on June 23, 2006
With war threatening the borders of Araluen, apprentice ranger Will is sent on a diplomatic mission to Celtica. With him are Gilan, his master's first apprentice, and his friend Horace, a battle school apprentice. Expecting a routine journey, the three are unprepared for what they find.
The villages of Celtica are deserted, and brigands wander the hills in search of abandoned treasure. The country is also crawling with Wargals, the fighting beasts that are under control of their enemy Morgorath. When a mysterious woman appears at their camp with the news that Morgorath has been abducting villagers, the three boys stumble across a plan that threatens their country and the lives of the people they love.
Like the first book in John Flanagan's series, THE BURNING BRIDGE relies on typical fantasy tropes for its characters and setting. Araluen is clearly England, with Celtica standing in for Wales. There is a Dark Lord who controls fighting beasts, and our heroes are primarily untried boys. Readers who enjoy fantasy will find much that is familiar in this book.
What makes The Ranger's Apprentice unique is the author's attention to strategy and combat techniques. Flanagan's war plans could be easily mapped to show natural obstacles and the movements of armies. The scenes involving combat are so specific, they could be acted out by readers. Even the training sequences are easy to follow and interesting to read, and unlike most fantasy adventures, the apprentices have lots of practice before being thrown into battle.
Another interesting aspect of THE BURNING BRIDGE is the introduction of the Skandian mercenaries, who are clearly based on Norse raiders. The Skandians are crude and brutal, but they are not beasts like the Wargals, or without their honor. They are also one of the book's most unpredictable elements, as they are on no one's side but their own. This ambiguity makes for a much more interesting read than the usual battle between the forces of light and darkness.
Ever since the success of Harry Potter, children's literature has been flooded with fantasy. The Ranger's Apprentice is more in line with Tolkien than Rowling, but its racing plot and likable characters offer fantasy fans a new series to read and love.
--- Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood
on February 27, 2014
Amazon customer reviews can be all over the spectrum. If you want to put this review in perspective read the last few paragraphs first…or read on!
The Burning Bridge is the second installment in John Flanagans Araluen chronicles centered on the life of Will, orphaned as an infant and apprenticed at fifteen to Halt the Ranger. The setting Araluen is a quasi medieval world loosely based on the British Isles and Northern Europe. For those who started following Will, Horace, Jenny, and Alyss in the Ruins of Gorlan this book is a must read. I purchased the series for my eleven year old son as a Christmas gift. It has been my practice to read nearly everything my children read. With this series it has been a pleasure rather than a chore to do so. In full disclosure I read the entire series before I started writing the reviews.
Morgorath returns leading the forces of darkness and a new group of villains is introduced with the arrival of the Skandians, bad guys with an endearing quality. Halt the Ranger remains in the story line but is supplanted through most of this installment by his previous apprentice Gilan as Wills mentor. The dynamic enhances the storyline and helps set up Gilan as a major character as the series continues. We are also introduced to Evanlyn and the role of young women in the series becomes as prominent as that of the young men. The burning bridge, more than its predecessor, sets the stage for a series that will appeal to both boys and girls in the young adult demographic.
Both my son and I enjoyed this installment more than the first. In fact be forewarned, if you are a fast reader I suggest you purchase several of the successive volumes in advance. The Burning Bridge is a cliff hanger. I had to sneak into my son’s bedroom late at night to get book 3 to quench my curiosity. If you are an adult considering diving into the world of Araluen, go ahead the reading is light but captivating. My twenty two year old daughter picked up the Ruins of Gorlan after I asked her to comment on my review and four days later was halfway through book three.
In summary a good purchase. I recommend this book, primarily for boys, ages ten and up at moderate to better than average reading levels. The story is not just for young boys. Girls will find their share of adventure through the eyes of Alyss and Evanlyn. The main characters can be easily related to by any adolescent. An easy empathy between the reader and the main characters is established early on. The series explorers the meaning of strong character values while serving up a healthy amount of action and adventure without vivid descriptions of blood and gore.
Be prepared to buy more books! In my opinion the story is told over the series, although the individual books have satisfactory individual plots which sometimes culminate with a cliffhanger.
NOT THE REVIEW BUT THE REVIEWER
First let’s put the review you just read in context. I am a father of six in his late forties. I am an avid reader and fan of multiple genres with an admitted propensity towards Fantasy (Tolkien’s influence) and Science Fiction (Mothers influence). That being said among my favorite titles are John Adams (McCullough), Kon-Tiki (Heyerdahl), Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant (Grant), and the Bible (God).
I feel that many book reviews are nothing more than summaries rife with spoiler alerts. I will endeavor not to follow this pattern. You may also find it odd that included among those titles reviewed will be those written and marketed towards for Young adults. The American Library Association defines a young adult (YA) as someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen, a pretty broad range when it comes to reading capability, emotional growth, and appropriate content.
My kids range in age from two to twenty two. I have read almost everything my children have from Goodnight Moon to the Twilight series. I do this because it is my responsibility as a Dad. I also do this because a lot these books are worth reading. Publishers weekly identifies 55% of YA literature consumers as being adults. When I review a YA book I try and include comments from one or more of my kids.
So why am I doing this? After the last bout of Christmas shopping I found my inbox cluttered with Amazon requests to review products. One afternoon I sat down and before I realized it I had written more than a hundred. Many of these reviews were not all that great; I read the guidelines after I wrote the reviews. What I did learn is that I rather enjoyed the process. One of my passions is reading so I decided to try my hand at a few book reviews. Whether I keep writing them is entirely dependent on the feedback, or lack thereof, the reviews generate.
on December 1, 2013
<i>Ranger's Apprentice</i> continues it's wonderful world of low fantasy with the second book in the series, <i>The Burning Bridge</i>. I define this as “low fantasy” for reasons made clear in my review of the first book. Anyways, as the story begins, the kingdom of Araluen and the nearby kingdoms, are under threat from the evil Morgarath, who has an army of the fearsome, beast-like Wargals under a type of mental control.
