The Red Fox Clan

Picking up where The Royal Ranger: A New Beginning left off, this next installment continues the story featuring young apprentice Maddie and the student-turned-master, Will Treaty. The time has come for the next generation to assume the mantle and become protectors of the kingdom of Araluen.

After passing her third-year assessment as a ranger’s apprentice, Maddie is called home to Castle Araluen. Forced to keep her ranger training a secret, Maddie feels trapped by her role as a princess of the realm and longs to find a way out. But there are whisperings of a new threat to the kingdom. The mysterious Red Fox Clan, a group of anarchists who don fox masks, have threatened Castle Araluen, and they question Princess Cassandra and Madelyn’s succession to the throne. Will they unseat Cassandra and Madelyn and take the throne for themselves?

In order to set up the conflict, the book’s chapters alternate between different points of view —Madelyn’s, Horace’s, and Gilan’s. In addition, The Red Fox Clan introduces new characters and brings some characters from the Brotherband Series into Madelyn’s world. The introduction of characters and conflict slows the pacing because there is little action. However, readers who have already become fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will enjoy seeing familiar characters from a different perspective.

Like all the Ranger’s Apprentice books, The Red Fox Clan ends with an epic battle. Even though the Araluen must fight the rebel Red Fox Clan, they do not kill for the fun of it. Several times in the battle, the Ranger Gilan has the opportunity to kill enemy fighters, but he chooses not to. After one fierce battle, the rebels begin to retreat and Gilan stops his men from shooting at the fleeing enemy. While men die, the story never glorifies killing others. Instead, Gilan chooses to show mercy to the enemy.

The start of The Red Fox Clan has little action or adventure; however, readers will be glad they continued reading because of the exciting conclusion. The conclusion does not resolve any of the story’s conflicts but instead ends with a cliffhanger. Readers will be eager to read the next book in the series, Duel at Araluen. Despite having 14 books in the original series, readers will find The Royal Ranger Series’ action isn’t stale and repetitious; instead, Maddie’s struggle varies enough that readers will still be guessing what will happen next. Readers who love action, adventure, and noble characters will enjoy The Royal Ranger Series.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Maddie and Ingrid are traveling to Castle Araluen when two robbers stop them and demand their valuables. Maddie shoots a lead shot at one of the robbers and hits his bow. “The broken limb flew loose, and then stopped by the string, flicked back and smacked the man across the jaw, raising a bleeding weal there. He cried out and staggered back. . .” The man grabs his knife and Maddie shoots again. The shot “hit him on the point of his shoulder, smashing the bone and bruising the flesh.”
  • One of the robbers “swing[s] wildly with the cudgel” trying to knock Ingrid off the horse. “Ingrid leaned out of the saddle, wielding the riding crop and bringing the heavy stone pommel crashing down on top of his leather cap . . . his eyes glazed and he simply folded up like an empty suit of clothes.” The man is knocked unconscious.
  • When one of the robbers tries to flee, Maggie’s horse “slammed his. . .The impact sent the man tumbling in the grass, rolling over several times before beginning to rise, groggily to his feet.” The man takes out his knife and goes after the horse, so Maddie uses her sling to shoot the man. “The scream was torn from him as the lead shot slammed into his forearm, breaking the bones there.” The men are tied up and taken to the jail of a nearby village. The scene with the robbers is described over 3 ½ pages.
  • The Foxes, a rebel group of men, attack an Araluen army as they forge a river. The Araluen army shoots a volley of arrows. Four of the enemies “screamed and fell. Another volley slammed into the enemy formation. More men fell.” At the end of the battle, the Foxes “were nursing their wounds and reluctant to move from the cover of the trees. . .eleven of their comrades lay where they had fallen.” The attack is described over four pages.
  • The rebels again send men to cross the river. The Ranger Gilan’s “arrow plunged down in a shallow arc and struck the lead swimmer in the right shoulder. The man let out a cry of agony and stopped swimming.” The man survives, but another rebel is “hit in the chest . . . he cried out once, threw up his hands and sank without a further sound.” Another rebel is injured when an arrow hit “his arm with its razor-sharp warhead, and blood started reddening the water around him.” After one man dies and three are injured, the rebels retreat. The skirmish is described over three pages.
  • As the Araluen army flees, the Ranger Gilan stays at the river. When the rebels send a man across the river, Gilan shoots an arrow but the next “arrow was even quicker. It slammed into the unprotected breastplate with the full force of Gilan’s massive bow behind it. . . ripped through the breastplate and into the man’s body.” When Gilan begins shooting “a volley of six arrows” the enemy retreats.
  • The Foxes again attack the Araluen army. Someone shoots at one of the leaders. “The arrow flew in a whimpering paragola, then struck home in the center of the rider’s chest, hurling him backward over the horse’s rump and leaving him lying still on the grass.”
  • During the skirmish, one of the Foxes’ sergeants looks at his men, and “the man next to him fell with an arrow through the top of his leather helmet.” The Foxes quickly retreat into the woods.
  • The Araluen army hides out in an old fort. The rebels stage an attack, trying to climb over the walls. “The bows thrummed with the ugly sound of release, and a few seconds later, six arrows slammed into the men crouched downhill.” As the arrows hit the men, they “cried out in pain and staggered back, clutching at the cruel barbed shafts that transfixed them.”
  • During the attack, Horace and a Fox commander fight. The commander “hacked wildly at Horace. There was a ringing clash of steel on steel as the two blades met. . . Horace’s sword darted out, fast as a striking viper. The super-hardened, razor-sharp blade cut through the man’s chainmail overshirt as if it wasn’t there . . . Horace jerked his sword free and rammed his shield into him. The Fox commander fell backward. . . crashing into the men on the ladder behind him.”
  • As the rebels begin to retreat, “the archers took up their bows again and began to pick them off as they slipped and staggered down the hill. Gilan shook his head wearily, sick of the slaughter.” Gilan orders his men to stop shooting. The battle is described over six pages.
  • Maddie was spying on the Fox Clan. Someone sees her and the men give chase. Maddie runs. As men charged toward her, “a shaggy form burst around the corner of the church, behind the men. Maddie’s horse, Bumper, slammed his shoulder into him and sent him flying. He dealt with a second in the same way, crashing into him with a sickening thud.” Maddie is able to escape.
  • The Red Fox Clan enters the castle through a bridge. “The rider drew his sword and cut left and right, killing them where they stood.”
  • Damon, the Red Fox Clan leader, tries to catch the queen. When the queen sees Damon, he has a “blood stained sword in hand and blood staining his doublet.”
  • In order to protect the queen, Maikeru and two men sword fight. One man “lunged at Maikeru. . . His sword was deflected immediately, and as he staggered slighty, the katana slashed quickly across his neck and he fell, a choked scream rising to his lips. His companion watched in horror. . . Maikeru went on the attack. Once again the deadly katana found its mark and sliced through chain mail and flesh. The second man fell, lifeless to the bridge.”
  • After Maikeru kills several men, the Red Fox Clan leader orders his men to kill him with arrows. “The two bows thrummed almost in the same instant. . . But the other [arrow] slammed into his chest, high on the right side. . . The two men shot again and two more arrows slammed into him, both hitting vital spots.” Even though Maikeru dies, the queen is able to get to safety because of him. The scene is described over three pages.
  • When the queen and her staff are safely closed up in a castle tower, Damon and his men try to smoke them out. When that doesn’t work, a man tries to use a ladder like a bridge to enter the room. Using her sling, Queen Cassandra attacks. “The shot slammed into [the attacker’s] left knee with a sickening crack and smashing bone and tendons.” The man falls to his death. Several men are killed in the same way.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • At a festival, “barrels of wine and ale were propped up on trestles to ease the collective thirst.”

Language

  • Maddie is upset that a “damn nanny goat nuzzled [her cowl] aside and started chomping.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • A man wants to start a rebellion. He tells the crowd, “For thousands of years, our country was guided by a law that said only a male heir could succeed to the throne. . . And it was a law that respected the will of the gods.” A man wonders why people “accepted so readily the concept that this was a law approved by the gods.”

Arthur’s Tractor: A Fairy Tale with Mechanical Parts

One day, Arthur is out plowing the green fields into brown with a mighty tractor. Does he notice that a fair maiden is running for her life right behind him? Not a chance. Does he notice the dragon? Or the knight?

The only thing he does notice is his “broken” tractor! Little does Arthur realize that he is heading for a fairy tale ending himself. With action and details to discover on every page, this picture book will captivate every knight and princess in your kingdom . . . or backyard!

Arthur’s Tractor is the perfect book to read aloud because it’s full of funny dialogue and onomatopoeia. For example, while the princess is under attack, she makes many different sounds such as “EEEK!” Arthur thinks that his tractor is to blame for the odd sounds, and he’s determined to make his tractor as good as new. At one point, Arthur wonders, “Well, bless my blisters, whatever can that THUD THUD THUD be?”

While Arthur inspects his tractor, a battle is going on right behind him. Behind the green and brown fields that Arthur is plowing, there is a princess in pink, a brave knight, and a huge dragon. Plus, several animals, including a frog and a squirrel, are fighting over a golden egg. Readers will love looking at the detailed illustrations that are packed full of action.

In the end, the princess proves that girls can love tractors as much as anyone. After helping Arthur fix the tractor, the princess says, “Now pass me that can, and I’ll oil that coil bolt brandisher before the dang things bangles free.” Each page of the picture book has 1 to 6 sentences. Because of the colloquial language, and complex sentences, young readers will need an adult to read the story to them.

Arthur’s Tractor will appeal to anyone who loves tractors and fairytales. Young readers will laugh at the silly antics of the fairytale characters and enjoy the unique conclusion that shows the princess driving the tractor as “they all lived happily ever after.”

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • “Dang” is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

A New Beginning

Will Treaty has come a long way from the small boy with dreams of knighthood. Life had other plans for him, and as an apprentice Ranger under Halt, he grew into a legend—the finest Ranger the kingdom has ever known. Yet Will is facing a tragic battle that has left him grim and alone. To add to his problems, the time has come for him to take on an apprentice of his own, and it’s the last person he ever would have expected: Princess Madelyn, the daughter of Princess Cassandra. Will will have to win the trust and respect of his difficult new companion—a task that at times seems almost impossible.

A New Beginning brings the exciting tale of Horace and Cassandra’s daughter, Maddie. Fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will be eager to follow Will Treaty on an epic journey that pits a group of evil slavers against Will and Maddie. The fast-paced story has plenty of adventure and action as well as humorous moments. The first part of the story focuses on Maddie’s Ranger apprenticeship where she not only learns the skills of a Ranger, but also learns to have compassion for the common people. The second part of the story focuses on Will and Maddie as they investigate the kidnapping of children. Both parts expertly merge for a suspenseful conclusion that contains several surprises.

As a princess, Maddie was disrespectful, disobedient, and defiant; however, readers will connect with the spoiled princess who wants adventure and a life of purpose. Being a Ranger’s apprentice allows Maddie to learn important survival skills, such as how to defeat an enemy, why loyalty is important, and the necessity of following orders. Plus, Maddie gets an inside look at the struggles of peasants. The satisfying conclusion shows Maddie’s growth from a spoiled brat to a brave Ranger’s apprentice who helped save children from being sold into slavery.

