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“I mean, there is obviously an evil force that influences our world. We’ve all seen too many examples of criminal behavior to doubt it. Who’s to say that there isn’t the occasional person with the ability to summon that force or channel it to his own use?” Crowley. –The Sorcerer of the North
The Sorcerer of the North
Ranger’s Apprentice #5
by John Flanagan
Will is finally a full-fledged Ranger, who has his own fief to look after. Will is just getting used to the sleepy fief when he is called away on a secret mission. Lord Syron, who is a master of a castle far in the north, is struck down by a mysterious illness. Some believe that Lord Syron has been struck down by an ancient enemy who is using dark magic. One thing is known for sure: many do not respect Lord Syron’s son, Orman. Will Orman be able to guide the fief during his father’s illness?
As Will is trying to determine who is loyal to Lord Syron, Alyss shows up disguised as a noblewoman. The two hope to discover who is to blame for Lord Syron’s illness. As Will battles growing hysteria, traitors, and most of all, time, Alyss is taken hostage and Will is forced to make a desperate choice between his mission and his friend.
The Sorcerer of the North has a slow start as Will travels to his new fief. Unfortunately, Will is called away almost immediately. During the first part of the book, Halt, Alyss, and several other known characters make a short appearance. Even though their appearance sets up the book’s conflict, the action is slow. Readers who have read the previous Ranger’s Apprentice books will continue reading because they are familiar with Will and the other characters; however, those who have not read the previous books in the series will not want to start with this one.
In The Sorcerer of the North, Will spends too much time traveling to meet different people in attempts to learn about Lord Syron’s kingdom. Instead of being interesting, the reader may quickly become bored. Once Will travels to Syron’s castle, he still spends much of his time collecting information. It isn’t until the end of the book that the action picks up, ending in a cliffhanger that will lead readers to pick up the next book in the series, The Siege of Macindaw.
Even though The Sorcerer of the North isn’t as entertaining as the previous books, readers will enjoy seeing Will become more confident as a Ranger. As Will investigates Lord Syron’s fief, he learns that things are not always what they seem. However, the story has few surprises, too little action, and an easily solved mystery. In addition, readers will miss Halt, Horace, and Evenlyn, who were prominently featured in the previous books. Despite this, readers will want to continue to read The Sorcerer of the North because they know that Will’s next exciting adventure is just around the corner.
- Will is happy to see Alyss, who “sensed his need for warmth and feminine company and affection and had been more than glad to supply all three. It hadn’t progressed past some tentative embraces and kisses in the moonlight. . .”
- As Alyss leaves Will’s house, “she leaned forward and her lips touched his—light as butterfly wings and amazingly soft to the touch. They remained so for many seconds, then Alyss finally stepped back.”
- Will catches a man spying on him. When the man tries to sneak into Will’s house, “Will moved quickly, grabbing the man by the wrist with his right hand and pivoting to jerk him forward into the room. At the same time, he let the pivot movement throw his left leg across the doorway as a barrier, so the outsider was jerked forward and tripped over the outstretched leg. . .” The man recovers and aims a war spear at Will, “the razor-sharp head weaving slightly as if to mesmerize his enemy.”
- When the spy, Buttle, sneaks into Will’s house, Alyss tries to help by pointing a dagger toward the man. “Buttle swung instantly toward her, dropping into a defensive crouch, the spear ready to thrust. . . ” Will cuts the tip off of Buttle’s spear. Then, Will “brought the brass pommel of the saxe thudding into his temple.” Buttle is knocked unconscious and sold into slavery.
- As Will and two other men try to leave the castle, guards shoot at them. “Will saw movement on the battlements ahead of them, and heard a crossbow bolt strike, skidding, on the stones in front of Tug. Without conscious thought, seemingly without aiming, he shot again and a figure tumbled from the parapet into the courtyard, his crossbow clattering on the stones beside him.” The men were able to escape.
- When men follow Will out of the castle, Will shoots an arrow at one of them. “Instead of striking home into Buttle’s upper body, it came out of nowhere and slammed into his thigh, tearing through the fleshy part of the leg and pinning it to the hard leather of the saddle.”
- Will tries to get Alyss out of the castle, but he is unable to. When he flees the castle, a sergeant recognizes Will and “lunged clumsily with the halbert. Will’s saxe knife was in his hand and he deflected the heavy ax head to one side. Grabbing the sergeant’s arm, turning and crouching in one movement, he threw him over his shoulder to the flagstone of the courtyard. The sergeant’s head slammed into the hard stone. His helmet rolled on one side and he lay stunned.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Will asks a stranger about an injured dog. The man replies, “John Buttle has a shepherd like that one. And he’d be the kind to injure a dog and leave it that way. Has a nasty temper, John does, particularly when he’s in the drink.”
- The Scandians needed to raid a fief in order to get supplies, including wine.
- Will invites the Scandians to a feast. He tells a man, “But don’t try to match them drink for drink. You’ll never manage it.”
- Will goes into a tavern where the patrons were “tapping their wine mugs on the table” and singing along with a song. One of the songs is about a “drunken witch,” and another song talks about “the drunken king of Angledart.”
- Will goes into the barracks rooms because he knew “nothing lessened men’s tongues like an evening of music and wine.” He gives the men “a large flagon of apple brandy to help the night along.”
- Someone poisons Orman. Later, Will finds out the poison was “a particularly nasty toxin called corocore. It’s very obscure—not listed in any of the major texts on herbs and poisons. It takes about a week to take effect, so it was probably slipped into Orman’s food or drink sometime in the last ten days.”
- Alyss, disguised as a noblewoman, asks for someone to bring her and her guest “the good Gallic white” wine.
- A man talks about his injured dog. He says, “little bitch tried to bite me so I taught her.”
- Damn is used occasionally. For example, Will tells a Scandian that a man “made a damn nuisance of himself around here. . .”
- “My God” is used as an exclamation twice. For example, when someone shows Will a weapon, Will says, “My God.”
- “Oh God” is used as an exclamation three times. “Good God” is used as an exclamation once.
- Alyss is working undercover as Lady Gwendolyn. She tells Will, “Now we can talk, while any eavesdroppers will hear the jongleur serenading that stuck-up twit, Lady Gwendolyn.”
- Hell is used once. Will says, “Then we ride like hell for the gate.”
- Someone calls a guard an idiot.
- While in a forest at night, Will sees an apparition. “. . . A giant figure loomed out of the mist, towering high above the mere, seemingly to rise from the black water itself. One moment there was nothing. Then, in the blink of an eye, the figure was there, fully formed. . . This was no mortal figure he knew. This was something from the other side, from the dark world of sorcery and spells.” When the apparition tells Will to leave, Will quickly exits the forest.
- Alyss is hypnotized.
- As he was walking across the courtyard, Will “Breathed a silent prayer that they wouldn’t encounter Buttle on his way out.”
- Will’s dog approaches a man. When the man begins petting the dog, Will’s friend says, “Thank God you didn’t shoot him.”