Top positive review
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on August 12, 2009
When we last saw Will Treaty, he was in a seemingly hopeless situation -- the knight Keren and his treacherous sidekick Buttle had taken over MacIndaw Castle, the heir has been chased off, and Alyss was a prisoner.
"The Siege of Macindaw" picks up immediately after that, and thankfully John Flanagan steers the story off in a much warmer, more hopeful direction. While the middle part of the sixth Ranger's Apprentice book is on the slow side, the gentle humor, elaborate strategies and action-packed climax keep it intricate and interesting.
Will is delighted when he hears news of a young warrior with a free-for-hire shield in the area -- it's Horace, meaning that he now has a somewhat better chance of victory. As a brigade of Scotti warriors approach, meaning that a chunk of Araluen will be lost, Will also acquires other allies: Malcolm the "sorcerer" and his followers, and a band of stranded Skandians who are all too happy to be hired.
So Will and his allies set out to capture the Scotti warriors, and somehow must find out what their battle plans are. But Malcolm's illusions and deceptions won't be enough to stop the soldiers of Macindaw -- it will take plenty of strategy and combat to infiltrate the castle. And when Will finally finds Keren, he will find someone dear to him suddenly turned against him.
"The Siege of Macindaw" is a rather slow-moving book at times -- the entire middle section is a stretch of careful strategic planning, with the occasional spurt of bloody, knife-swiping action. Fortunately, it's also very intricate and well-mapped out, and it's become clear once and for all that Will is no longer just an apprentice -- he and Horace are a strong, confident Ranger and warrior.
While things seem hopeless at the beginning, Flanagan devotes much of the plot to building up advantages for our heroes -- smoke-and-mirrors demons and monsters, a band of hardy Skandians, and their own prowess. And the last third of the novel suddenly blossoms into an emotionally intense, action-packed story that pits Horace, Will and their little band against Keren.
Flanagan also has thoroughly solid, atmospheric writing that brings to mind snow, big eerie illusions and a ghastly scene where Malcolm terrifies the Scotti with the image of a reality-bending demon. While the story is devoted to stopping Keren, he inserts some pleasant exchanges that keep the characters connected, such discussing a proper name for Will's dog, or a fun little limerick challenge ("What rhymes with Macindaw?").
But the most important focus here is Will and Horace, now confident young men who still bicker, care about each other, and fight the Scotti with wild abandon. And Will's obvious feelings for Alyss finally come out into the open, while Horace is hinted to have some feelings for another absent girl. And Flanagan's careful writing also leads to some very intricate villains -- though a bad guy, Keren is plagued by guilt and doubt; and the Scotti leader is a guy you end up feeling sorry for.
The sixth Ranger's Apprentice book "The Siege of Macindaw" nicely finishes off the story started in the previous book, and cements the maturity of an apprentice that is now a full Ranger. A good solid fantasy story.