I’d been waiting patiently for these two books in the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan to come out in paperback format to add to my collection. Amid the chaos or two daughters wrapping up their volleyball seasons and trying to recover from whiplash, reading became my little bit of escapism.
Halt’s Peril and The Emperor of Nihon-Ja are both true coming of age novels for the main characters Will and Horace. In the first novel, the famous King’s Ranger, his former apprentice and the young knight are pursuing members of the dangerous Outsiders cult when the unthinkable happens. During an ambush by hired assassins, Halt is wounded by an arrow that turns out to be poisoned! Roles are reversed as Halt lies dying and Will must ride across the rugged terrain to seek a former friend and ally. Malkallam the Sorcerer just might be the only one who can save Will’s beloved mentor.
Laced with the usual combination of dry wit, humour and epic adventure, Halt’s Peril is a touching glimpse into the letting go that must occur as people age. Any teacher and student or parent and child knows there comes a time to let go and move on to a more balanced relationship. Though Will has been a Ranger in his own right for a few years now, this novel captures all of the respect and admiration the young man has for his mentor, as well as the terrible realization that Halt is not invulnerable.
The second novel, The Emperor of Nihon-Ja, deals more with Horace, a gifted young warrior and one of Will’s closest friends. Sent on a diplomatic mission to the faraway kingdom of Nihon-Ja, Horace gets caught up in a coup against the lawful Emperor. Unwilling to leave the honorable man he has come to respect at the mercy of a usurper spreading lies about the countryside while hunting them down, Will flees with those loyal to the true Emperor towards a legendary city in the mountains that may offer a chance to defend themselves against grim odds. Back in Araluen, Will, Alyss and Princess Evanlyn have learned of their friend’s peril and set off to help if they can.
This book was a wonderful conclusion to a sweeping adventure series that proves great fantasy begins with great characters. Everyone shines in their roles and the interplay between the personalities is both enjoyable and touching. They have truly grown, from the orphans who first chose their professions at the beginning of the series, to the competent young men and women they are in this final novel. The Nihon-Ja kingdom is heavily based on the Japanese Samurai culture and includes many Japanese phrases. Having visited Tokyo just over a year ago, I did notice one small error in an expression, but delighted in some of the other humour and cultural references that writer John Flanagan wove into the tale.
Flanagan’s next adventures will take readers back into the past of his world, exploring a dozen years earlier with his new series called the Brotherband Chronicles. Book One: The Outcasts has been available in hardcover format for a while and Book Two: The Invaders was just release in May. I may not add the books to my shelves just yet, but they will certainly be worthy additions to my library when the time comes. This Australian author writes with such enthusiasm, humour and authenticity, I am sure that his novels will be read for generations to come!
Paperback format, 386 pages, hardcover published in 2009 by Puffin Books
The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
Paperback format, 435 pages, hardcover published in 2010 by Puffin Books