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“Halt taught him long ago that a man who doesn’t feel nervous before a battle wasn’t brave, he was foolish or overconfident—and either condition could prove to be fatal,” Will. –The Kings of Clonmel
The Kings of Clonmel
Ranger’s Apprentice #8
by John Flanagan
In the neighboring kingdom of Clonmel, a mysterious cult, the Outsiders, has sprung up, promising the defense against lawless marauders in exchange for the people’s riches. Their sermons attract audiences from miles around, but there’s a dark side to the seemingly charitable group. This prompts Halt, Will, and Horace to investigate…but what the trio uncovers could threaten the safety of not only Clonmel, but their homeland of Araluen as well.
Halt, Will, and Horace band together to fight evil in the action-packed adventure The Kings of Clonmel. Unlike the other books in the series, The Kings of Clonmel takes a hard look at a religious cult that brutally murders innocent people in order to convince them to follow their leader, Tennyson. While much of the story revolves around Tennyson and his followers, the reader will also get a surprising look into Halt’s life before he became a ranger, which gives depth to his personality.
As The Ranger’s Apprentice series progresses, the relationship between Halt, Will, and Horace matures. No longer uncertain apprentices, Will and Horace have grown into men who are fiercely loyal and willing to go into dangerous situations in order to help the common man. Although Will and Horace respect Halt, they are now comfortable teasing him. This new element adds humor to the story, and it shows the great lengths the two men will go to support Halt. While Horace is straightforward and honest, Halt and Will are willing to use deceit in order to defeat the enemy. The contrast between the men allows the reader to see that friends can disagree without destroying their relationship.
The eighth installment of The Ranger’s Apprentice series will not disappoint readers. While the conclusion of The Kings of Clonmel still contains an epic battle, the story never feels like a repeat of previous books. Instead, the adventure still contains surprises. Halt, Will, and Horace have a deep friendship, and each man uses his unique talent in order to help others. The men clearly love their country and their king, and they are willing to sacrifice for the greater good. While the story contains some disturbing scenes where women and children are mercilessly killed, their deaths highlight the importance of following reason instead of mob mentality. Even though today’s men do not need to go into combat, The Ranger’s Apprentice series teaches important lessons that can be applied to today’s world.
- After being gone, Will returns to the castle. When he sees Alyss, “She leaned forward, kissed him lightly on the lips and slipped away.”
- Horace mentions an event from an earlier book. Horace had asked about some skimpily clad girls. Instead of saying they were prostitutes, Halt told him “that they had short dresses because they might have to run with urgent messages.”
- A group of men, the Outsiders, attack a family farm. When the men attack, a man “reached for the ax he had just leaned against a water trough. Before he could raise it, an arrow flashed across the clearing and buried itself in his throat. He gave a choking cry and staggered, falling half into the trough. The water began to turn red with blood.” When the men are dead, the killers “shouldered the door of the farmhouse open…” Once inside, a woman threw a pot of boiling water on a man. “He screamed in agony and lurched to one side, dropping the bloody sword and throwing his hands to his face.”
- A surviving man “had a long pitchfork in his hands and he raised it as he ran forward. He never saw the bandit leader. He only felt the searing agony of the sword thrust into his side… He fell facedown.”
- During the attack, a woman asks for mercy. “The raiders, oblivious to the splashed blood and sprawled bodies around them, helped themselves hungrily to the platters of hot, sizzling bacon…” Everyone is killed except for two children who were able to run away. The family’s death is described over three pages.
- Halt stops raiders from setting a fire to villagers’ boats. “The first moment the raider knew he wasn’t alone was when an iron bar of an arm clamped across his throat while a powerful hand forced his head forward to complete the choke hold.” The man passes out. Then, Halt approaches another man and “slapped the burning pile of tinder out of his hand, scattering it onto the sand. Then he followed through with his other hand, his left, in a hooking palm strike that had all the power of his twisting body and shoulder behind it. The heel of his hand slammed into the man’s chin, snapping his head back and sending him crashing into the hull of the boat with a cry of pain.”
- A man confronts Halt. Halt “flat-kicked sideways at the inside of the man’s left knee. The leg buckled and the man collapsed with a cry of pain, holding his injured knee and yelling.” The scene is described over four and a half pages.
