by John Flanagan
I don't really know how to talk about this book without giving away spoilers for the first three books, so before I talk about it I would like to sing praises to this series in general.
The first book, The Ruins of Gorlan, was published in the States in 2005. The cover is really dark and kind of creepy looking. I looked at it a bunch of times, but never bought it - I don't like dark or creepy books. However, my mom took my shopping and let me pick any book I wanted, so I decided to take a risk and picked this one out. It is fabulous and not at all dark or creepy. Well, there is a creepy bad guy, but everyone else is not creepy. There's no magic and it's full of adventure.
The story follows young orphan Will, who desperately wants to be a warrior, but is too small to be chosen as one. Instead, a Ranger takes Will under his wing and teaches him the skills of a Ranger. Ranger's are kind of an elite guard of the kingdom. They are loyal to the King and report to him, but they do not necessarily have to report to the King. They are quick with a bow, sneaky, and often used as spies. Simply put, they are awesome.
The next two books The Burning Bridge and The Icebound Land take place relatively soon after the first book ends. However, I should warn you that The Burning Bridge leaves an awful cliffhanger ending. So bad that my husband almost spent $50 to have the third one shipped in from Australia. The third one definately leaves room for the fourth, but isn't quite as heartbreaking to end on.
There are currently 7 books in this series published in Australia. Book 4 was just released in the States in March, and (according to Amazon) the 5th will be released in November. I am happy that the next one is coming out so soon since the first three were released a year apart.
Now on to the fourth book. From here on out, there may be SPOILERS relating to the first three books...
The Battle for Skandia starts near the end of the winter that began in The Icebound Land. Will and Evanlyn are realizing that they must soon leave the cabin they've been staying in soon so the hunters that use the cabin won't find them and return them to slavery; Halt and Horrace arrive at the Skandian border to find that all the border guards have been slain; and Erak (who I was pleased to see had a more prominent role in this book) has been sent by his ruler to collect some back taxes. Through a series of events (that worked out a bit too perfectly) everyone meets up and together they discover that Skandia is under attack by the Temujai. The Rangers (and Evanlyn and Horace) help the Skandians with some war strategy and the battle is on.
I (of course) really liked this book. There were a few little things that bothered me about it - like how quickly the after affects of the warmweed wore off. He was very weak at the beginning, but it just seemed to kind of go away when it was necessary. Also, it seems like a drug that was that addictive would have had some sort of mental consequence, but maybe not.
However, I enjoyed the adventure, and I loved that Will and Halt were in the same scenes again. I love them both and they are the best when they are playing off of each other. It was interesting to me how much braver Will was around Halt though - he seemed to be much more willing to stand up for himself and butt himself into things than he was in the first two books. It was nice to have Will back as a character though, and maybe more initiative was an after affect of the warmweed?
I am happy to report that this book ends well. The loose ends are tied up. The author's web site says that this story arc is complete. The next book takes place 5 years after the conclusion of this book when Will is a full Ranger.
Overall, I highly recommend this entire series.
4 out of 5 stars