A New Beginning is not for the faint of heart; an evil villain, bloody battles, and many deaths are all essential parts of the plot. The fighting and deaths are described in detail. Plus, the story focuses on the Stealer, who “is a mysterious spirit, dressed all in black, and wearing a black mask and cloak. He materializes in a village and takes children.”

Although A New Beginning is the beginning of Maddie’s story, those who are new to the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will not understand the significance of some of the people and events that take place. For maximum enjoyment, readers should first read all 12 books in the Ranger’s Apprentice Series. While this may seem like a huge undertaking, each book has a unique new conflict that will capture readers’ attention.

Through the Ranger’s Apprentice Series, Flanagan creates a world where good and evil often clash. By the end of the series, readers will feel like the characters are their friends. While the series often delves into serious topics, the books also reinforce the importance of loyalty, sacrifice, and friendship. Readers who decide to jump into the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will be swept away into a world where knights exist, princesses help save the day, and the Ranger’s apprentices always help overcome evil.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A Ranger questions a wagoner about “the fire that you and Ruhl set in that inn. . . There was a woman killed in that fire, remember? A Courier.” The Ranger explains that the Courier died while saving a child who was trapped in the fire.
  • Later, the fire is described. The Courier, Alyss, was on the second story of the inn when there was “a terrible rumbling crash, the entire section of the roof above and around where she was standing gave way and collapsed in a mass of flames and sparks. . . Alyss never had a chance.”
  • As the Ranger questions the wagoner, the Ranger’s “right hand snatched the dagger from his belt and he swung it in a backhanded strike. . . The wagoner grunted in shock and staggered back. His feet tangled in the bench he’d been sitting on and he stumbled, crashing over to hit the edge of the table, then falling with a thud to the ground.” When the wagoner doesn’t move, someone turns him over. “The wagoner’s eyes were wide-open. The shock of what had happened was frozen on his face. His own dagger was buried deep in his chest.”
  • Someone tries to kill Maddie, who reacts by using her sling to throw a projectile at the attacker. “The shot, with the extra impetus of the sling to propel it, hit its target first. She heard an ugly, meaty smack and a muted cry of pain from her attacker as it struck home.” Maddie kills the attacker.
  • The villain kidnaps a girl. In the process, her brother “pretended to go back to sleep. I told him if he raised the alarm or told anyone what he’d seen tonight, I’d come back for him and cut his eyes out of him.”
  • In an epic, multi-chapter conclusion, Will and Maddie try to save a group of children who were kidnapped. Both Will and Maddie are forced to kill several evil men. When Will sees a guard, he “nooked an arrow, drew back and released, sending a shaft flashing down the cliff face. It struck the crossbowman full in the chest.” The man dies.
  • One of the villains threatens to kill a child. In order to save the boy, Maddie whipped the sling over and forward. The lead ball caught the moonlight, glinting once as it flashed toward its target.” The man is injured, and “he drew in a breath to scream and the action caused him more agony as the jagged pieces of his fractured rib grated together.” The man falls off a cliff and dies.
  • Will draws the enemy away from Maddie. When Will has a chance, he shoots an arrow at “the line of advancing men. . . Enrico cried out in surprise and pain and threw out both arms, staggering back under the impact of the speeding shaft. Then he crashed over on his back, his sightless eyes staring up at the sky.” Will kills three men in a similar manner.
  • The enemy captures Will. One of the men “jerked his head forward and butted Will in the face.” Will is tied up, and the head henchman, Ruhl, plans to burn Will at the stake. “Ruhl made his way up to the beach to where Will stood, trapped against the stake, unable to move. . .”
  • Maddie crawls behind Will, who is tied at the stake. She cuts Will’s binds. Someone notices her, and Maddie’s “first shot smashed into one of his men. . . Maddie’s second shot smashed home. It hit him on the right shoulder, shattering the large bones there, smashing the joint beyond any possibility of repair and sending him reeling.”
  • During the fighting, Maddie is hit. “The evil, barbed head was buried deep in her thigh and she felt the leg give way under her, unable to bear her weight. Blood was coursing down her leg and she fell, causing more agony. . .”
  • During the fighting, Ruhl falls into the fire. “Then the firewood ignited with an explosive WHOOF! Ruhl screamed as the flames shot up, enveloping him instantly, catching his clothes and hair. . . He tried to scream again, but the burning air and flames scorched his throat and lungs, and he made a terrible, inhuman grunting noise.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Several times throughout the book, the adults drink ale. A man who owns a tavern “had drunk far too much ale. As a result, he had staggered off to his bed without bothering to clear away the dirty platters. . .”
  • Maddie is invited to a party where there is a cask of wine. Maddie “took a deep swig of wine. It tasted heavy and somewhat sour.” After drinking too much wine, Maddie looks at her friend who “seemed to be swimming in and out of focus.” The next morning, Maddie has a hangover and decides, “I’m never going to drink again.”
  • While trying to solve a mystery, Will goes into a tavern and orders small ale. “Small ale was ale and water mixed in equal proportions.”

Language

  • Gorlog’s breath is used as an exclamation once. Gorlog is a “very useful Skandian demigod.”
  • Oh god and my god are both used as an exclamation once. When Will talks about his dead wife, he say, “Oh god, how I miss her.”

Supernatural

  • While talking to some village children, Maddie hears about barrow wights. “They’re supposed to be spirits that hang around ancient graves.” Will thinks back into the past. Will had “sensed something then as he rode past some ancient borrows, as the ancient grave mounds were called. It seemed to be some malign presence.”
  • One of the villains scares the children with a story about the Stealer. “The Stealer is a mysterious spirit, dressed all in black, and wearing a black mask and cloak. He materializes in a village and takes children. . . The thing is, the Storyman said if we were ever to see him, we were to say nothing. . . And he said we must never, never tell a grown-up about the Stealer in the Night.”

Spiritual Content

  • Queen Cassandra’s father says, “Thank god for Horace. She couldn’t have chosen a better husband.”

Christmas in Camelot

Jack and Annie are on their most exciting mission yet! It begins with a simple invitation to spend Christmas Eve in Camelot, a magical place that exists only in myth and fantasy. What Jack and Annie don’t know yet is that the invitation will send them on a quest to save Camelot itself—not just from destruction, but from being forgotten forever. Can they succeed, even though Camelot’s greatest knights have failed?

When Jack and Annie arrive at Arthur’s castle, they find the kingdom has been robbed of all joy. The Christmas Knight appears with a warning—someone must go on a quest to retrieve the Water of Memory and Imagination. Only Jack and Annie are willing to go on the quest. The Christmas Knight tells the kids a riddle, which will help them succeed. However, their journey is filled with danger and magic.

Readers will relate to Jack and Annie, who want to fight to save Camelot. Despite the characters’ young age, they work together to complete the quest. With a little imagination, a little magic, and a lot of bravery, the two kids are able to save Camelot. While the setting is in Camelot, King Arthur and his knights only appear at the very beginning and end of the story. However, readers will enjoy trying to solve the riddle and seeing how Jack and Annie persevere until the end.

Proficient readers who are ready for chapter books will enjoy Christmas in Camelot’s fast-paced plot. The large text and black and white illustrations every 2 to 7 pages make the story accessible to young readers. The large, detailed illustrations bring the characters and monsters to life. The author’s note includes the Celtic Myths that Christmas in Camelot was based on. The back of the book also includes fun Christmas craft activities that readers can enjoy.

Anyone who wants to add a little magic and mystery to the holidays will enjoy Christmas in Camelot. Even though the story is part of the Magic Tree House Series, the book can be read as a stand-alone. For more time travel and historical fiction, add the Imagination Station series by Marianne Hering & Paul McCusker to your reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Jack and Annie must fight the Keepers, four monsters that look similar to dragons. “The four Keepers hissed louder than before. Great balls of blue fire exploded from their mouths and nostrils! Jack and Annie slashed the air with their fiery weapons, jabbing at the Keepers. They fought fire with fire, blue flame with purple flame.” The monsters retreat back into their caves.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • King Arthur and his knights “were gnawing meat off bones and slurping wine from heavy goblets.”

Language

  • Darn is said once.

Supernatural

  • Jack and Annie have a magic tree house that allows them to travel to the past. The two kids find an invitation in the tree house. When Jack holds the invitation and makes a wish, the magic works.
  • A “Dark Wizard” cast a spell over Camelot that “robbed Camelot of all its joy.”
  • In order to break the Dark Wizard’s spell, Jack and Annie must travel to the Otherworld, “an ancient, enchanted land beyond the edge of earth.” The two kids must bring back a cup of the Water of Memory and Imagination.
  • When King Arthur tries to stop Jack and Annie from going on a quest, the Christmas Knight “raised his gloved hand in the air. In an instant, the room fell deathly quiet.” Everyone was frozen in place.
  • The Christmas Knight gives Jack and Annie a cloak that makes them invisible.
  • Jack and Annie fight the monsters. The kids drink the Water of Memory and Imagination and the water gives Jack bravery.
  • Jack drops the cup of Water of Memory and Imagination. Then, “a golden cloud was rising from the cracks between all the stones of the floor. . . It soared across the dark room like a bright light, then swooped back out into the night.” The water unfreezes King Arthur and his knights. The water also brings laughter and celebration back to Camelot.
  • A white stag helps the kids on their journey. When they return to Camelot, the stag turns into “an old man with a long white beard.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Blizzard of the Blue Moon

In order to save a hidden unicorn, Jack and Annie time travel to New York City during the Great Depression. The siblings must find where the unicorn is hidden. In order to save the unicorn, they have to find it before the blue moon.

As they look for the unicorn, Jack and Annie get lost in a snow storm. They ride in the subway, find help in Belvedere Castle, and go to an art museum. During their adventure, two people follow them. Jack and Annie think the people are their friends, but they aren’t. Instead, the mysterious people are trying to capture the unicorn.

While the kids are lost in New York, most of the suspense is created by the people following them. In the end, Jack and Annie discover a dark wizard has sent these two people to capture the unicorn. Most of Blizzard of the Blue Moon lacks action, and there are several unrealistic events. However, finding the unicorn adds magic and whimsy to the story and produces a happy conclusion.

Proficient readers who are ready for chapter books will enjoy Blizzard of the Blue Moon’s mystery. While the siblings do not spend much time at each stop, readers will get a glimpse of some historical places. An author’s note includes the information about the Great Depression and the places Jack and Annie visit.

The large text and black and white illustrations every 2 to 7 pages make the story accessible to young readers. The large, detailed illustrations bring the characters to life. As the eighth book in the Merlin Missions Series, fans of the Magic Tree House Series will enjoy this new adventure. However, this part of the series should be read in order because several characters return from the previous books.

Jack and Annie are likable characters who both want to help others. While the story has mystery, none of the events are scary. However, some parents might not like how Jack and Annie use a “rhyme” book to cast spells. With magic, mystery, and two siblings who fight for good, the Magic Tree House series has wide appeal. With 50+ books, the Magic Tree House Series will keep younger readers entertained for years. Readers who want to spend more time jumping into the past should add the Time Jumpers Series by Wendy Mass to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A boy pushes Jack, who falls into the snow.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Annie says “Oh, darn” one time.
  • A girl tells the unicorn, “You are coming with us, stupid, like it or not.”

