Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: Erak's Ransom - John Flanagan

Synopsis: What does it mean to earn the Silver Oakleaf? So few men have done so. For Will, a mere boy and apprentice to the most difficult Ranger to please, that symbol of honor has long seemed out of reach. If he is to ever earn it, he must prove himself in ways he never imagined.

Now, in the wake of Araluen's uneasy truce with the raiding Skandians comes word that the Skandian leader, Erak, has been captured by a desert Arridi tribe. The Rangers, along with a small party of warriors, are sent to free him. But the desert is like nothing these warriors have seen before. Strangers in a strange land, they are brutalized by sandstorms, beaten by the unrelenting heat, tricked by one tribe that plays its own rules, and surprisingly befriended by another. Like a mirage, nothing is as it seems. Yet one thing is constant: the bravery of the Rangers.

Review: I am pleased to say that this Ranger's Apprentice installment was almost as good as the first four. Almost. But not quite. Why? Well, for one thing Halt gets married. I just have never seen Halt as the marrying type, let alone having a large wedding with ceremony and a bride-and-groom dance. Yes, it is largely Lady Pauline who insists on the large wedding and whatnot, and though Lady Pauline certainly broaches no argument, I just don't see Halt bending to anyone's will - not even hers - as easily as he does. And then taking up permanent residence in Castle Redmont? I beg to differ with Mr. Flanagan on this: it's not Halt.

Thankfully, though, Halt's wedding mainly serves as a dramatic arrival for Svengal, and the adventure starts. There are a lot of characters toted along on this particular adventure. Cassandra/Evelyn is back (grr), along with Halt, Horace, Svengal, Will, Gilan, Selethen the Arridi, and later Erak. When I first heard about the number, I was worried. There definitely is such a thing as too many characters on one adventure, and it's a very tricky business trying to balance them out both in dialogue and action.

Flanagan did a pretty good job of pulling it off!

Through a series of events that I won't give away, Will is separated from the group, giving a separate adventure to follow (Note: have a glass of water handy; you'll get thirsty reading it). And for the most part, Selethen, Halt, and Gilan are the only ones who talk. Cassandra has very little dialogue, which pleased me immensely - I could forget that she was there! Horace, too, was fairly mute, as was Svengal - it worked. Too much dialogue from lumps like them can be bad. Better for the Reader to pretty much forget that they are there. But the few times that either of these three characters do speak, it doesn't entirely feel as if Flanagan just made them talk so the Reader wouldn't forget about them; their comments were useful to a degree.

What also made this book almost as good as the first four was the lineup of characters. Halt is back to pretty much being Halt, Gilan is back, and of course Will and Tug - all the classics. Horace, too, must be included in this, I suppose, though I still maintain that he's not necessary. But I guess he does no serious harm, either. And the Arridi are just awesome to read about. Not as fascinating and "cool" as the Temuji (hey, they were based off of the Mongols, and sorry, but you cannot get much cooler than that), the Arridi still offer their own interest and uniqueness to the story. What The Sorcerer of the North and The Siege of Macindaw lacked is back in Erak's Ransom.

I hope the others are as good, but I doubt that they are. Still, I will read Book 8 as soon as I can.

Overall Rating: 

Other Books in the Ranger's Apprentice Series:
1)The Ruins of Gorlan
2)The Burning Bridge
3)The Icebound Land
4)The Battle for Skandia
5)The Sorcerer of the North
6)The Siege of Macindaw
7)Erak's Ransom
8)The Kings of Clonmel
9)Halt's Peril

10)The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
11)The Lost Stories


  1. I wasn't too terribly enthralled with book 7. It felt like more of a side story rather then a continuation. I kept yearning to find out what happened next in Wills new station as a full fledged ranger, so I struggled through the sandy, perilous journey. all in all I thought it was decent,but I think I may be losing interest in Flanagans over-all story.

  2. I actually don't much like it when Will is a full-fledged Ranger - I'm more interested in his apprenticeship, but that's probably because Halt is more present. I agree that Flanagan's stories are getting harder to be "enthralled" by. I think he needed to stop at four books - five could have been good. But 10?

  3. Well generally I think most series should go on indefinately =] but perhaps thats not as realistic as I'd like =]

  4. lol I'm of the sound opinion that all series must end at some point, and usually in a short time-frame - unless, of course, an Author has started a series with the intention of having lots of books in it, like ASOUE. It needed 13 books. But I do know the feeling of having a favorite series and wishing it would go on and on and on, but yes, it is an unrealistic expectation. ;)


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