As the previous book ended, Morgarath's preparations for war were revealed, and the kingdom was readying itself for action. This book begins with the titular Ranger's Apprentice, Will, and his mentor, the legendary Ranger Halt, capturing crucial battle plans that reveal Morgarath's evil plan to the Araluens.
While the army organizes a defense and counter-strike, Gilan, junior-most of the members of the Rangers Corps., takes along Will and Will's friend, Battleschool (Army) apprentice, Horace, on a diplomatic mission. Since they are still apprentices, the two boys are tasked to go with Gilan, as they can be spared. The Celts, allies of Araluen, are very observant of the old superstition and tradition of their forefathers, and thus insist on all diplomatic missions they received consisting of groups of three, hence the make-up of this delegation.
At first, the trip is light-hearted enough, and Will and Horace are both taught tactics and fighting by Gilan (as Gilan is the only Ranger to also be an expert with a sword, he can teach both boys well). But this all come to an end when they find outpost after outpost, and village after village, in Celtica, abandoned. They soon learn that Morgarath is kidnapping the populace, and has driven the Celts and their leaders into a small area of their country where they are too weak to prevent his attacks on Araluen. Hearing this, a decision is made to split up. Gilan leaves Will in charge of the group consisting of Will, Horace, and a mysterious girl (Evanlyn) they found in the abandoned countryside, while he races ahead to apprise the king of what they know so far.
This decision leads to the set-up for the next two books and the second story-line of the series, as Will and Horace, along with Evanlyn, find out the whole of the evil Morgarath's horrible plan. They realize they have to stop him themselves, as they simply don't have <i>time</i> to make the trip to warn King Duncan, Araluen's monarch, in time.
I can't really say much more, because if I do, my efforts at not giving away the plot will be for naught. I will say what I liked and didn't like. As for what I didn't like, well, the story sort of dragged on in a few spots here and there. Flanagan seemed to have two purposes with how he wrote and structured the novel. On the one hand, he wanted to wrap up this first plot, and on the other hand, he wanted to set up the second arc. The problem is that the narrative felt a tad choppy, if you will. The back and forth between the sometimes tedious (as setting up a plot usually is) beginnings of the second story arc, and the exciting end of the Morgarath arc, felt a little disjointed, and less than satisfactory, to me.
That said, that is the only criticism I can think of of this tale. The writing was improved over the excellent, but still somewhat rough, first novel, and the story was expanded and the world fleshed out more. I also liked how the excuse, though rather simplistic, to bring along Will and Horace into the story, and give them major roles far above their situations in life (lowly apprentices), was actually logical. The author actually tried to make a reason that, while silly, was silly to the characters as well. In other words, it felt like the Will and Horace belonged where they were every step of the way, and not like they were shoehorned in.
One aspect I enjoyed was the growth of the friendship between Will and Horace, and the growth of each boy individually. Will is more and more like how Halt, Gilan, and the other Rangers are, with improved skills at subterfuge, archery, and so on. Horace complements his amazing physical prowess from the first book with tactical knowledge that shows you he has learned well from his military instructors. Of course, the two boys still butt heads at times as well, but they also care for each other and their friendship is one of the best parts of the tale. I really don't know how to rate Evanlyn with the minor role she has had so far. She is capable, but so far just a foil for the two boys, so it's hard to say anything about her.
In the first book, Flanagan tried to bring in some realism to this world (thus emphasizing the low fantasy setting) when it comes to the care of the horses. Here he did so with the battle scenes. The tactics and descriptions of military life were fairly accurate, and the battles were realistic and poignant in Horace's reflections on them. In fact, in Horace's epic battle at the end, his opponent is incredibly skilled, so much so that, despite the boy's great strength and natural (though barely trained) talent at swords, this is not nearly enough to help him. The opponent, also being more used to taking blows than Horace is gives him another advantage over the boy, who finds that when his sword and shield crosses the bad guy's, it <i>HURTS</i>. This realism reinforced the point that, though there is magic and the world has stark moral differences between the good and bad guys, it is still a very much “real world” type of setting, not a typical fantasy.
Really, despite the somewhat boring parts dedicated to beginning the next arc, this was an exciting tale and I'm going to enjoy beginning the third story. I definitely recommend this book.
on January 22, 2016
Will and Halt make an amazing team in the second book of the series! Its been a real pleasure watching many of the supporting characters grow, mature, and add their unique contributions to the story.
The excitement, and challenges come one right after the other in this book. Even so, the author takes the time to continue developing the personal relationships between the characters. The dialogue is realistic, and at times, witty; now and then, (even laugh out loud funny.)
When I say, "characters ", that includes the ranger horses. They are very much a part of what makes this story so entertaining!
There really Isn't anything I didn't like about this book. There was a plot development I wasn't too happy about, but it's a cliffhanger, so I hope the author at least, knows where it's headed. 😀
It definitely should prove to be interesting!
I'll let you know soon, as I am starting the next book as soon as I finish this review.
I am a sixty year old woman, with grandkids, and I am loving this series! In my opinion, it is ageless, and universally appealing!
I hope it becomes a classic, for it has so many great qualities I want my grandkids to learn; loyalty, humility, courage, honor; just to name a few.
I hope you read the series, and enjoy it as much as I am!