Supernatural

  • Jack and Annie use a book of rhymes. When one of them say a rhyme, it helps them. For example, when Annie is lost in a storm, Jack uses a rhyme. He says, “Treasure forever must never be lost! Um-motta cal, um-motta bost!” After he says the rhyme, Annie appears.
  • A unicorn was “rescued by magic weavers in the Netherlands. To keep him safe, they used their art to hide him in their tapestries.”
  • On the night of the blue moon, the unicorn will come out of the tapestry when someone says his name. A girl says, “Come, come, my lovely Dianthus, stand up now. Come out of that old rug. . .” After she says the unicorn’s name, he appears next to the girl.
  • A girl tries to catch the unicorn by putting “the black rope around the unicorn’s neck.”
  • To keep the unicorn safe, Jack reads the rhyme book. “Known from high, out of the sky, Ee-no-fain-ee-ro-lie.” Fog covers the ground and keeps the unicorn safely hidden.
  • After Jack and Annie walk through Central Park, statues begin to move. For example, “When they passed the statue of the winged angel, Jack thought he saw her move her great wings.”
  • In order to keep the unicorn safe, Jack turns the girl and her friend into ducks. Merlin tells them that the spell will wear off in a few days.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Knight-Napped

A pigeon lands on Danny Dragonbreath’s head and refuses to fly away. Attached to the pigeon’s leg is a note from Danny’s cousin, Spencer. Knights have kidnapped Spencer and they plan to slay him soon. Danny’s friends Christina and Wendell reluctantly agree to help Danny free his cousin Spencer.

Christina discovers that her relatives are the ones keeping Spencer locked in the tower. But before they can all save Spencer, Danny and Wendell are imprisoned in the dungeon. Christina is upset when she finds out that her relatives “are in the habit of kidnapping little kids and imprisoning them in towers.” In order to gain her family’s trust and free her friends, Christina pretends to hate dragons.

Danny, Wendell, and Christina all know their mothers would be upset to learn that they took a bus to Castle Wanderpool, but they need to save Spencer. Danny tries using his fire breathing skills to break out of the dungeon, but he only succeeds in catching the dungeon on fire. When Danny is thrown into the dungeon he thinks it’s “nothing compared to what his mom would do if she found out he’d been randomly breathing fire on people.”

Knight-Napped is full of surprises, fake fights, and friendship drama that will have readers laughing out loud. Danny’s story is told in a unique style that blends graphic novel and novel format. The text is broken up with illustrations and has several graphic novel scenes with speech balloons. The blend of text and pictures will help keep reluctant readers engaged in the story. The comic-style illustrations are mostly black and white, but they also have a pop of green.

Readers will laugh as Danny reluctantly tries to save Spencer. Danny “didn’t always like Spencer, but leaving him in a castle where they stuck dragon heads on walls—no. Just no. Danny Dragonbreath had his limits. He was going to get Spencer if he had to climb up the outside of the tower by himself.”

Danny, Christina, and Wendell’s adventure through the castle is hilarious. Readers will appreciate how the young knights try to satisfy their grandfather’s desire to have Freddy slay a dragon. Readers will relate to all of the characters—dragon, iguana, and knight—who are all afraid that their mothers will find out about their adventure. Knight-Napped is a wonderfully ridiculous, humorous story that will keep readers engaged until the very end. If you’re looking for a fun book series that kids will love to read, the Dragonbreath series is perfect.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Nobody actually fights, but the kids pretend to fight in order to make Freddie look brave in front of his grandfather.
  • Spencer and his friend Freddy pretend to fight. “Freddy managed to get on top and sat on the small dragon’s chest. . . [Freddy] actually had to climb off Spencer to get to the sword. Spencer waited politely on the ground.”
  • Christina charges at Danny. “He hit the sawdust floor of the arena and rolled. Christina swung her sword at him. She missed by a mile, but there was a nasty little whistle as the blade sliced through the air. . . Christina shook herself off, wiped ashes from her face—and charged him. Again. . . She slammed into him, shoulder first, and drove him back against the arena wall.”
  • During the fight, Danny “flamed. He frothed. He ran at Christina waving his arms and spouting smoke. . . He flung himself at Christina, caught her sword under one arm, and threw himself to the ground, kicking wildly.” The fighting is comedic. Danny and Spencer both pretend to be slain.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Danny and Wendell go into a castle’s moat, Wendell says, “I’m going to need antibiotics. This moat is nasty.”

Language

  • One of Danny’s classmates calls him dorkbreath.
  • As part of her master plan, Christina tries to help Danny while at the same time prove to her family that she was not friends with him. She yells at Danny. “Truly, dragons are vermin, lower than slugs, lower than flatworms! They are a vileness upon the earth! They stink!”
  • Christina calls dragons “scaly scum” and “foul dragon scum.”
  • There is some name calling. Idiot is used once. Dummy and jerk are both used once.
  • Oh my god is used as an exclamation once.
  • Darn and crud are both used once.

 

The Emperor of Nihon-Ja

When Horace travels to the exotic land of Nihon-Ja, it isn’t long before he finds himself pulled into a battle that is not his—but one he knows in his heart he must wage. A kingdom teeters on the edge of chaos when the Nihon-Ja Emperor, a defender of the common man, is forcibly overthrown. Only Horace, Will, and his Araluen companions can restore the Emperor to the throne. Victory lies in the hands of an inexperienced group of fighters, and it’s anybody’s guess who will make the journey home to Araluen.

In the last book of the series, The Emperor of Nihon-Ja brings many of the characters from previous books together. The story follows the same format as the other books, ending with an epic battle. The Emperor of Nihon-Ja teaches that all men have value and that each person has a unique skill. Even though not everyone is able to be a warrior, everyone is important—diplomats, soldiers, attorneys, and the common man. Hoping to overthrow the Emperor, Ariska forms a rebel army and his brutal ways are in stark contrast with the Emperor, who is “kind and honest and incredibly courageous. He’s trying to better the lot of the common people here and give them a bigger say in things.”

Alyss and Evalyn also play an integral part in the battle. The two women are never seen as silly maidens. Instead, they are courageous, brave, and imaginative. Even though the two girls do not get along, they are able to put their differences aside and work together for the greater good. In the end, the girls discuss their conflicts, which allows them to understand each other and finally become friends.

The Ranger’s Apprentice series reinforces the importance of friendship, loyalty, courage, and imagination. Even though most of the books have the same format, each story is unique and interesting. The Emperor of Nihon-Ja shows that a ruler’s strength does not come from brute force. Instead, a ruler is “a man who would forsake the highest position in the land to save the lives of his subjects.” Even though many of the characters are from different countries and have completely different cultures, they respect each other’s cultures and do not expect others to change.

The Emperor of Nihon-Ja concludes the Ranger Apprentice series. The series is a fast-paced and entertaining series that also has positive lessons. By the end of the series, readers will feel like Halt, Horace, and Will are their friends. For readers looking for another great series to enjoy, the Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce would make an excellent addition to your reading list because the story contains action, adventures, and knights.

 Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The Senshi class tries to overthrow the Emperor. A soldier tells about the beginning of the uprising. “Many of the Emperor’s clan are dead already. They tried to resist Arisaka, and his men killed them.”
  • Soldiers ambush the Emperor and his traveling companions. “Horace heard a savage hiss as something flew past his face, missing him by inches. Then he saw George swaying, a long arrow buried in the upper part of his arm. As he watched, George slid sideways from the saddle and thudded onto the rough, churned-up earth of the track.” George survives.
  • Three soldiers attack the Emperor. “One grabbed the reigns of the Emperor’s horse, and as Shigeru drew his sword and struck at him, the man ducked under the horse’s neck to avoid the blow.” Horace jumps in to save the Emperor. The soldier “felt a moment of surprise when Horace’s horizontal stroke took him in the rib cage, exposed as he raised the sword high, and smashed through his lacquered leather armor. Then he felt nothing.”
  • Another soldier attacks Horace, but Horace “kicked flat-footed into the side of his knee. The man’s leg collapsed under him and he stumbled forward with a shrill cry of pain. A quick thrust cut off his cry, and he fell at Horace’s feet.” By the end of the ambush, seven of the attacking soldiers are dead and two of the Emperor’s men are dead. The ambush is described over four pages.
  • While traveling to Nihon-Ja on a boat, pirates attack. “The riders Halt had singled out were in the act of shooting again when the two long, heavy arrows hissed down and struck them. Halt’s target yelled in pain, dropping his bow and clutching at the arrow that had suddenly slammed into his upper arm.” One pirate is killed and one is injured before the pirates flee.
  • When the rebel army finds the Emperors’ coin in a peasant’s house, “they killed him. Then they ran amok through the village, burning cabins, killing women and the old people.”
  • A lieutenant in the rebel army plans to kill a village leader. Halt pretends to be the leader, and “the lieutenant raised the long weapon above his head, preparing to sweep down… The kneeling headman suddenly came up onto his right knee. There was another ringing hiss and his hand emerged from under the ragged Kikori cloak with a gleaming Senshi short sword… he thrust forward, burying the blade in the lieutenant’s midsection.”
  • After the lieutenant is killed, a battle ensues. The village is burned and “gradually, the sounds of fighting died away as the last of Arisaka’s men were cut down… Four of Shigeru’s warriors also lay silent on the bloodstained soil of the common ground, and another two were nursing wounds.” The scene is described over three pages.
  • A ship of pirates attempts to overtake another ship. Evalyn uses her sling and “one of the shouting, gesticulating pirates in the bow suddenly toppled over, folding up like an empty garment…” Evalyn shoots again and “the pirate skipper abruptly reared up, clutching his forehead, then crashed over backwards onto the deck.” The Skandian’s attack the pirate ship, disabling it. During the process, “nearly half the pirates were killed or disabled.” The scene is described over four pages.
  • As the Emperor flees from the rebel army, Horace watches the men who are engaging the army, allowing the Emperor to escape. “Several bodies were slumped over the hedge or sharpened stakes that had been driven into the ground of the riverbank. More were visible, drifting slowly downstream in the deeper water below the ford. The river itself was streaked with red ribbons of blood.” As men begin to die, the rebel army continues to attack. “The ten men with Arisaka crowded forward, slashing and stabbing, in a compact mass… Shigeru’s cousin staggered to one side, his sword falling from his hand. He doubled over in agony and fell to one knee. Almost contemptuously, Arisaka took a pace forward and struck again. Shukin fell face down on the sandy riverbank. He didn’t move…” The battle is described over four pages.
  • The Emperor tries to get to safety, Horace holds off a warrior. The warrior “stumbled forward, off balance. As he tried to recover, Horace made a quick, darting lunge and took him in the left thigh…” Horace uses his sword, which “crumbled the lacquered leather body armor the Senshi wore, crushing the ribs behind it. The man gasped in pain.” The man falls off a bridge. Several others also fall of the bridge falling to their death. The scene is described over three pages.
  • When the Arisaka’s army attacks the Emperor’s hideout, some of the men are killed when “rocks showered over the ramparts, hurled down.” Some of the Emperor’s men were killed when “an arrow slammed into the defender’s chest and sent him staggering back off the rampart.”
  • During the above attack, the rebel army finds themselves in a trap. “A vast pile of rocks, earth and timber tumbled end over end down the wall, bouncing, smashing, crushing anything and everything in its path.” Several of the men are killed. The attacking army lost more than thirty comrades. The battle is described over five pages.
  • The Kikori are loyal to the Emperor. They engage the enemy. The Kikori work as one and use shields to protect each other. While the Senshi attack with their swords, “short, razor-sharp iron blades began to stab out of the gaps in the wall, skewering arms, legs, bodies, aiming for gaps in the Senshi armor… Some of the Senshi did manage to cause casualties.” After many deaths, the Senshi retreat. The scene is described over three pages.
  • After the Senshi retreat, many of the warriors refuse to go back into the battle. One man speaks up, explaining the reason. His leader’s “sword flashed in a blur of reflected light, striking the man in the gap between helmet and breastplate. With a startled, choking cry, the Senshi staggered and fell.”
  • Alyss and Evalyn kill a large cat that had been hunting people. Alyss uses herself as bait and when the cat jumps on Alyss’s shield, Evalyn uses her sling. Evalyn’s “shot hit the animal with a sickening crack, taking it on the left shoulder, smashing and splintering the bone beneath the fur… Evalyn placed her third shot carefully, sending it crashing into the animal’s rear left hip. Again, bone crunched and the tiger’s left rear leg suddenly went limp.” The scene is described over three pages.
  • The book ends with a multi-chapter epic battle. The battle’s violence is similar to the battles that were described above.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Horace and Evalyn announce their engagement, Halt yells, “Break out some of our special provisions, and some wine and ale. We’re having a party tonight!”

