by John Flanagan
Conditional Recommendation: Ranger apprentice, Will, and his friend Horace are sent as envoys to Celtica in light of the coming war and they find themselves and their training put to the ultimate test.
Awards: Children’s Book Council of Australia Award, International Success of the Year Award (2007)
The second installment in the Ranger’s Apprentice series steps it up a notch in action and adventure. It’s an exciting read as the plot thickens with mystery, imminent war, and increased danger. Courage and doing what is right over what is easy prevails once again in this excellent story. To read my review of the first book of the series, The Ruins of Gorlan, click here.
Bracing for a final clash with the evil warlord Morgarath, the Rangers rally the kingdom’s allies and Will is chosen, along with his friend Horace, as special envoys to nearby Celtica. But the simple mission soon takes an unsettling turn—the Celticans have disappeared, their town abandoned. The scheming hand of Morgarath, it seems, has been far from idle. He has found a way to bring his legions over the once impassible eastern mountains and is planning to ambush the king’s army in a rout. Now with help many miles away, Will and Horace are the only ones standing in the way of the dark lord’s plans. They have shown great skill and courage in their training, but how will they fare in the face of true evil? With bigger battles and higher stakes, John Flanagan’s epic adventure charges ahead with this rousing follow-up to The Ruins of Gorlan.
In the first book, Will and Horace mostly operate dependently under their masters as they grow and learn to master their skills as a ranger and a knight. Now, Will and Horace get the chance to put their training to the test without their masters’ direction. This story is mostly about Gillen, Will, Horace, and Evanlyn, a girl they meet in the woods of Celtica. New groups of characters and creatures are also introduced and play major roles in this story. Over all, Flanagan does an excellent job of maintaining the characters you came to know in the first book while also bringing in new characters to keep you interested.
Doing what is right over what is fast, easy, or convenient is a prominent quality of the book. There’s also a large dose of courage and sacrifice and when the consequences are so great it lends more meaning to those admirable qualities. Knight’s chivalry rises to play a large role in the characters and the plot of the book and all of it proves to make this book just as full of goodness, if not more, than the first book.
The plot is much grander in this book than the first, which makes sense: the world building and main characters have already been established; therefore, there’s more room to develop a complex plot. While the first book took place completely in Araluen, this one expands to include Celtica, as well as raiders from Skandia, which is across the sea. Both the Celtican and the Skandian pirates play large roles in the plot and they add a great deal of interest and plot twist throughout.
After all of Will’s adventures and acts of courage throughout the book, the ending is bittersweet. Flanagan did an excellent job of endearing Will to the reader because my heart squeezed at the end and I sought to find the next book immediately to find out what happens to Will. The ending is a well-written, solid cliffhanger, and leaves the reader with the feeling of longing. You’ve been warned: it might be a good idea to have the next book ready to go!
If you or your reader enjoyed The Ruins of Gorlan, this second book is a must-read. There’s war violence and death, some cruelty, one fight to the death scene, but I didn’t find it gory or too much. The violence is portrayed as evil, wrong, a consequence of war—it’s treated with adequate seriousness through the right perspective. That aside…action and adventure, kingdoms and quests, battles and strategy, friendship and courage—if any of those interest you than this is a book you’ll likely enjoy! Happy reading!
*Audiobook read by John Keating is excellent!