- The Outsiders try to capture Halt and send dogs after him. “Faced with a head-on target, the Ranger waited until the dog had lifted its head to send the snarling challenge… Then Halt shot for the throat, the impact of the heavy arrow, with the eighty pounds of draw weight from his bow behind it, sending the dog staggering backwards and sideways. The second arrow… dropping it stone dead.”
- Another dog is sent after Halt. “As he watched, another massive gray-and-black shape detached itself from the group and came arrowing up the slope after them… This as a pitiless killing machine, perverted by its cruel training so that it sought only to kill and kill again.” Halt’s shot kills the dog instantly.
- When a man tries to approach Will, “he’d barely begun to draw when a black-shafted arrow hissed downhill and sent him tumbling back into the trees. His companions looked at his lifeless body…” The men send another dog, and Halt kills it “and sent it rolling back down the slope, eyes glazed, tongue lolling.” The dog attack is described over four pages.
- One of the bandits tries to track Halt, but Halt sees him and “Halt swung an overhand blow and brought the striker knob down hard onto the man’s skull, just behind the left ear.” The man “collapsed, limp as a rag, onto the ground.”
- Halt takes a man, named Colly, prisoner. The man “tried to throw a punch at Halt. Halt ducked under the wild blow. Stepping in and pivoting his upper body, he hit Colley with a palm strike to the jaw, sending him sprawling again.”
- When he was a teen, Halt’s brother tried to kill him numerous times. At one point, Halt says his brother “tried to poison me.”
- Will looks at the evidence left behind in a village. “He could see the scene in his mind’s eye. A boy or a girl, terrified by the galloping, screaming men, had tried to run for the shelter of the trees. One of the raiders had swung out of line to pursue the little running figure. Then he’d cut his victim down from behind.”
- Horace, Will, and Halt warn a village about the Outsiders preparing to attack. When the Outsiders attack, both Halt and Will begin shooting down men. “And within a few seconds, six men in the center of the advancing line went down. Two of them made no sound. The others cried out in pain, dropping their weapons.”
- When the Outsiders’ defense begins to break up, “they fell back, leaving a number of their companions sprawled lifeless on the ground and on the barricade itself… they had paid the penalty for assaulting a well-defended position on their own.”
- Horace goes after the enemy. “They began to back away, but they were too late. Kicker smashed into two of them, hurling one to the side and trampling the other… A sixth outlaw was already sinking to his knees, staring with disbelief at the black arrow buried in his chest. His head dropped forward. The lone survivor looked at his companions, scattered and broken, some of them lying still, others trying desperately to crawl away…” The battle takes place over seven and a half pages.
- When a messenger mentions the Sunshine Warrior to Tennyson, Tennyson “let his rage loose and he beat back and forth at the wretched man with his closed fist. Blood flowered from the crouching man’s nose and he huddled lower, trying to protect himself from the savage fist.” Tennyson has a servant give the man ale and a meal. Then Tennyson has the messengers assassinated.
- When trying to leave Tennyson’s camp, a sentry tries to stop Will. In order to escape, Will “shot his booted right foot forward, straightening his knee and slamming the sole of the boot hard into the man’s face. The man stumbled and went down…”
- When Halt’s brother, King Ferris, won’t listen to Halt, Halt has Horace knock him unconscious. “The king was stretched unconscious on the floor an overturned chair beside him.”
- Tennyson sends an assassin after Will. When Will sees him, “Will brought his right elbow up to face height and pivoted on his right heel, slamming the point of his elbow into the man’s face, breaking his nose and sending him reeling back against the people around them.”
- Horace faces one of Tennyson’s assassins, Killeen, in a combat to the death. Killeen uses a mace while Horace uses a sword. The man hits Horace’s shield. “To Horace it felt as if a house had fallen on his shield.” When Killeen exposes his neck, Horace “stepped in and swung a lightning side stroke at the exposed two centimeters of neck. There was a roar of surprise from both sides of the arena as Killeen’s helmet went spinning away to land on the turf with a dull thud… the spectators realized that his head had gone with it.” The combat is described over four pages.
- When Will finds an assassin in Horace’s tent, Will attacks. “…Something hard crashed into his head, behind the ear, and everything went black.”