Language

  • “Oh God,” “for God’s sake,” and “my god” are used as an exclamation several times.
  • Darn is used once. Horace says, “That’s the trouble with you attorneys. You’re too darned literal.”
  • “By Gorlog’s beard,” “by Gorlog’s teeth,” and “by Gorlog’s toenails” are each used as an exclamation once.
  • Evalyn calls Alyss a “great gangly cow.”
  • A Skandian, Niles, calls the pirates “raggedy-bum backstabbers.” The Skandian’s captain yells, “Get back on board, you great idiot!”
  • Someone calls Arisaka a “bantam rooster.”
  • “What the devil” is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • In Nihon-Ja, the Emperor is “a person whose accession to the throne was guided and consecrated by the gods. To rebel against him was an unthinkable sacrilege.”
  • When Halt agrees to let Alyss and Evalyn go on a dangerous mission, Halt says, “But god help me when Will and Horace find out about it.”

Halt’s Peril

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.

Sexual Content

  • 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.”

Violence

  • 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.”

Language

  • “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.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • 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.”

The Kings of Clonmel

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.

Sexual Content

  • 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.”

Violence

  • 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.”

Language

  • 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.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • 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.”

Erak’s Ransom

What does it mean to earn the Silver Oakleaf? So few men have done so. For Will, a mere boy and apprentice to the most difficult Ranger to please, that symbol of honor has long seemed out of reach. If he is to ever earn it, he must prove himself in ways he never imagined.

Now, in the wake of Araluens’ uneasy truce with the raiding Skandians, there comes word that the Skandian leader, Erak, has been captured by a desert tribe. The Rangers, along with a small party of warriors, are sent to free him, but the desert is like nothing these warriors have seen before. Strangers in a strange land, they are brutalized by sandstorms, tricked by one tribe that plays by its own rules, and surprisingly befriended by another. Like a mirage, nothing is as it seems. Yet one thing is constant: the bravery of the Rangers.

Erak’s Ransom goes back in time, before the fifth and sixth installments of the series. When Erak is taken captive, the Skandians ask for the Araluens’ help. For the first time ever, Halt, Horace, Will, and Evelyn travel together. The interplay between the characters is interesting. Readers will appreciate seeing how people from different cultures can respectfully work together without having to hide their beliefs.

Like the previous books in the series, the story ends with an epic battle. However, one of the best aspects of Erak’s Ransom is the political negotiating, the clashing of beliefs, and the honor of desert tribes. Even though the story’s plot is complicated and there is a huge cast of characters, readers familiar with the characters will not have difficulty understanding the plot. The Araluens, Skandians, and two desert tribes come together to defeat an evil raiding party. Each group has a different strength, and all contribute to freeing Erak and defeating evil.

Erak’s Ransom is another fast-paced story that readers will not want to put down. Although male friendship is highlighted, Evelyn’s strong personality also comes to the forefront and shows how women can be capable leaders. Erak’s Ransom will leave readers wishing they could sit around the campfire and have a conversation with the Araluens and the Skandians because at this point in the series, they seem like trusted friends.

Sexual Content

  • At Halt’s wedding, “there had been the inevitable tearful flouncing and shrill recriminations when the girlfriend of one of the younger warriors from Sir Rodney’s Battleschool had caught her boyfriend kissing another girl in a dark corridor.”

Violence

  • A group of men finds a caravan that was slaughtered. “Horses, mules, camels and men were scattered about the desert, lifeless shapes surrounded by darkening patches of dried blood that had soaked into the sand… The men and animals had been killed, and then hacked in a senseless frenzy. There was barely a body with just a single killing wound.”
  • Will shoots an arrow near Umar’s grandson. Angry, Umar’s “fist struck Will backhanded across the jaw. He staggered and fell, the bow dropping from his hands… Will, stunned by the blow, tried to regain his feet but a savage kick from Umar winded him and sent him sprawling again.” Umar stops when his wife yells at him.
  • While the Araluens, Skandians, and Arridis are traveling together, they are attacked. The group makes a shield wall. Gilan and Halt use their bows. “Already, half a dozen riderless horses were running wildly with the group charging from the front, their riders lying in crumpled heaps in the sand behind them… The battle became a heaving, shoving, hand-to-hand melee, with curved swords rising and falling, hacking and stabbing along the line. Men cried out in pain on both sides as they went down, then cried out again as comrades and foes trod them down in their efforts to reach the enemy.” Both sides lose men. The attack is described over four pages.
  • The Araluens, Skandians, and Arridis surrender. The leader of the other army imprisons those who will be valuable to sell as slaves. Everyone else is left without shoes and water. The leader says, “You’re brave enough now, boy, but wait ‘til your tongue is dry and swollen so large that it fills our throat so that you can hardly breathe. Wait ‘til your feet are torn and blistered by the heat and the rocks. Your eyes will be blinded by the glare of the sun and you’ll wish your leader had allowed me to kill you here, and now.”
  • The captives are bound, and “The guards mounted and herded their captives on foot toward the camp… Urged on by spear butts and curses, they stumbled on the uneven ground.” When the captives arrive at the camp, they see Erak. “…He was seated on the ground, chained between two noisy, complaining camels. His face was bruised and his hair matted with dried blood. One eye was almost closed and there were whip scores on his arms and back.”
  • Tualaghi forces the captives to walk for three days. “If anyone falls—and inevitably they did, since they were kept off balance by having their hands tied together in front of them—he was immediately surrounded by riders jabbing with lance points or striking down at them with the butts of their spears.” The men are bruised and sore by the time they arrive at their destination.
  • Halt upsets the Tualaghi leader. Two men grab Halt, “forcing him forward and down until he was on his knees in front of Yusal. The Tualaghi Aseish then rained closed-fist blows on Halt’s face, left and right, striking again and again until the Ranger’s face was cut and bleeding and his head lolled to one side… he crumbled to the sand, facedown, and semiconscious.”
  • When a woman looks at Yusal, he “had her savagely whipped.”
  • When the prisoners are taken to be executed, “there were those who chose to jeer at the prisoners and throw stones, clumps of earth or garbage at them.”
  • Will and Aloom try to find a vantage point so they can see the captives. Three of the enemies appear and “crowded upon him (Aloom), swords flashing, rising and falling as they attacked.” In order to help, Will jumps and “landed feet first on the shoulders of the Tualaghi leader. The man gave a cry of shock and pain and crumpled beneath the force of Will’s body. Will heard the snap of bones breaking somewhere, then a sickening thud as the bandit’s head slammed into the hard, rocky ground.”
  • During the fight with Will and Aloom, Will uses his saxe knife, and “the Tualaghi gave a short cry, half surprise, half pain, and sank back against the wall, his sword dropping from his hand…” The three Tualaghi are killed, and Aloom is severely injured and eventually dies from his wounds.
  • Will watches as Aloom “coughed and scarlet blood stained the front of his robe.” Will must leave Aloom in order to help the captives.
  • Will shoots the executioner. “Only then did those on the platform see what had been visible to the crowd in the square: the gray shafted arrow buried deep in the executioner’s chest.”
  • Will shoots an arrow at Yusal. The arrow “took him in the muscle of his upper left arm… He screamed in pain and fury…” Yusal flees, but “there were still armed Tualaghi all over the platform, threatening his friends.” Will shot arrows until “the guards began dropping with shrieks of agony and terror.”
  • A Tualaghi strikes his sword at Horace, and “a thin red line formed immediately, then blurred as blood began to well out of the cut… Horace simply brought the massive brass-pommeled hilt back in a short, savage stroke, thudding it into the man’s head.”
  • Evelyn uses her sling to fling a stone at Yusal. “A solid smacking sound could be heard clearly around the square. Then Yusal’s hands dropped and revealed a mask of blood covering his eyes and upper face, flowing down to soak into his blue veil… He fell full length to the hard ground below.” Evelyn uses her sling to drop another man. The man “doubled over, clutching his face and moaning in pain.”
  • Toshak, a Skandian traitor, tries to run from the fight. Erak “launched himself at Toshak, the sword swinging down in a blow that would have split the traitor down to the waist. There was a massive ringing clang as Toshak caught the blow on top of his double-bladed ax head… With a mighty roar, Erak used his left arm to thrust himself up from the cobbles while he drove the sword deep into Toshak’s unprotected body.” Toshak dies. The battle is described over three chapters.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Wine and barrels of ale are served at Halt’s wedding.
  • When a couple of Skandians meet a desert people, one of them replies, “Don’t know how you all keep going without a good drink of ale… Settles the mind in the evenings, ale does.”
  • A dying man is given “a few drops of clear liquid” to relieve his pain.
  • At a celebration, the Skandians are given “brandy made from fermented dates and peaches.”

Language

  • The exclamation “Gorlog’s beard” is used occasionally. “Gorlog was a lesser Scandian deity who had a long beard, curved horns and fanglike teeth.”
  • “God’s above,” “good God,” and “my God” are used as exclamations a few times.
  • Several times someone is called an idiot. For example, Halt wonders why he needs to invite “the Iberian ambassador and his two idiot daughters to my wedding.”
  • Evelyn “frightened the devil out of” a guard.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • A diplomat thanks the lord for Evelyn’s character and courage.
  • A group of raiders are referred to as “the Forgotten of God.”
  • When Will begins a journey, he says, “I’ll see you in a few days.” The person replies, “I hope the god of journeys wills it so.”
  • When Will appeared, Halt “whispered a prayer of thanks.” Later, Halt puts his bound arm on the execution block and “prayed that his friend had got the message.”
  • The desert people “believed that djinns and devils and spirits all lived in these ancient mountains.”
  • The Skandians believe “that if they were to die in battle without a weapon in their hand, their soul would wander for all eternity.”
  • After Evelyn negotiates successfully, Halt says, “Lord forgive me, I’ve created a monster.”

Red Queen #1

In the Kingdom of Norta, the silver blood nobility rule over the red blood commoners. While the Silver enjoy luxury, life without strife, and supernatural powers, the Reds live in poor villages, forced into a war they don’t want, and powerless against their Silver rulers. Mare Barrow is a young, Red girl simply trying to get by. After her brothers are shipped off to war, Mare steals money and food to survive, helping her parents and younger sister when she can. When she meets the mysterious Cal, her whole world is flipped upside down. He helps assign Mare to the royal Silver court, where she discovers Cal is the crown prince.

