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“Halt reflected on how difficult it was to retain dignity and authority when someone else was poking and probing and tapping and you were sitting, half dressed, on a log.” –Halt’s Peril
Ranger’s Apprentice #9
by John Flanagan
While Will and Halt are hot on the trail of the Outsiders, which is a cult that’s been making its way from kingdom to kingdom by conning the innocent out of their few valuables, they are ambushed by the cult’s deadly assassins. Pierced by a poisoned arrow, Will’s mentor is near death and in dire need of the one antidote that can save his life. Time is not on Will’s side as he journeys day and night through the harsh terrain to Grimsdell Wood in search of the one person with the power to cure Halt: Malkallam the Sorcerer.
Halt, Horace, and Will track the Outsiders in the hope of dismantling the cult. The three travel through unknown territory in a story full of adventure, fighting, and friendship. However, this time both Halt and Horace face life and death situations. Their survival is not guaranteed. In order to save Halt, Will and Horace are willing to do anything. Unlike previous installments in the series, both Will and Horace no longer have qualms about killing others. While they try to use peaceful means to solve a problem, killing others becomes necessary to save Halt and defeat the Outsiders.
Halt’s Peril highlights the importance of loyalty, dedication, and friendship, but the book also has several scenes that readers may find disturbing. As the series progresses, the characters do not become stagnant. Instead, they mature, and their relationships become more complex. Readers will enjoy the changing relationship of Will, Horace, and Halt. Instead of Will and Horace being subordinates, Halt values their skills, knowledge, and friendship.
The conclusion of Halt’s Peril will leave the reader smiling because good overcomes evil, loves last through separation, and friends help each other in times of need. Flanagan delivers another action-packed story that will keep readers entertained until the very end.
- When Halt makes it back home, he cast “aside his usual reticence, he stepped forward to meet [his wife], swept her into his arms and kissed her for a long, long time.”
- When Will makes it home, he “felt a gentle hand on his arm and looked up slightly to meet Alyss’s smiling eyes…” Will “stepped forward, embraced her and kissed her. His head swam a little as she responded enthusiastically.”
- When Will leaves a tavern, two men follow him. To encourage them to leave, Will shoots an arrow at them. Then, “without warning, there was another hiss-thud between them. Only this time, Niallis’s hand flew to his right ear, where the arrow had nicked him on its way through. Blood ran hotly down his cheek.”
- Two thugs, Niallis and Dennis, are told to remove Halt from a tavern. Halt says Horace’s name, then “Horace began with a straight right to Dennis’s jaw. It was a solid blow.” Niallis attempts to help Dennis, but “Horace had pivoted and hit him with a crushing left hook to the jaw. Niallis’s eyes glazed and his knees went slack.” Horace knocks out both thugs. The scene is described over one page.
- Halt attempts to talk to a smuggler named O’Malley. When the man attempts to leave, Halt’s saxe knife “was now pressing a little too firmly against the smuggler’s throat.” The smuggler gives Halt the requested information.
- When O’Malley follows Halt’s ship, Will and Halt begin shooting arrows at the boat. “One arrow thudded, quivering, into the bulwark less than a meter from the helm. The other buried itself painfully in the flesh part of O’Malley’s upper left arm…” As the arrows continue to rain down on the crew, chaos ensues. “Again they shot. This time, both arrows found their mark and the man pitched forward, rolling into the scuppers as the ship heeled…” The smuggler’s ship hits a reef and crashes. Halt has men throw “some barrels overboard to float down to them. It might give them a chance.” The scene is described over three pages.
- Tennyson, a false prophet, orders his men to kill a farmer. Tennyson “heard the slap-whiz of two crossbows, and two bolts streaked across the field to bury themselves in the man’s back. He threw up his hands, gave a choked cry and fell face-first down in the grass.” Tennyson’s men kill the farmer’s wife, then burn the farm and the barn with all of the cows inside. The scene is described over three pages.
- Halt, Will, and Horace hide in an ambush of Tennyson and his men of Scotti raiders. When the raiders are close, Halt and Will begin shooting arrows. As the raiders attempt to flee, “threatened by the hail of arrows, they bunched together uncertainly. A few seconds later, the crazed cattle smashed into them… When the stampede passed, at least half of the raiding party were lying, seriously wounded, on the field.” Half of the raiders die before the others are able to run off. The scene is described over one page.
