17 July 2012

Ranger's Apprentice: The Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan

When mankind seeks protection from the world's many dangers, they put their faith in warriors, kings, gods, and even money.

In the neighboring kingdom of Clonmel, a mysterious cult has sprung up, promising defense against lawless marauders in exchange for people's riches.  Their sermons are attracting audiences from miles around, but there's a dark side to this seemingly charitable group, prompting Halt, Will and Horace to investigate.  What the trio uncovers could threaten the safety of not only Clonmel, but their homeland of Araluen as well.

In this gripping new installment to the series that has sold millions of copies and garnered worldwide acclaim, secrets will be revealed and battles to the death will be waged. And this is only the beginning...
The Ranger's Apprentice series has been apart of my life since I was, say, ten- or eleven-years-old.  It's one of those series racked right up there with Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl in terms of staying with a person for their entire lives.  Even though I picked it up so long ago, the story still captivates me.  Starting a Ranger's Apprentice book is like settling down at a campfire with a bunch of friends you've known forever and sharing really good stories.

Really, once a person gets to book 8 in any series, they have a little more than a preconceived notion about how they're going to feel about the book, already having known the history of the characters and knowing how the given world works.  So I was already going into this book knowing that it was going to be awesome.  My only concern being that if anyone died, I was going to flip #%$!.

The one negative I have on John Flanagan is his writing style.  There is way too much telling and very little tact involved.  There's also this consistent habit of switching POVs without indication, the reader just knows that the only way a particular sentence makes sense is if it was told in another character's POV.  But John Flanagan really makes up for this through his characters and story and world.

I flipping love Will, the main character.  And Halt.  And Horace.  And Will's horse, Tug.  This particular installment really focused on the three -- I mean four (sorry, Tug) -- of them.  Even though Horace got [spoiler redacted].

I also liked how there was very little romance.  That's not to say that all the rest of his stories are full of doe-eyed, sappy-lipped lovers.  I was really attracted to the idea that all of that was over by the first few chapters and the ladies bid goodbye to their men with a "okay, honey, have a good time" and let the menfolk go off on their adventure.

And these are legit adventures.  Since I grew up on a healthy diet of Harry Potter, I really grew up loving hero stories.  And really, this is a hero's story since I've always considered Will to be the main character, and therefore the hero.  The good thing about John Flanagan is, though, that he pokes at stereotypes, so all his main characters are heroes in their own way and they all get a bit of the hero's limelight throughout the series.  For example, Horace was really the man in this one.  By the end of it, given John Flanagan's talent for storytelling, I was left biting my nails and growling, "If he dies..." under my breath while mentally planning all the ways I'd get revenge for any of the character's deaths.

Ranger's Apprentice has always captured me, and this installment was no different.  I'm gripped with a terrified anticipation to read the sequel, Halt's Peril because nothing good can come of a title like that.

If you haven't picked up this series, you should get on that.  Sit back and indulge on a bit of a hero's journey.

Quotes
Halt was about to indulge in what he called "creative documentation."  Horace called it forgery.  He remembered a time when Halt's skill as a forger had horrified him.  He was less bothered by it now.  Not for the first time, he decided that his declining moral standards were a result of his spending too much time in the company of Rangers. (p. 229)

"Very kind of you," [spoiler redacted] said, "but we don't have time for that nonsense.  I'm really not interested in being King.  I prefer to work for a living." (p. 250)
Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 358
  • published - May 2010
  • publisher - Philomel
  • genre - fantasy
  • received via - Christmas present :)
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Ranger's Apprentice
    • Ruins of Gorlan
    • The Burning Bridge
    • The Icebound Land
    • Battle for Skandia
    • Sorcerer in the North
    • Siege of Macindaw
    • Erak's Ransom
    • The Kings of Clonmel
    • Halt's Peril
    • The Emperor of Nihon-Ja