- Even though Horace has been poisoned and cannot focus, he still attempts to fight Gerard. Before Horace can be injured, Will intervenes. “Gerard’s snarl of triumph turned abruptly into a screech of agony as the arrow transfixed the muscle of his upper right arm…the sword falling harmlessly from his nerveless hand…” The scene is described over four pages.
- Will and one of Tennyson’s assassins agree to a combat. Each man has to shoot arrows until one of them is dead. Will shoots his arrow, and then “the purple figure jerked suddenly, stumbled a few paces and then fell faceup on the grass.”
- At the end of the combat, the King is found dead. “Peering behind the throne, he saw the flights of the crossbow bolt protruding from the thick wood. The missile had gone through the back of the chair and into Ferris’s back, killing him instantly, pinning him to the chair.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Someone poisons Horace, making him unable to focus. After a few days, the effects of the poison wear off.
- Will finds a village that had been burnt down. The inn still had cheap brandy sitting on a shelf.
- In order to infiltrate the Outsiders’ camp, Will knocks out one of the sentries and pours brandy on him. “If a sentry was found reeking of brandy and sleeping peacefully under a tree, no amount of protesting on his part would convince his superiors that he had been attacked.” While Will is sneaking into the camp, he sees a group of men who “were drunk and talking loudly, staggering slightly on the uneven ground.”
- As Will is spying on the enemy, he heard “the clink of glasses from inside and the sound of pouring… There were one or two appreciative sighs—the sound a man makes when he has taken a deep draft of wine.”
- While trying to recruit members, the Outsiders set up “several casks of ale and wine under a large, open-sided tent and were serving generous mugs of both to all comers.”
- Several times during the story, people are served wine or ale. For example, when setting up for a combat, wine and ale are set up for the townspeople to purchase.
- When the Rangers finish their Gathering, someone says, “So now let’s have a glass of wine and call it a night.”
- Halt, Horace, and Will go to a farmstead and say, “we’ll pay well for a hot meal and a tankard of ale.”
- Halt calls his brother “a lying sack of manure.”
- Damn is used three times. For example, Halt says, “Horace, when you get older, try to avoid being saddled with an apprentice. Not only are they a damned nuisance…”
- Hell is used twice. Halt says that his brother’s castle is “drafty as hell in winter, too.”
- “Oh for God’s sake” is used as an exclamation several times.
- A group of raiders, named the Outsiders, are posing as a religious group in order to fleece the town of its money. The people had a “simple message of friendship… they asked for nothing but a place to worship their benevolent and all-loving deity, the Golden God Alseiass. They made no attempt to convert the locals to their religion. Alseiass was a tolerant god…”
- When trouble began in the village, “then the Outsiders would come forward with a solution. The outlaws surrounding the village were followers of the evil Balsennis—a dark god who hated Alseiass and all he stood for.” The villagers were told that “to expel Balsennis, special prayers and invocations would be required.” However, they had to build a shrine made of gold.
- When Will realizes that the Outsiders are killing innocent children, he thinks, “You’d better pray that your god will protect you.”
- Tennyson preaches about Alseiass, saying, “I’m a servant of the Golden God Alseiass. And he says all men are my friends—and I should be a friend to all men… There are evil, lawless men abroad in the world. They are the servants of the black spirit Balsennis. I see his hand everywhere I go, bringing sorrow and despair and death to the people of this wonderful country…”
- Tennyson says that Alseiass doesn’t mind if a person worships other gods because “that isn’t Alseiass’s way. He doesn’t’ care to force himself upon you. If you have other gods you prefer, or no gods at all, he doesn’t condemn you.” Tennyson preaches for eight pages, trying to get support to overthrow the king.
- When Halt goes into a town pretending to be looking to buy sheep, he says, “Thank God, I’ve seen little in the way of good animals arrive so far.”
- When Tennyson’s inner circle go in to raid a town, one of the men says, “My men and I serve Balsennis, the mighty god of destruction and chaos.”
- Halt meets a woman who doesn’t believe in Alseiass. She says, “Some of us here worship the old gods. We know the gods send us good times and bad to try us. I don’t trust a god that promises only good times… A god that brings you good and bad in equal amounts doesn’t ask for much. Maybe a prayer or two… A god that promises only good times? A god like that will always want something of you.”