After an accident where Mare falls onto a dome of magical lightning, she discovers she has a power just like the Silvers (a supposed impossibility). To cover up her newfound power, the King forces Mare into the role of a lost Silver princess, betrothing her to his youngest son, Maven.

As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she begins to fall in love with Maven’s older brother, Cal. A budding love won’t stop Mare from supporting her family and fellow Reds.  In order to fight the Silvers from inside the palace, Mare secretly joins the Red freedom group. With every step she takes, danger closes in around her. If she steps the wrong way, Mare and everyone she loves will certainly die.

Red Queen focuses on the struggle surrounding the Silver and Red caste systems. For anyone born with Silver blood, life is incredibly easy and much of that luxury is created through the hard work of the lower caste of the Reds. Reds are basically soldiers for the Silvers, as the Silvers send Reds to fight in a war with a neighboring nation, the Lakelands. This gap in the social hierarchy and the ways in which the Silvers flaunt their status create a suspenseful, dangerous situation for any Red, like Mare, that interacts with a Silver because the Silvers can punish the Reds for any reason.

The story unfolds from Mare’s point of view, which allows the reader to see Mare’s inner thoughts, anxieties, and frustrations. However, Mare isn’t the most likable main character. Mare is the typical YA heroine, who is poor, but not particularly perceptive. Despite being described as knowing how to read people, she falls into numerous traps. Even though Mare is clearly on the side of the Reds, she manages to depict both sides in equal light, showing how both the Silvers and Reds can be kind or cruel.

The novel’s main theme is betrayal, which allows Mare to learn not to trust others. This theme of betrayal makes the plot predictable and a bit slow-paced. However, both the politics of the Norta Silver court and the action scenes, which include some spectacular fights, help make up for the slow pace. The Silvers aren’t entirely unified, which leads to some interesting scenes that pit the Silver caste against its own. Mare’s growing love for Cal, the crown prince, also helps to balance out the story. Red Queen leaves readers with a cliffhanger that will leave them dying to know what happens in the next book, Glass Sword.

Sexual Content

  • Gisa, Mare’s younger sister, has a crush on Mare’s friend. After Mare mentions him, Gisa’s “skin flushes bright red at the mention of him. She even giggles, something she never does. But I don’t have time for her schoolgirl crush, not now.”
  • Cal, the elder prince, is regularly tasked with dealing with suitors. Mare watches as a noble girl’s “gaze lands on Cal—I mean the prince—trying to entice him with her doe eyes or the occasional flip of her honey-blond hair.”
  • When Mare and Maven go to see Cal, they see him removing his armor. Mare thinks, “He doesn’t notice me at first; he’s focused on removing more of his armor. It makes me gulp.” Later, she’s close to Cal and thinks, “Unable to meet his gaze, I focus on what’s right in front of me. Unfortunately, that happens to be his chest and a much-too-thin shirt.”
  • Mare realizes she’s beginning to fall for Cal. While visiting her home, she thinks, “What can I say? That he’s kind? That I’m beginning to like him?” Later on, she kisses him. “His lips are on mine, hard and warm and pressing. The touch is electrifying, but not like I’m used to. This isn’t a spark of destruction but a spark of life.”
  • Mare also kisses Maven. She notes, “His kiss is not at all like his brother’ Maven is more desperate, surprising himself as much as me.”

Violence

  • At the beginning of the novel, two Silvers, Samson and Cantos, fight each other. Before Samson “can hope to stand, Cantos is over him, heaving him skyward. He hits the sand in a heap of what can only be broken bones but somehow rises to his feet again.” Immediately after, “Samson spits, sending a sunburst of silver blood across the arena.” Samson takes control of Cantos’s mind, causing Cantos to kill himself. “Another twist of Samson’s hand and silver blood splashes across the sand as Cantos plunges his sword straight through his armor, into the flesh of his own stomach.”
  • After a mass panic, Mare is attacked by a Silver. A “frothing blue wave knocks me sideways, into churning water. It’s not deep, no more than two feet to the bottom, but the water feels like lead.” Mare watches as her sister is attacked, Gisa’s “eyes are on mine as he brings the butt of his gun down, shattering the bones in her sewing hand.”
  • At a Silver fighting arena, Mare watches as “birds dive headfirst into the lightning shield, bursting in little clouds of blood, feathers, and deadly electricity, my awe turns to disgust. The shield sparks again, burning up what’s left of the birds until it shines like new.”
  • Mare falls onto the lightning shield. Mare’s “head bangs against the shield, and I see stars. No, not stars. Sparks. The shield does its job, lighting me up with bolts of electricity. My uniform burns, scorched and smoking, and I expect to see my skin do the same.” After Mare gets back on her feet, she tries to run from angry Silvers who shoot at her. As she runs, “a blast of gunfire explodes over my head, forcing me to drop to the floor.”
  • Mare’s kingdom, the Kingdom of Norta, is at war with the Lakelanders, another nation. Maven tells Mare, “I spent three years in the barracks, following Cal and officers and generals, watching soldiers fight and die for a war no one believed in. Where Cal saw honor and loyalty, I saw foolishness. I saw waste. Blood on both sides of the dividing line, and your people gave so much more.”
  • A group of Reds plan to assassinate prominent Silvers. In the aftermath of the assassination, Mare witnesses as “Sonya screams nearby, bent over the body of Reynald. The spry old Ara wrestles her off the corpse, pulling her away from the chaos. Reynald’s eyes stare glassily up at the ceiling, reflecting the red light.”
  • After the assassination, Mare trips and “lands face-to-face with a corpse, staring at Colonel Macanthos’s scar. Silver blood trickles down her face, from her forehead to the floor. The bullet hole is strange, surrounded by gray, rocky flesh.”
  • After the assassinations, the group of Reds responsible are found and tortured. Mare sees that the torturer “is not gentle, wrenching out Farley’s wounded arm. Farley yelps in pain but still says nothing.”
  • In order to free the Reds, Mare attacks two Silvers and gets hurt. “The bullet hits me in the stomach, but my lightning blazes up the metal rail, through his skin, and into the healer’s brain. Pig-Eyes shouts, firing his own gun. The bullet digs into the wall, missing me by inches.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Cal likes to visit Red bars. When Cal tells Mare the palace is stuffy, she says, “And crowded bars, Red bars, aren’t?”
  • Oliver, one of the boys that Mare trains with, clutched a “sloshing drink.” He grabs onto Cal, but “Cal shifts out of Oliver’s grip. The drunk windweaver doesn’t seem to notice and keeps babbling.”
  • When going through her mentor’s room, Mare notices “the bottle of brown liquor on the table, occupying a spot usually reserved for tea.”

Language

  • Lucas, Mare’s personal guard, doesn’t like his cousin, Evangeline. He tells Mare, “Evangeline is a bitch.” Mare echoes this sentiment later on, saying, “Evangeline Samos is a bloodthirsty jerk.”
  • After the royal ball is bombed, Maven says, “Bastards.”
  • After the bombing, the Queen says the Reds “are a disease.”

Supernatural

  • Silvers use magic to help them rule over the Reds. They are sometimes seen as gods. As Mare states, “The gods rule us still. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind.”
  • Whispers are Silvers with the rare ability to enter someone’s head, read someone’s thoughts, and control someone’s mind.
  • When Mare and her sister try to enter a Silver city illegally, Mare’s ID is scrutinized by a Silver guard. Mare thinks, “I wonder if he’s a whisper too and can read my mind. That would put an end to this little excursion very quickly and probably earn me a cable noose around my neck.”
  • Swifts are Silvers that can enhance their speed. After Samson kills Cantos, Swifts rush in to help. “A few are swifts, rushing to and fro in a blur as they herd us out.”
  • A nymph is a Silver that can manipulate water.
  • Telkies are Silvers that can levitate objects.
  • A greeny is a manipulator of plants and earth. Mare watches as a “florist runs his hands through a pot of white flowers and they explode into growth, curling around his elbows.”
  • Strongarms are Silvers that have superhuman strength. Mare notices “A Silver next to me clenches his fist and pounds on the bar, sending spider cracks through the solid rock top.”
  • A cloner is a Silver that can clone themselves. When Mare is caught stealing by a cloner, she thinks, “And then there are three of them, four, five, six, surrounding us in the crowd.”
  • The King is a burner who can control fire. Mare watches as fire “seems to burn against his inky black hair flecked with gray.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Jonathan Planman

The Sorcerer of the North

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 attempt 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.

Sexual Content

  • 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.”

Violence

  • 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.

Language

  • 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.

Supernatural

  • 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.

Spiritual Content

  • 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.”

The Icebound Land

After a fierce battle with Lord Morgarath, Will and Evanlyn are captured. Erak, a Skandian warrior, forces Will and Evanlyn onto a ship destined for Skandia. Erak plans to sell the two young people as slaves. When the group returns to Skandia, Will and Evanlyn are separated. Their lives are full of grueling work, freezing cold nights, and hopelessness. Will the two ever be able to find each other? And if they do, is there any chance of escape?

Halt, determined to rescue his young apprentice, purposely defies the king. Expelled from the Rangers, Halt is joined by Will’s friend Horace as he travels toward Skandia. On their way, freelance knights block their way, demanding tribute. Unwilling to pay to pass every bridge, Horace uses his combat skills to challenge the knights. Unknowingly, Horace has attracted the attention of an evil warlord, Deparnieux, who plans to kill the young knight to prove his power. Deparnieux traps Halt and Horace, taking the two captive. Halt patiently watches, trying to learn the key to defeating Deparnieux and continuing the journey towards Skandia. Will Halt and Horace free themselves in time to rescue Will?

Unlike the two previous books, The Icebound Land focuses more on the characters’ individual struggles. Even though Will is held captive, his master, Erak, soon comes to respect the boy and he recognizes that Will is an honorable warrior. Erak tries to keep the two slaves, Will and Evanlyn, together. However, Erak is unwilling to let the two free.

After Erak takes a short journey, he returns to find Will addicted to the powerful narcotic, warmweed. Erak decides to help Will and Evanlyn escape. Erak knows that Will’s death is fast approaching, and the only way to save Will is to help him escape. Erak helps Will because “a boy like that, he’s a real warrior. He may only be knee-high to a gnat, but he’s got the heart of a true Skandian.”

While Evanlyn and Will hide out in a camping cabin, Halt and Horace are fighting their own battle. As Deparnieux’s prisoners, the two are faced with countless hours of boredom and must patiently watch Deparnieux’s cruelty. Halt knows the key to their survival is patience, but how long can they watch Deparnieux terrorize and kill others?

The Icebound Land has a darker tone than the other two books because it focuses on slavery, drug addiction, and the abuse of power. Throughout the story, several people abuse their power and treat others cruelly just because they can. The slaves are not immune to this problem. One slave, who is in charge of the others, purposely gets Will addicted to warmweed because Will stopped the man from beating a young slave. Erak is the only supporting character that shows kindness, but that kindness was born out of respect for Will.

As the third installment of the Ranger’s Apprentice series, The Icebound Land has less action than the previous books. However, readers who are familiar with the main characters will want to know what happens next. The Icebound Land continues to teach the importance of not being boastful or overconfident. The story does not wrap up any of the plot points, but instead ends in a cliffhanger. Readers will want to jump into The Battle for Skandia as soon as they finish the last page of The Icebound Land.

