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“A good leader is someone who knows what he’s bad at, and hires someone who’s good at it to take care of it for him,” Halt. –The Battle for Scandia
The Battle for Skandia
Ranger’s Apprentice #4
by John Flanagan
AR Test, Strong Female Character
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, he but soon finds himself fatally outnumbered. Will is certain that death is close at hand, that is until Halt and Horace make a daring, last-minute rescue. 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?
Readers familiar with the Ranger’s Apprentice series will want to continue Will and Evanlyn’s epic journey through Skandia. The Battle for Skandia brings the four friends together—Halt, Horace, Evanlyn, and Will. In order to help the Skandians defeat the Temujai, Will and his friends join the fight. Unlike the previous books, The Battle for Skandia deals with strategy and tactics as Halt leads the Skandia forces in the fight against the Temujai army. Readers will learn more about the Skandiam’s traditions and bravery as their forces face the Temujai army. The contrast between the Araluens’ culture and the Skandian’s culture is interesting and sometimes humorous.
Unlike the previous books, The Battle for Skandia deals more with politics and preparation for battle, which slows the plot down. The story ends with a very long battle where many men die, including the leaders, the soldiers, and the slaves. Even though Evanlyn is a princess, she also helps to defeat the Temujai army. Throughout the story, the characters show the importance of loyalty and courage. The heartwarming conclusion holds some surprises. The Battle for Skandia highlights the importance of working together for the greater good. Although the story’s flow is choppy as it jumps back and forth between different characters’ perspectives, readers familiar with the series will want to know how Will and Evenlyn escape the dangerous threats that seem to lurk behind every corner.
- The commander of the Temujai has a concubine; however, she is only mentioned once.
- There is a brief mention of Halt’s banishment. Someone explains that Halt was drunk when he said that the king was “the issue of an encounter between your father and a traveling hatcha-hatcha dancer.”
- When checking her traps, Evanlyn “sensed rather than heard, the movement in the trees behind her and began to turn. Before she could move, she felt an iron grip around her throat, and as she gasped in fright, a fur-gloved hand, smelling vilely of smoke, sweat, and dirt clamped over her mouth and nose, cutting off her cry for help.” When Evanlyn tried to struggle, “her kicks were ineffective as she was dragged backward. Finally, there had been an instant of intense pain, just behind her left ear, and then darkness.” The man takes her back to his camp and ties her to a tree.
- When Erak was sent to collect taxes, he “opted for a more direct course, which consisted of seizing the person under investigation, ramming a double-headed broadax up under his chin and threatening mayhem if all taxes, every single one of them, were not paid immediately.”
- Halt and Horace find dead men at a guard post. When they investigate, they find “ten others, all of them killed the same way, with multiple wounds to their torsos and limbs.” The men were “shot. These are arrow wounds. And then the killers collected their arrows from the bodies.”
- A man prepares to kill Evanlyn. Will comes to her rescue. Will shoots an arrow. “The bow gave a slight twang and the light arrow leapt away, arcing swiftly across the intervening space and burying its point into the soft flesh of the warrior’s wrist.” Horace arrives and “interposed himself between Evanlyn and the man who was trying to kill her and, in a series of flashing sword strokes that bewildered the eye, he drove the other man back away from the girl.” Five men are killed, and one man is taken as a prisoner. The scene is described over four pages.
- When Halt and Erak spy on the enemy, they are caught and must run. Halt shot his arrow and “the heavy shaft went home. The Tem’uj fell backward in the snow, his own shot half a second too late, sailing high and harmless into the top of the pines.” As they run, Halt continues to shoot arrows, killing a man who “lay in the snow in the center of a widening circle of red.”
- A slave is dragged in front of a group of Skandian leaders. In order to get her to talk, Slagor “moved quickly, stepping down from the platform and drawing his saxe knife in one smooth movement. He held the razor-sharp blade below the woman’s chin, pressing it into the flesh of her neck with not quite sufficient force to break the skin.” As Slagor yells at the woman, the group notices “angry welts across the woman’s face. Obviously, she had been recently beaten.” When the woman cringes away, “Slagor’s man grabbed a handful of her hair to stop her and she cried out again, in pain as well as fear. He raised the vicious-looking whip over his head, ready to bring it down.”
