09 January 2013

Halt's Peril by John Flanagan

Rangers walk the line between life and death every day, but never before has that line appeared so thin or death felt so certain.

Hot on the trail of the Outsiders - a cult that's been making its way from kingdom to kingdom, conning the innocent out of their few valuables - Will and Halt are ambushed by the cult's deadly assassins. Pierced by a poisoned arrow, Will's mentor is near death and in dire need of the one antidote that can save his life. Time is not on Will's side as he journeys day and night through the harsh terrain to Grimsdell Wood in search of the one person with the power to sure Halt: Malkallam the Sorcerer.

The worldwide phenomenon that is Ranger's Apprentice continues, with a story in which every second counts.

It took me six weeks to read this book.  Why?  Well, I realize what an obscene amount of time that is, and I fear it's only seconded by the years it'll take me to finish Inheritance by Christopher Paolini.  The thing is, I've been with this series since I was twelve-years-old and there's only one. more. book. left.  And then that's it for any new Ranger's Apprentice books.  And while I can't honestly say John Flanagan blows me away with his writing style, the writing isn't the fun part of it.  I didn't read nine Ranger's Apprentice novels over six years because of the writing.  It was because of the characters.  John Flanagan writes such lovable characters that they are the reason I keep coming back.

The thing about John Flanagan's writing style is that, while it's effective, it's pretty amateurish.  Almost everything is told, not shown, and there's also an interesting phenomenon afoot: one line, the reader would be in Will's head and the next, it would be in Halt's.  With no indication of switching POVs.  He just writes his scenes in a kind of round robin style that is unique, if a bit disconcerting at times.  Disconcerting in the way many nonconformist things tend to be.  Meaning, it doesn't distract from the story -- I still kept up with the plot and it was exciting -- but I think that, along with the tell and no show dilemma, it loses the impact that it could've had if the writing had been brushed up a bit.

Despite this fact, the characters have been and always will be in my heart.  I love how Will has grown so much from the scrawny, fifteen-year-old apprentice to a Ranger within his own right.  (He's still scrawny, though.)  There's still that connection that runs deep between him and Halt.  Their relationship of surrogate father and son is so charming, and one that is seen in stark relief in this installment.  Will and Halt aside, I am still a huge Horace fan.  I love how the giant-like knight is still a huge goof and can joke around with the best of them, but knows when to knock off the humor.  I also liked the reappearance of a few characters from the fifth and sixth books.  Being able to craft such excellent characters is what makes John Flanagan such a good storyteller.

Because even with the debatable writing style, John Flanagan knows how to spin a good story.  I loved how high the stakes were in this book, and how well they were built up and presented.  I felt my fingers start to hurt from gripping the book too hard once or twice from the awesome suspense that had built up.  Not only endangering the characters lives, but making it seem inevitable that one will die well before his time?  I was on tenterhooks throughout most of the book.

Which, weirdly enough, is why it took me so long to read it.  A bit switched around, I agree: usually, the more suspenseful a book is, the faster you want to read it.  In this case, the fact that I only have one more Ranger's Apprentice novel after this kept me from burning through it.  I read it in bits and pieces so I could spread it out as long as possible, shoving in other books before it on my reading queue so it would stay on my pile a little longer.  I'm just as attached to these characters and this world as I am to JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.  I remember how it felt to finish reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows back in 2007 and I'm not looking forward to an encore performance.

Halt regarded him. He loved Horace like a younger brother. Even like a second son, after Will. He admired his skill with a sword and his courage in battle. But sometimes, just sometimes, he felt an overwhelming desire to ram the young warrior's head against a convenient tree.

"You have no sense of drama or symbolism, do you?" he asked.

"Huh?" replied Horace, not quite understanding. Halt looked around for a convenient tree. Luckily for Horace, there were none in sight.

"Looks like he's lost a guinea and found a farthing," Horace said, then added, unnecessarily, "Will, I mean."

Halt turned in his saddle to regard the younger man and raised an eyebrow.  "I may be almost senile in your eyes, Horace, but there's no need to explain the blindly obvious to me. I'd hardly have thought you were referring to Tug."
Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 386
  • published - October 2010
  • publisher - Philomel
  • genre - fantasy
  • received via - Christmas gift
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Ranger's Apprentice
    • Ruins of Gorlan
    • The Burning Bridge
    • The Icebound Land
    • The Battle for Skandia
    • The Sorcerer in the North
    • The Siege of Macindaw
    • Erak's Ransom
    • The Kings of Clonmel
    • Halt's Peril
    • The Emperor of Nihon-Ja