Review: The Battle for Skandia (Ranger’s Apprentice #4) by John Flanagan

Review: The Battle for Skandia (Ranger’s Apprentice #4) by John FlanaganThe Battle for Skandia by John Anthony Flanagan
Series: The Ranger's Apprentice #4
Published by Penguin on 2006
Pages: 294
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The international bestselling series with over 5 million copies sold in the U.S. alone! Still far from home after escaping slavery in the icebound land of Skandia, young Will and Evanlyn's plans to return to Araluen are spoiled when Evanlyn is taken captive. Though still weak, Will employs his Ranger training to locate his friend but soon finds himself fatally outnumbered. Will is certain death is close at hand, until Halt and Horace make a daring last-minute rescue. But their reunion is cut short by the horrifying discovery that Skandia's borders have been breached by the Temujai army - and Araluen is next in their sights. Only an unlikely union can save the two kingdoms, but can it hold long enough to vanquish a ruthless new enemy? Perfect for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone, Christopher Paolini's Eragon series, and George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire series.

I’m addicted to this series. John Flanagan knows the formula for creating stories that keep you coming back for more. In my review of The Unicorn Thief, I mentioned that Flanagan was a great model for middle-grade authors (especially those who write series) to emulate because he’s got a solid formula. Each book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series examines one major problem. In this book’s case, the major problem is that the Temujai are about to wage war on Skandia. There are all sorts of little problems examined in the book but they all connect back to the major problem. The details are rich and the characters are complex but the story is *just* big enough to accommodate the problem/story. Each book seamlessly continues the character/plot development of the earlier books while introducing new problems in compelling ways. Flanagan also adds an overall theme/message to every book.

One of the things I really love about The Battle for Skandia (and this series) is that Flanagan makes it pretty obvious which countries/cultures he pulls from. Skandia is obviously Scandinavia. They’re a sea-fearing culture very similar to Vikings. The Temujai are based off the Mongols. Halt explains in the book that the Temujai are from the grassland steppes to the east and that, long ago, they attempted to conquer the world. Mongols, most definitely. I’m not sure if those tidbits would be obvious to middle-grade readers but it does open up a reason to give a history lesson.

All of our favorite characters are reunited under one common goal: save Skandia. Defeat the Temujai. The book really shows that anyone, even enemies, can unite under a common goal. Halt, Will, Horace, and Evanlyn essentially save Skandia by teaching them a new method of fighting a powerful enemy. The last third of the book is the big battle scene. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, especially reading about Will’s archers. He, Horace, and Evanlyn worked flawlessly together. Their teamwork was so poignant and so well written. I was cheering for them. Literally. Out loud. My husband thought I was crazy (It was like the time I was reading The Hunger Games on a train and yelled out loud, “Oh, snap!” at a really good part.).

There’s also some really great character development. We learn more about Halt (he’s so fascinating) and we see the makings of a love triangle between Will, Evanlyn, and Horace. I’m looking forward to reading how that plays out. I also liked seeing so much of Erak. He’s a hoot.

The Battle for Skandia is my favorite book in the series to date. I can’t recommend these books enough.

four-stars

© 2014 – 2016, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.