Review Blog

Nov 26 2009

Halt's Peril by John Flanagan

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Random House, 2009. ISBN 9781741663020. (Series: Ranger's Apprentice 9).
Highly Recommended. Arriving at Port Cael, the trio, Halt, Will and Horace are searching for the villain, Tennyson and his followers. Some 20 in all, they had been helped in their escape from Hibernia. At an inn, Will falters in getting information from the notorious Black O'Malley, while Halt takes sterner measures to extract the information they need. Finding their prey headed for Picta, where another group of their religious quacks are stationed, extorting money and goods form the local populace, Halt and the others follow. Overtaken by O'Malley and his band of smugglers, their captain is fearful until he sees the combined ability of Halt and Will at using their long bows.
The ninth richly entertaining adventure in the series Ranger's Apprentice, keeps the energy levels as high as the stories which have gone before. Camaraderie, high adventure, a keen sense of right and wrong, of helping the underdog along with bravery and resilience, are key elements in this fantasy series. Set in medieval times, the undercover agents, Halt and Will, range far and wide in their efforts to retain peace and security for their kingdom, Araluen. Joined by Horace, they have a jokey manner between them, often laughing at themselves but simultaneously keeping a fearful watch over their surroundings. Will, now a ranger, still defers to Halt, and their work in the field is still often that of the teacher and the student. Halt wonders if it will always be like this, and so we have a sense that the future may be different.
Tennyson and his band of Genovesan mercenaries are headed for their stronghold in northern Picta. Here another of their group has formed an enclave, where the Outsider prophet means to gather his forces before entering Araluen. Will has already killed one of the Genovesan mercenaries in Conmel, and so the battle lines are drawn.
In a tussle, Halt is wounded by a crossbow from one of the Genovesan warriors, and at first recovers well. But over the next day, he begins to mumble, often talking about people in the past and is unable to keep on his horse. Will senses that the arrow was poisoned and between them Horace and Will must decide what to do. Their decision is crucial to saving Halt's life and over the next week or so, Halt hovers between life and death. First Will rides off and fetches the healer, and then Will must capture a Genovesan warrior to ascertain which particular poison has been used. Tension mounts for the reader, as a funeral is held and Will, Horace and ride off from their hideout.
A stunning new chapter in the story of the Ranger's Apprentice, the 440 pages hums along at a furious pace, with the reader being drawn into Halt's world as he hovers between life and death. I loved it and couldn't help myself turning pages ahead just to check how things panned out, so involved was I in their lives. Readers from 8 to 80 will be thoroughly entertained by the adventures of this trio, and I look forward to the last two books in the series (The Emperor of Nihon-Jin, number 10 in the series is due out in November 2010).
Fran Knight

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