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Halt's most dangerous mission
on September 8, 2010
Halt has been in countless perilous situations in his life, but he's always come out unscathed. But his winning streak may have come to a permanent end in "Halt's Peril," the ninth book of the Ranger's Apprentice series. John Flanagan's writing drags somewhat in the first half, but the introduction of a deadly threat speeds up the story.
Horace, Halt and Will are still pursuing the evil cult leader Tennyson, who is currently en route to Araluen -- they have to stop him before he gets there, or the Outsider cult might spring up again in their own homeland. Along the way, they have to deal with malevolent pirates, stormy seas, Scotti raiding parties, burned farms, and the Genovesan assassins that Tennyson is traveling with.
But during a battle in a dead forest, Halt is grazed by a crossbow bolt, and within a day he's near-comatose from poison. Now Will must make a desperate journey to fetch an old friend who might be able to save Halt's life -- but the remaining Genovesan is still out hunting for them, and Halt may have only hours to live.
"Halt's Peril" is the darkest Ranger's Apprentice book thus far, mainly because it really does look like Halt is going to die -- and any fantasy fan knows what eventually happens to most mentors once the apprentice has gotten trained. But it's also pretty harrowing to see the young knight and ranger struggling to save him, and doing some pretty desperate stuff along the way.
Biggest problem: the first half of the book goes at a very slow pace. I mean, two whole chapters are devoted to Will hanging around in a tavern and LOOKING for a certain criminal, and it takes another FOUR for the trio to wrangle an answer out of the guy. But Flanagan's prose is still strong enough to compensate, with lots of action, nerve-twisting suspense and bloody fight scenes, as well as some literally haunting scenes tinged with the supernatural (Will sleeping in a haunted barrow-ground).
It's been hinted that Halt is beginning to get a little old for the rough'n'tumble life of a Ranger, but this is the first time we've seen him truly facing death. And though they're a full-fledged knight and ranger, Will and Horace have to take another step forward in their independence -- they not only have to deal with the rotten situation without Halt's help or advice, but they are faced with the possibility of losing him for good.
"Ranger's Apprentice: Halt's Peril" is another solid entry in John Flanagan's action-packed fantasy series -- the first half drags, but things pick up once the assassins come back into the picture.