- When the Skandians began fighting the Temujai, “Huge axes rose and fell and more horses came down, with tortured screams. Will had to shut his ears to the sound of horses in agony.”
- When the Temujai attack the Skandians, the Skandians send a “shower of spears, rocks and other missiles from the Skandian line. Most of them fell short of the galloping horseman.” Some of the Temujai horses were stuck by stakes.
- During the battle, “Will watched as one group of sixty quickly slung their bows, drew sabers, and darted into the Skandian line in a slashing attack, killing a dozen men.”
- Will directs the archers to shoot towards the enemy. “Men and horses screamed in pain as they crashed to the ground. . . Those who were unhurt by the arrows were confronted by their comrades and their horses tumbling and rolling headlong. And as each stricken man fell, he took another with him, or caused his neighbor to swerve violently. . .” As the fighting, “the archers were exposed to return fire for no more than a few seconds. Even so, under the constant barrage of arrows from the Temujai, they took a few casualties. . . More horses came down, more riders tumbled out of their saddles. . . Haz’Kam’s son, with one arrow through his right thigh and another in the soft flesh between neck and shoulder, lay across the body of his horse.” Haz’Kam’s son is able to deliver a message to his father before he dies.
- The Temujai try to take out Will’s archers. “Will studied the mass of riders. He had seventy-five archers still standing in the line, several of them lightly wounded. They had lost eleven men, killed by Temujai arrows, and a further fourteen had been wounded too seriously to keep fighting.” Will’s archers fired arrows and “then suddenly, the air around him was alive with the hissing sound of arrows and all along the line his archers were falling, some crying out in pain and shock as others more ominously, silent.”
- As the Temujai get close to Will’s archers, they fire. “The arrows tore into his men, killing or wounding seven of them.”
- A Temujai soldier threatens Evanlyn. When Will sees Evanlyn in danger, he grabs his saxe knife and threw it at the enemy. “The big knife took Nit’zak under the left arm just before he began his downward cut. His eyes glazed and he crumpled slowly to one side, lurching against the earth wall of the trench, then sliding down to the hard-packed earthen floor.” The battle is described over 49 pages.
Drugs and Alcohol
- When taken to her kidnapper’s camp, the men ignore Evanlyn. The six men “ate and drank, swigging what was obviously a strong spirit from leather bottles.”
- Will thinks back to when he was addicted to warmweed.
- When Halt is talking to Erak, Halt “poured himself a glass of the brilliant red wine and drank deeply.”
- After the battle, the Skandians have a three-day period of mourning, “which in Skandia, took the form of a lot of drinking and much enthusiastic recounting of the deceased’s prowess in battle. . . The traditions were sacred to Skandians—particularly traditions that involved a lot of drinking and carousing late into the night.”
- After the Temujai army is defeated, Halt and the Skandians discuss how to keep the Temujai from trying to return. As they talk, Halt “took a sip of the rich Skandian beer.”
- Damn is used occasionally. For example, when Horace returns home, someone says, “Damn me boy, but you’ve done us all proud.”
- When Will’s horse acts up, Halt says, “what the devil. . .”
- “Gorlog’s teeth” is used as an exclamation once.
- “By the gods” is used as an exclamation.
- “My god” is used as an exclamation. When Will returns home, someone says, “My god, I thought we’d never see you again!”
- Hell is used as profanity. For example, Halt plans to go spy on the enemy. When Halt tells Erak to “wait here,” Erak says, “To hell with waiting here.”
- The Skandian leader “had sworn a blood vow to the Vallas, the trio of savage gods who ruled the Skandian religion, in which he promised death to any relative of the Araluen King.”
- In the previous book, Halt helps a dying Scandian by giving the man his weapon. “Shandians believe that if a man died without a weapon in his hand, his soul was lost forever.”
- When he discovers that Erak has arrows, Halt says, “Thank the gods for the Scandian habit of hoarding everything.”
- During the battle, “Erak breathed a quick prayer to the Vallas.”
- During the mourning period, one of the Skandians says, “Ragnak died in battle, as a berserker, and that’s a fate that every true Skandian would envy. It gains him instant entry to the highest level of their version of heaven.”