- Tennyson sends two assassins to kill Halt and Will. During the attack, “Will’s arrow slammed into [the assassin’s] side. He lurched sideways, jolting against his companion and throwing off his aim. Then Halt’s arrow slashed into his chest and he jerked the trigger with dead fingers as he toppled backwards.” Will hears “Halt’s brief cry of pain, followed by the sound of his bow dropping… wet red blood stained his cloak. There seemed to be a lot of it.” Halt is hit with a poisoned crossbow bolt. The scene is described over three pages.
- Later, Will attacks the assassin. The two are on horseback when the assassin “struck once, aiming for Tug, but Will leaned forward over his horse’s neck and deflected the thin blade with his saxe…” Both men jump out of the saddle, and Will “stepped in and slammed the heavy brass-shod hilt of his saxe into the side of the man’s head. Then without waiting to see if the first blow had been successful, he repeated the action a little harder.” Will takes the assassin captive.
- When the assassin insults Will, “Horace’s open hand slapped hard across the side of his head, jerking it to one side and setting his ears ringing.” Horace strikes the assassin several times throughout the story.
- In order to help Halt, Will and Horace need to know what type of poison was on the crossbow bolt. In order to get the assassin, Bacari, to talk, Horace “put the razor-sharp tip of the bolt against Bacari’s inner forearm, then deliberately pressed it into the flesh, penetrating deeply so that hot blood sprang from the wound and ran down Bacari’s hand. Bacari screamed in pain and fear as Horace dragged the sharpened iron through the flesh of his arm, opening a deep, long cut.”
- During guard duty, Horace falls asleep. “Horace came awake in panic as he felt something whip over his head and then tighten inexorably around his throat, dragging him back away from the fire, cutting off his air and strangling any attempt he made to call out.” When the assassin tries to kill Horace, Will steps in. Bacari “was still laughing when Will’s throwing knife, drawn and thrown the moment the saxe had left his hand, buried itself in his heart. He looked down and saw it for a fraction of a second before his sight went black and his legs collapsed underneath him.” The scene is described over four and a half pages.
- In the past, Halt had saved another ranger’s life by “shooting two of the bandits and cutting the third down with his saxe knife.” Halt was injured when “the huge bandit leapt out, swinging a terrible blow with the massive club.” All of the bandits were killed. The battle is described in one paragraph.
- When Tennyson is preaching, one of his men uses an optical illusion. When Will sees the man, “the young Ranger’s arm went up, then down as he crashed the brass striker into the man’s head, behind the ear.”
- Tennyson takes his followers into a huge cave. Halt, Will, Horace, and Malcom interrupt Tennyson’s preaching. Tennyson’s men attack. “Quickly, Halt retreated before the first rush, drawing his saxe to deflect a dagger thrust, then slashing the razor edge across his attacker’s forearm. The man yelled in pain and dropped out of the fight.” In order to prevent Tennyson and his men from escaping, Will throws explosives. “Rocks and earth fell from the ceiling in ever-increasing amounts… Will saw a massive rock shaken loose from the wall above the ledge where Tennyson stood. It hit beside him, barely a meter away.” The preacher “stepped onto empty air and toppled slowly off the ledge. He smashed against the jagged rocks at the base of the wall.” The scene is described over five pages.
Drugs and Alcohol
- When Will goes into a tavern, he is offered ale or ouisgeah. “Ouisgeah, Will knew, was the strong malt spirit they distilled and drank in Hibernia.” When three men come into the tavern, “the tavern keeper immediately began to pump up three large tankards of ale without a word passing between them.”
- While making stew, Will added, “a generous glug” of red wine.
- The assassins dip their crossbow bolts in poison.
- When Halt is shot, Will gives him a salve that was “derived from the drug warmweed.”
- “Why the devil” is used several times. For example, when someone tells Halt that Tennyson went to Picta, Halt says, “Why the devil would Tennyson want to go to Picta?”
- “Oh my god” is used as an exclamation once. “My god” is used as an exclamation once.
- “For god’s sake” is used as an exclamation twice. When someone has difficulty mounting a horse, Halt says, “For god’s sake, can’t you just haul him up behind you?”
- When the cave is collapsing, Will tells someone, “get the hell out of here.”
- Tennyson is a false prophet who preaches about Alseiass, the Golden God. Tennyson convinces people that they must build Alseiass “the golden, jeweled alter that he desires—an alter that you can worship at for generations to come.”
- Tennyson tells people, “Alseiass loves you! Alseiass wants to bring light and joy and happiness into your lives… Alseiass is the god of light and enlightenment! His light of mercy can be seen even in the darkest reaches of the earth.”