Sexual Content

  • Halt says, “I’ve heard it on good authority, that good King Duncan is not the lawful occupant of the throne. I’ve heard it said that he is, in fact, the son of a drunken privy cleaner. Another rumor has it that he was the result of his father’s fascination with a traveling hatcha-hatcha dancer.”
  • Horace and Halt see a young woman who is wearing a short skirt. Later, Horace thinks about the girl. “The memory of the girl, and her shapely legs, was causing his cheeks to burn with embarrassment again.” Horace asks several questions about the girl’s dress. Halt jokingly tells Horace the girl is a messenger, who needs to be able to run when necessary and the girl cannot run in a long dress. Horace believes Halt and “for a moment, Halt regretted his deception, feeling a slight pang of guilt. . . Then, the Ranger looked at those clear blue eyes and the contented, honest face of the warrior apprentice and any sense of regret was stifled. Horace had plenty of time to learn about the seamier side of life, he thought.”

Violence

  • A man named Folder “had murdered both of his parents after an argument over a horse.”
  • A group of ten men try to rob a carriage. Halt sees them and intervenes. One of the men “had a brief impression of something flashing past, just in front of his nose. Then, there was an almighty jerk on the raised collar of his cloak and he found himself pinned against the carriage by a quivering black arrow that thudded into the wood.” Halt ties them up.
  • Soldiers appear to arrest Halt for talking badly about the king. “As the Ranger spat out the last word, he had somehow scooped up the longbow from behind him and nocked and fired an arrow. It slammed into the wall behind the spot where the tavern keeper had been standing a second before, and buried itself deep into the wood panel, quivering still with the force of its impact.” Halt misfires another arrow and then “the corporal and his men leaped forward, swinging the short, heavy clubs that they carried, swarming over the small gray-and-green figure.”
  • While traveling, knights stand on bridges and demand money from the travelers. Instead of paying to pass, Horace challenges the knight and wins. This process happens several times. For example, the first time, Horace and the other knight duel and the knight loses his lance in the first pass. During one pass, Horace’s sword “slammed into the back of the other man’s helmet with a loud, ringing clang.” Horace doesn’t kill the knight, but his sword “put a severe dent in the helmet, and the concussion of the blow went straight through the steel to the skull of the knight wearing it.”
  • Evanlyn accidently spills soup on Slagor, a drunk sailor. “Slagor bellowed in pain and grabbed Evanlyn by the wrist, dragging her forward, twisting her arm cruelly so that she was bent awkwardly over the table.” Will picks up a knife, ready to kill Slagor, but Erak stops him from killing the man. After the incident, Erak reprimanded Will. “. . . Erak sent a backhanded fist crashing against the side of the boy’s head, knocking him senseless to the floor.” Will falls to the ground unconscious and has Will dragged to his living quarters.
  • While working, slaves are often slapped or whipped with a leather strap.
  • Will sees a slave being beaten up by another slave. “A thin, ragged boy was huddled on the ground while an older, larger youth flayed at him with a length of knotted rope. . . The boy’s face was heavily bruised, Will saw, and as he watched, a cut opened just under the smaller boy’s eye and blood covered his face.” Will grabbed the knot rope from the youth and stopped the beating.
  • Erak was sent to a settlement to inquire about missing taxes. “It had to be admitted that Erak’s version of investigating consisted of seizing the unfortunate Jarl by his beard as he lay sleeping in predawn darkness. Erak then threatened to brain him with a battleax if he didn’t make a rapid and upward adjustment to the amount of tax he was paying. . .”
  • An evil knight, Deparnieux, has one of his men drop a net over Horace. The net “dropped form the branches of an oak tree that overhung the road, draping itself around the head and shoulders of the boy. For a moment, Horace struggled uselessly in the folds of the net that enveloped him.” Horace and Halt are then captured and made prisoners.
  • Outside of Deparnieux’s castle, metal cages hang. “Horace could make out, to his horror, that the structures were iron cages, only an arm span wide, containing the remains of what used to be men. . . The figures inside were dried-out husks, blackened and shriveled by their long exposure . . . but others were newer and the men inside were recognizable.” One man was still alive—he was put in the cage because he had laughed at Deparnieux.
  • When trying to free Will, Evanlyn gives the watchman money to look the other way. The man “grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her closer to him,” demanding more money. “Then a frown came over his face as he felt a sharp pain in his belly—and a warm trickle running down his skin from the spot where the pain was centered. . . He backed off quickly, waving at the door and cursing her.”
  • A young knight appears outside of Deparnieux’s castle, challenging the man. Deparnieux killed both of the youths’ parents. As the two knights joust, “The young knight’s lance, badly positioned and at the wrong angle, shattered into pieces.” When the young knight begins to lose, Deparnieux “urged his battlehorse after him, following him relentlessly, raining blows on the sword, shield or helmet at will. Finally, there was a duller sound as Deparnieux’s sword struck a vulnerable point—the chain mail protecting the opponent’s neck.” The knight crumbles off his horse’s saddle and dies. The fight is described over two and a half pages.
  • Deparnieux and Halt combat. Deparnieux rides his battlehorse, while Halt stands in the combat field. Halt shoots arrows toward Deparnieux’s eyes. Deparnieux has no problem using his shield to block the arrows. After one pass, Halt shoots an arrow at Deparnieux’s back. “. . . There was a bright flash of pain in his left shoulder. . . he realized that, as he galloped past, Halt had sent another arrow spitting at him, this time aiming for the gap in his armor at the shoulder. . . the wound was a nuisance. A painful nuisance, he amended as he felt the hot blood trickling down his armpit.”
  • After another pass, Halt again shoots arrows towards Deparnieux’s eyes. As Deparnieux shields his face, “Deparnieux heard it. A dull impact of metal on metal—more a metallic thud than a ringing tone. He wondered what it was. Then he felt a small core of intense pain, a bright flare of agony, that began in his left side and expanded rapidly until it engulfed his entire body. He never felt the impact as his body hit the grassy field.” The combat scene is described over two and a half pages.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • An angry slave gives Will an addictive drug called warmweed. The warmweed was used to control the yard slaves. “Warmweed addicts looked forward to nothing, planned for nothing.”
  • Will becomes addicted to warmweed. When Will isn’t given the drug, “his teeth chattered and his body shook and trembled and heaved as he fell to the ground, rolling helplessly in the snow, his knees drawn up to his chest. One hand flailed uselessly at the snow, while the other was jammed firmly in his mouth.” When Evanlyn hands Will the drug, “Will seized the small handful of the gray, herblike substance with horrifying eagerness. . . his attention was totally focused on the drug and she came to realize how completely it ruled his life and his mind these days.”
  • Halt goes into a tavern. He tells the tavern keeper to fill his cup. “There was just the slightest slurring of his words to remind the tavern keeper that this would be the eighth or ninth time he’d refilled the tankard with the cheap, fiery brandy-spirit. . .”
  • When a group of seamen arrive at an island, they are given “brandy-spirit.” One of the men “drank half the brandy in one long gulp.” Later, Erak thinks that the man is a “useless drunk.”
  • While stuck on an island, a group of Skandians “filled their time with drinking and gambling.”
  • During meals, the Skandians usually drink alcohol. When Will and Evanlyn finally reach Skandia, they are taken to the dining hall where they see “nearly one hundred and fifty drunken Skandians eating, laughing and shouting at one another. . .”
  • While staying at a tavern, Halt “accepted a large beaker of red wine with his meal. Horace had settled for water.” While Halt and Horace ate, the room filled with people “coming to eat or to enjoy a few jugs of wine or beer.”
  • While in Erak’s private quarters, the two drink wine as they talk. Evanlyn “was beginning to relax a little and the wine sent a soft glow through her.”
  • While “guests” of Deparnieux, Halt and the knight are served wine with dinner.

Language

  • “Oh God” is used as an exclamation once. “My god” is used as an exclamation three times.
  • Damn is used ten times, mostly in conversation. For example, Erak says, “I hate the damn drug. I’ve seen what it does to people. No one deserves that sort of shadow life.”
  • In anger, Halt exclaims, “For God’s sake. . .”
  • Hell is used three times. For example, when Will and Evanlyn’s skiff begins to sink, Evanlyn says, “Roll like hell!”
  • Halt calls the kind a “poltroon. A coward. And a fool.”
  • Several times a person is called an “idiot.” For example, when a knight is blocking Horace and Halt’s path, Halt says, “Well, I suppose I’ll have to shoot the silly idiot. . . I’ll be damned if I’ll pay tribute to every jumped-up bandit who thinks the world owes him a free living.” Halt then calls the knights who act this way “morons.”
  • Evanlyn thinks Will is a “stubborn, pigheaded idiot.”
  • A knight attempts to insult Horace by asking him, “. . . are you a lying Araleuen dog who barks in the gutters?” The knight then calls Horace a coward and a thief. Later, he calls Horace a “whining pup.”
  • Halt calls the evil knight a swine. Later, the knight calls Halt a commoner. Halt says, “Guard your tongue, you lowborn cur!”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Skandians believe that the Vallas are the three gods of vengeance. “They take the form of a shark, a bear and a vulture.” The Skandians’ king makes a “Vallasvow” to kill King Duncan’s family. Erak explains, “It’s when you hate so badly that you swear to be avenged, not just upon the person who has wronged you, but on every member of the family as well. . . It’s a death vow, of course, and it’s unbreakable. Once it’s made, if the person making the vow should ever recant, the Vallas will take him and his own family instead of the original victim’s.”
  • When Evanlyn frees Will, she “prayed now that the Skandian Jarl was right, and that it was possible for an addict, deprived of warmweed, to make a full recovery.”
  • After Will recovers from his drug addiction, he wakes up in an unknown place. When Evanlyn enters the room, he says, “Thank God you’re safe.”

The Knight Who Took All Day

The Knight wants to impress the golden-haired princess. He wants to show the princess his skill with a shield and a sword. The Knight searches for a dragon, but doesn’t find one. When a dragon suddenly appears in the village breathing fire, the knight is worried more about his appearance than slaying the dragon. The Knight sends his squire up and down the stairs, getting his fashionable armor. The princess takes matters into her own hands, but will she be able to conquer the dragon?

The illustrations show the dragon in and around the village in soft water-colored illustrations, which do not portray the dragon’s destruction in a scary manner. The princess is in many of the illustrations, but because the illustrations are busy, readers may miss the princess’s reaction to the knight, which is important to the knight. Parents may want to make a game out of finding the princess and talking about her facial expressions. Although the illustrations are interesting and engaging, the character’s lack diversity and the two main characters—the squire and the princess—are blonde.

The Knight Who Took All Day is a cautionary tale that highlights the danger of pride and showing off. The Knight is more concerned with having the perfect outfit than saving the town from destruction. The story may lead to a great discussion on gender roles and stereotypes. In the end, the princess finds a way to tame the dragon. The blond-haired beauty marries the squire and lives happily ever after. In the end, the princess shows her bravery and doesn’t have to rely on someone else to save her.

The story’s text has repetition and different types of font to highlight important words and add interest to the page. Even though The Knight Who Took All Day is a picture book, the story will need to be read aloud, because the text is too difficult for a child to read independently. The Knight Who Took All Day takes a humorous, unique look at the traditional fairy tale that is best suited for those who are interested in knights, dragons, and princesses.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A dragon “rampaged across farms, scattering cows and sheep.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • The knight calls his squire a fool.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Prince Problem

Prince Telmund loves to read fables. But in every fable, the oldest children are always bullies. That’s why Telmund was just a little upset when his youngest brother was born. One day, Telmund was racing around, trying to keep his little brother out of trouble, when a nasty witch accused Telmund of being a bully. In an effort to teach Telmund a lesson, the witch cursed him. Now, every time he falls asleep, he will transform into a different type of animal.

