RANGER’S APPRENTICE: ICEBOUND LAND by John Flanagan
After last book’s cliffhanger ending, I really thought we’d be spared one in John Flanagan’s latest offering. Not so. Thankfully, I’m behind in the series so I have the next one to hand. Unfortunately I’m listening to them with my family in the car on audiobook and it’s gonna be a while before we settle in for another long drive to get to the next one.
As we last left our heroes, Will had been kidnapped by the Skandians (Vikings) and Halt had been forced to watch his protégé’s abduction helplessly. Well, things are changing. Halt is a Ranger, a man of action and one who views the word IMPOSSIBLE with disdain. Since Halt is forsworn to stay to protect the King of Araluen (England), he has to sit and chafe while wondering about Will.
The thing I love about Halt is that he will find ways to get things done without breaking his code of honor. That makes him the best of friends and yet the most implacable of enemies. He will let nothing stand in his way – not even duty or a friend. I felt badly for him when he had to stand before the King, his friend, and be judged for his actions, but at the same time I was proud of him. That’s the true sign of a writer bringing a character to life. In my mind, Halt lives.
The thing that really captured my imagination and my heart was the way Horace accompanies Halt on his mission to get Will back. All the political connections and friendships really come to bear in this novel, and it just shows how deep and rich Flanagan has developed his story world.
Of course, the author is pretty much bending the Middle Ages the way he wants them bent to serve his story, but I’m really okay with that. Flanagan knows how to unreel a rollicking good tale. My family and I are carried to distant lands every time the CD spins through the player and we drive down the road.
This book quickly evolves into two complete stories. Will and Evanlyn’s tale in Skandia is bleak and hard as they’re put into slavery after a harsh voyage. I like Erak’s development in this story, and I know he’s going to develop into a major player in this series. Seems like everywhere Will and Halt go they’re forging new bonds, taking on new responsibilities. But that’s just fun!
Horace and Halt’s trip through Gallica (France) is an absolute blast. I love how these two characters play off each other, how Halt’s conniving flies in the face of Horace’s need for honor and fair play. The bit about the challenges of the various knights and the pack train of goods Horace accumulates as the results of his battles is magnificent.
The end battle between Halt and Deparnieux was extremely well done and shows what a calculating and cunning warrior the Ranger is. How can you not love this guy?
Will kind of fades away at the end of this novel, though, and I missed him sorely. Still, Erak steps up and helps Evanlyn see to their safety. Her struggle to break Will’s addiction to Warm-Weed was well done and filled with emotion.
I’m anxiously awaiting the opportunity to get onto the fourth book. But I’ll wait because these stories are uniting our family in a lot of ways, and there’s nothing better than a shared story!