets to enjoy them working together for the greater good and eagerly defending each other in the heat of battle. Horace is a steady, straightforward character who can be likened to Captain America in this cast of characters.
Evanlyn, who was once a girl who depended on Will to keep her safe, has now become a woman of action and courage; she shows just as much dedication and fortitude as the trained apprentices and full-grown warriors. She has grown up to be a character who takes action at crucial points of the plot.
I really enjoy the plot of this book because the characters have gained maturity and are able to play major roles in the story and its conflicts. There are many pieces to the plot of this book and each one makes it more exciting and engrossing. I think this book is intelligently conceived and well executed. A very enjoyable story for any reader who enjoys some mystery, capture and rescue, reconnaissance, war strategy, battles, and a dash of politics.
Reunions and unexpected resolutions form a joyous end to another exciting adventure in the Ranger’s Apprentice series.
*Audiobooks read by John Keating are excellent and I highly recommend them for this series!