Princess Amelia doesn’t care for fairy tales, but she loves facts. The practical princess has a wide range of skills, but none of them will help her escape the ball her parents have planned. Her idealistic parents want Amelia to choose her future husband. Amelia’s parents believe in love at first sight and happily ever after’s. Amelia knows that bad things happen. That’s why she isn’t surprised when Prince Sheridan has her kidnapped.

When Prince Telmund discovers that Princess Amelia is in trouble, he vows to save the princess. But how can a dreamer prince with no skills save the day? Is there any way the two can work together and defeat the dangerous Prince Sheridan?

The Prince’s Problem is a fun, imaginative twist on a fairy tale that has interesting, well-developed characters. When Telmund changes into different animals, he understands that he has the instinct of the animal, and although he understands this, he cannot ignore the animal instincts. Seeing the world through the animal’s point of view adds interest and humor to the story. When Telmund discovers a princess in trouble, he’s determined to help despite his transformations. Telmund wanted to be “like the heroes in stories, who do brave deeds, who help those in need, who keep trying and never give up, and who are unmindful of what danger they might get into if they do the right thing.”

Amelia is not a typical princess. Instead of dresses and jewels, she’s interested in learning about facts. Although she is unconscious for the first part of the story, when she finally awakens, she comes across as a bit bossy. However, as the story progresses, she learns to respect Telmund despite his idealistic nature. When Amelia and Telmund interact, comical misunderstandings and mayhem arise.

In the end, both Amelia and Telmund learn the importance of understanding others, and that “it is unfair to make judgments based on appearance.” Unlike most fairy tales, the prince and the princess must work together. They must use both facts and fairy tale bravery in order to save each other. Although the story is a bit predictable, reading The Prince’s Problem is enjoyable because of the unique aspects of Amelia and Telmund. For those wanting a fresh look at a fairy tale, The Prince’s Problem will entertain and delight.

Sexual Content

  • A prince that wants to marry Princess Amelia, “gave her a light kiss on the throat as though to seal the bargain. She knew that—in the way of marriages arranged for diplomacy and alliances—there often was a big difference in the ages between the partners. The knowledge didn’t help. Prince Sheridan was her parents’ age, and his intentionally menacing yet flirtatious manner was unsettling. She rubbed her wrist over the spot as though she could wipe the kiss away.”

Violence

  • When Telmund is a rat, floating down a river, a boy begins throwing stones at him.
  • When Telmund is a rabbit, a cat chases him, but Telmund is able to hide under a log. “Telmund pressed his back to the space where ground and log met, and ducked his head. The claws touched his whiskers, but not enough to catch hold of him. The cat hissed and scratched at the dirt.” A fairy saves Telmund.
  • Amelia is outside the castle when “she heard the crunch of a footstep behind her. Before she could turn, someone had one arm around her waist and the other around her neck, with his hand over her so that she couldn’t scream—his dirty, foul-smelling hand. No, it was a dirty, foul-smelling cloth that someone was holding over her face.” The cloth had Henbane on it, which caused Amelia’s, “senses swirled dizzying, and the last thing she was aware of was her legs collapsing under her.”
  • While riding in the back of a wagon, Amelia sees Telmund, and she assumes he is a villain. “She shoved, and he toppled off the edge of the wagon and onto the road, headfirst. He didn’t get back up. Amelia hoped, in a fuzzy sort of way, that she hadn’t killed him—even if he was a villain.”
  • When Telmund is a chicken, someone “slipped a sack over his head” intending to eat him.
  • Amelia smacked Telmund on the arm.
  • Amelia is able to escape her captors, but when she is in the forest, she saw a man and began to run. “The man ran after her. Still hiding in the water, Telmund could hear the scuffle. It was short-lived. The man came back into view, holding Princess Amelia under his arm as though she were a sack of onions. Amelia kicked and slapped at his arms and legs, and used words most princesses would not.”
  • One of Amelia’s captors “took hold of her by the hair, not exactly yanking, but not gently, either, and pulled her head back.”
  • As Amelia and Telmund are trying to find their way back to the castle, a person catches Telmund. The man clapped “a hand over his mouth as though to prevent him from calling out . . . in another moment Telmund’s senses swam—probably something to do with the fact that it wasn’t an empty hand held over his mouth but a cloth with a familiar smell.”
  • Amelia’s captor “grabbed hold of her by the hair, and this time it could only be called roughly.”
  • When a dragon appears, Amelia’s captor lets go of her and “shoved Amelia at the dragon. She stumbled to her knees, sliding forward on the ground, her outstretched and still-bound hands making contact with the dragon scales. . .” Everyone runs off. Amelia is not injured.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Several times, Henbane was used to make someone unconscious.

Language

  • A man calls Telmund’s brother a “clumsy oaf.”
  • A villain calls his companion a “dunderhead,” a “dolt,” a “twit,” and “pudding head.”
  • A villain calls his companion “mush-for-brains.”
  • Amelia says Telmund has “porridge for brains.”
  • A lord calls someone an “incompetent fool.”

Supernatural

  • A witch puts a spell on Telmund, which causes him to transform into different animals. A fairy tells him, “I can see the spell you’re under. Every time you fall asleep, you’ll wake up as something else. Every other time, it’s your natural form.”

Spiritual Content

  • When Telmund changes into a chicken, someone captures him. “Telmund wondered if it was God saying to him, Tell ME the only thing chickens are good for is eating. I spent time creating them, you know, same as I created you.”
  • A cook tells Amelia, “God be with you.”

Lady Knight

The Chamber of the Ordeal has given Kel a task that could win the war and save countless lives. Kill the Nothing Man, who entraps the souls of children to fuel metal killing machines. But the Chamber is unable to give her any details, leaving her wondering how she can find the Nothing Man. Is there a way to fulfill her mission without breaking her oaths and abandoning her duty? Or will Kel have to sacrifice everything—including her life?

Unfortunately, Kel quickly finds herself trapped in Tortall when Lord Wyldon assigns her to run a refugee camp. Refugees are pouring in due to the war, and Kel worries they may be a target as the Nothing Man needs children to use for his machines. Kel cannot abandon the refugees, so she sets aside the Ordeal’s mission and works to make New Haven the best fort it can be. With constant attacks by Scanran forces, things are never quiet for long. And soon, an unimaginable tragedy will set Kel on a course that will end up with her going head to head against the Nothing Man, his magic, and his army.

Many readers will relate to Kel because she faces her troubles with determination, understanding that her actions have consequences. Kel’s journey was not easy. Throughout her journey, she shows physical and mental strength, but also the strength of conviction. Kel understands the importance of duty and is willing to go to any length to protect others.

Knight is a roller coaster from beginning to end. The story has a slightly darker tone than the previous books because it focuses on war and describes war’s causalities. Kel has become the knight she always wanted to be. She is kind, and brave, and noble—a great example for girls and boys everywhere. The plot will keep readers engaged, as will the wide cast of new characters. From Scanrans to refugees, Tamora Pierce once again has managed to create a wide cast of diverse characters that are as well-developed as they are lovable. The only disappointing thing about Knight is that it is the last book in Kel’s wonderful story.

Sexual Content

  • Kel thinks about how, “She and Cleon had kissed, had yearned for time and privacy in which to become lovers. He’d wanted to marry her, though she was not sure that she wanted marriage.”
  • A man is shocked that a woman is in charge. He calls Kel, “’a shameless girl, a chit who’s no better than she ought to be!’ The insult to Kel, the claim that she was nearly a prostitute, brought the soldiers growling to their feet.”

Violence

  • Kel’s fort is attacked several times. “Three raiders still galloped toward the eastern wall. One of them went down, an arrow in his throat. . . . Numair’s spell had done its work: flames rose from the ground at the enemy’s rear. There was no sign of either shaman in that large blaze. He’d burned them out of existence.”
  • Killing devices attack the fort. “A man went down, gutted by a dagger-hand. A soldier flew off the walkway to the ground twenty feet below . . . One refugee wasn’t quick enough; the device cut him lengthwise from behind as he turned to flee.”
  • When her men don’t want to bury the dead after a battle, she says, “Then, sir, you shall plow the section where the bodies are, two days hence . . . The feel of a plow as it hits rotting flesh and bone must be . . . interesting.”
  • Two men fight over a woman. “Two young men, both larger than Kel, punched, kicked, and rolled on the ground, trying to rip one another apart.”
  • Kel goes to Haven after reports of a battle. She finds, “a few dead sword- or axe-cut animals . . . All had bloody muzzles and, in the case of the cats, bloody claws . . . [there] was a maroon-and-brown pile. There Oluf’s cold, dead face, his eyes wide, seemed to stare right at her. He lay on a stack of dead men, all in army maroon.”
  • Kel finds several dead bodies as she tracks a group of kidnapped refugees. “Though animals had fed on the dead woman, the Stormwings hadn’t touched her. The earth had protected her face. Gently Kel brushed the mud away. Through the dirt, bloat, and darkening of dead flesh, Kel recognized Hildurra.” Later, “A woman lay crumpled at the roadside. Kel thought her skirts were dull maroon until she saw that they were stained with blood.”
  • At a castle, “corpses hung from the walls in iron cages. Some of the bodies were beginning to fall apart. At least two looked fairly recent.”
  • Kel and her troops storm a castle. The fight takes place over a chapter. “The door opened and a man stuck his head out. Kel cut him down. Another man stumbled across his body to die at Connac’s hand. Inside, Kel heard men hammering at the blocked doors and shutters. Here came another soldier, half armed over a nightshirt. Kel rammed her glaive into his unprotected side while Connac chopped at the man’s neck.”
  • When Stenmun attacks her, Kel “hooked her leg around one of his, and jerked, a leg sweep from her studies in hand-to-hand-combat . . . He went down on his back . . . Kel didn’t wait for an invitation. She brought the iron-shod butt of the glaive down with all her strength, striking him right between the eyes, breaking through his skull. That probably finished him, but to be sure, she cut his throat.”
  • Kel finds Blayce. “She caught Blayce at the knees, cutting the muscles behind them. He dropped, turning visible to her unaided eyes, his control over his invisibility spell gone. Kel seized her glaive two-handed and yanked the blade toward her, neatly beheading the Gallan.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Tobe thinks Kel was drunk when she bought him. “I don’t care if you was drunk or mad or takin’ poppy or rainbow dream or laugh powder, you bought my bond and signed your name and paid money for me and you can’t return me.”
  • When offered wine or cider, Kel chooses cider. She thinks about how, “recently she had found that wine or liquor gave her ferocious, nauseous headaches. She was happy to give up spirits; she hadn’t liked the loose, careless feeling they gave her.”
  • A woman had been “smuggling poppy” to the children that Blayce chose to kill.

Language

  • Phrases such as Goddess bless and By the gods are used frequently as a part of Tortallian culture.
  • An angry cook calls a dog, “you thankless rat turd.”
  • An innkeeper calls an orphan a “whore’s brat.”

Supernatural

  • Kel lives in Tortall, a world filled with monsters and magic. The monsters include griffins, centaurs, and more. Some are good, some are not. Kel even has a basilisk for a teacher.
  • Several people at court are mages. They have the Gift, which can be used for light, to heal, and more. For example, “Daine, known as the Wildmage, shared a magical bond with animals . . . For three years her eagles, hawks, owls, pigeons, and geese had carried tidings south while the land slept.”
  • Neal puts a spell on an abusive man. Neal says the spell won’t hurt the man, “as long as you don’t hit anyone. When you do, well, you’ll feel the blow as if you struck yourself.”
  • A little girl, “is a seer . . . She prophesied that you would come and save us from the Gallan.”

Spiritual Content

  • Tortall has many gods. They are named differently but are similar to the Greek gods. For example, Mithros is the god of the sun, and there is a god of death. The gods are mentioned often in the Tortallian culture but are not an integral part of the plot.
  • An evil mage captures the spirits of dead children and uses them to fuel killing machines, metal monsters with knife fingers.
  • At one point, Neal asks why the gods don’t stop the killing machines. “All the legends say they loathe necromancy. It interferes with the balance between the mortal realm and that of the dead.”
  • When stopping at an old battleground, Kel “added a soft Yamani prayer . . . It seemed to work with most ghosts. She’d never seen any in the Yamani Islands.”

Squire

It was Kel’s proudest moment when she passed her page examinations and was named a squire. But as months pass without any knight taking her onto their service, Kel worries that no knight will want a girl squire. Will she be stuck as a glorified scribe in the palace forever?

That is not her only worry. Now that she is a squire, the Chamber of the Ordeal weighs heavily on her mind. Every squire must enter the Chamber at the end of their squireship. If they survive, they become a knight. But some have been driven mad by the Chamber. Determined to prove herself unafraid, Kel visits the Chamber several times and places her hand on the outside of the door. And each time, the Chamber sends her horrifying nightmares built from her deepest fears.

But Kel cannot dwell on the Chamber too often, because her wildest dreams come true when Raoul asks her to be his squire. As the Knight Commander of the King’s Own, Raoul is a noble warrior that will take Kel on many adventures—not all of them enjoyable. He is a character that readers will fall in love with, as he is good and noble, but also great fun with a solid sense of humor.

Kel is a strong female character who grows and changes throughout the story. Kel has been able to succeed in a male-dominated world because of her hard work and determination. Kel stands up for other women, admires other women rather than becoming jealous, and her behavior highlights the importance of women supporting each other. Kel has a strong moral code that will encourage readers to also stand up for others.

Although Kel is a strong woman, she also has a supportive family and friends. These relationships give the story more depth and show the importance of having positive relationships. As Kel becomes older and begins to think about romantic relationships, Kel discusses sex with her mother, which helps the reader understand Tortall’s sexual morals. Even though Raoul felt uncomfortable talking about sex with Kel, they have a conversation about how it might affect her career, and he gives her advice and information to help Kel make the decision that is right for her. Although Kel never has a sexual relationship, Kel does obtain birth control. Having a sexual relationship is discussed in a nonjudgmental way that allows Kel to make the best decision for herself.

 Squire does not disappoint, with an exciting plot full of monsters, magic, and fun. Raoul and the men of the King’s Own add well-developed new characters to the mix, while Kel’s page friends still make appearances. Readers will feel as though they are squires as they follow Kel on her jousts and into battle. As Kel explores being in a relationship for the first time, readers will relate to her doubts and awkwardness. With a tantalizing ending that sets up the next book, readers should be sure to have Knight handy, because they will not want to wait to read the final book in the Protector of the Small series.

Sexual Content

  • It’s mentioned in passing that Kel’s maid, “put out her clothes, including a fresh breastband and loincloth, and one of the cloth pads Kel wore during her monthly bleeding.”
  • A centaur offers to buy Kel with three slaves, which are horses he owns, and “two more if she breeds successfully within a year.”
  • When Peachblossom gets in a centaur’s way, the centaur “reared to show the geldings his stallion parts, and hissed.”
  • A woman sees bruises on Keladry’s body and thinks she is being abused. She offers Kel protection. “They’ll get the man who did it . . . Even if it’s a noble. After the rapes last winter, they have a new commander.”
  • “Cleon leaned down and pressed his lips gently to [Kel]’s . . . He turned crimson, and strode down the hall.”
  • Cleon kisses Kel a second time. “He lowered his head just a few inches to press his mouth to hers.”
  • Cleon and Kel start secretly dating, and kiss several times. Once, “Cleon pulled her into a corner invisible to passerby and kissed her again. Then he strode out of the tent. Kel pressed her fingers to lips that throbbed from this new and different use.”
  • Raoul warns that if women are in command, they’ll “take Rider men as lovers, and it’s found out, they encounter trouble. Men who dislike their orders offer to work it out in bed. Jealousies spring up.”
  • Twice, when Kel is challenged to a joust, Cleon says a variation of, “Gods protected me, you’re going to die a virgin.”
  • A man confesses to the court. “Two girls of the Lower City were attacked, beaten. A third was—must I say it?—a third was beaten and raped. I did it.”
  • Cleon and Kel almost get carried away twice, but they are interrupted. “That got her another round of very warm kisses. They had each other’s tunics off and were fumbling with shirt lacings when Raoul called outside.”
  • Just in case, Kel “found a midwife-healer traveling with the progress and purchased the charm against pregnancy.” She never uses it, however.

Violence

  • After entering the Chamber of the Ordeal, “a squire went mad there. Five months later he escaped his family and drowned himself.”
  • Kel visits a town shortly after it was attacked. “Bodies were set along the streets, pieces of cloth over their faces. Kel could only glance at those who’d burned; the sight of their swollen black flesh was too much . . . Raoul crouched beside a dead man who clutched a long-handled war-axe. He hadn’t died in a fire: five arrows peppered his corpse.”
  • Keladry knows the bandits she captured are going to be hung. “Kel shuddered: she hated hangings. No matter what the crime was, she saw no malice in those hooded and bound silhouettes dangling against the sky. Worse, to her mind, was the thought that the condemned knew they were to die, that a day and time had been set, that strangers planned each step of their killing.”
  • Centaurs say they have to cull traitorous centaurs and the dumb horses they mated with because, “You don’t want bad blood in the herd, particularly not in the slaves . . . That’s probably what Graystreak’s doing now, culling the slaves that bred with that crowd.” Kel thinks that is “obscene.”
  • Kel fights a centaur. The battle takes place over three pages. “He hurled the axe. Kel dodged left, still between him and escape, and stepped in with a long slash across his middle . . . Kel lunged, sinking the eighteen-inch blade deep below the centaur’s waist and yanking up. His belt dropped, cut in two; his forelegs buckled. Kel pulled her glaive free as her foe went down, clutching his belly. Blood spilled around his hands.”
  • Kel has several nightmares when visiting the Chamber of the Ordeal. “Another centaur clubbed her with a spiked mace. . . They were clubbed down as Kel fought to do something, anything.” Another time, the Chamber gives her a nightmare where, “Men, armed and mounted on horses, galloped down the street . . . she toppled as the man’s sword bit deep into her good shoulder. She lay on her side in the mud, blood pooling under her.”
  • A man “tried to run her through” during a joust. Kel unhorses him, then “flipped up his visor with her sword point and pressed the sharp tip to his nose. ‘Yield,’ she advised, her voice even. ‘Or I carve my initials right there.’”
  • Kel is in a brief fight with bandits. “The man who followed him carried a sword: Kel parried his cut at Peachblossom and ran him through.”
  • Kel fights in a battle. “Kel shot her officer squarely in the throat. He too dropped. . . Her arrow punched into the frothing man’s eye. He dropped like a stone.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Kel’s knight master, “doesn’t drink spirits, and he doesn’t serve them. He says he had a problem as a young man, so he doesn’t care to have liquor about. Captain Flyndan likes a glass or two. He serves it in his tent, but only when my lord isn’t there.”
  • The squires serve refreshments at a party, including “liquid refreshments: wine, punch, brandy, and, for the Yamanis, rice wine and tea.”

Language

  • Phrases such as Goddess bless and By the gods are used frequently as a part of Tortallian culture. Once Raoul says, “Gods . . . [she was] green the whole trip, I swear.”
  • Bitch is used three times. An angry knight tells Kel, “One of us will spear you through your bitch’s heart.” Later Joren tells her, “Once I’m a knight, you’d best keep an eye behind you, bitch.”

Supernatural

  • Kel lives in Tortall, a world filled with monsters and magic. The monsters include griffins, centaurs, and more. Some are good, some are not. Kel even has a basilisk for a teacher.
  • Several people at court have the Gift, which can be used for light, to heal, and more. Once, “The king reached a hand toward Vinson and twisted his fingers. The blue fire of his magic settled over the weeping squire. It blazed fiercely white, then vanished. ‘He tells the truth,’ King Jonathan said grimly.”
  • Squires have to spend a night in the Chamber of the Ordeal before they can become knights. “Generations of squires had entered it to experience something. None told what they saw; they were forbidden to speak of it. Whatever it was, it usually let squires return to the chapel to be knighted.”
  • Kel visits the Chamber several times. When she touches the door, she receives nightmarish visions of death and violence.
  • Daine has animal magic; she can speak to animals and shapeshift. “An eagle hurtled from the sky . . . It immediately began to change shape until a small form of Daine’s head perched on the eagle’s body.”

Spiritual Content

  • Tortall has many gods. They are named differently but are similar to the Greek gods. For example, Mithros is the god of the sun, and there is a god of death. The gods are mentioned often in the Tortallian culture but are not an integral part of the plot. After she passes a test, Kel thinks “Thank you, Mithros, for this gift.”
  • Characters often pray before meals or battles. “We ask the guidance of Mithros in these uncertain times, when change threatens all that is time-honored and true. May the god’s light show us a path back to the virtues of our fathers and an end to uncertain times. We ask this of Mithros, god of the sun.”
  • Raoul points out, “Haven’t you ever noticed that people who win say it’s because the gods know they are in the right, but if they lose, it wasn’t the gods who declared them wrong? Their opponent cheated, or their equipment was bad.”
  • Scanrans, from the country up north, sometimes froth “at the mouth as Scanrans did when they claimed war demons had possessed them.”

Page

Kel survived her first year as a page, but her training is only increasing as she gets older. She still has her studies and combat training, riding, and etiquette lessons. But now that Lord Wyldon has discovered her fear of heights, he constantly gives her tasks that test her limits—such as climbing to the top of the palace wall and mapping the lands beyond. To her friends, Kel insists that Lord Wyldon is just training her to be a better knight, but secretly she wonders if he is trying to drive her to quit.

Meanwhile, Joren claims he wants to turn over a new leaf and be friends. Kel outwardly agrees, but worries Joren is merely becoming craftier. Still, she has little time to worry about what Joren and his friends are up to because she is horrified to discover that she is becoming a woman. First, her breasts begin to grow, and then she starts her monthlies. While Kel wants things to stay exactly how they were, at least one of her friends has begun to notice that Kel is a girl…

Page is a strong follow-up to the first Protector of the Small novel. The same enjoyable cast remains, with the interesting addition of new characters such as Kel’s maid Lalasa. Similar to the first book, Kel has to prove herself capable despite her perceived “weakness” of being a girl. One obstacle that Kel must overcome is her deep fear of heights. Even though she does not want to confront her fears, she proves that she has the strength to pursue her dream. As Kel progresses through her training, Page continues with the theme of behaving honorably, as a true knight should.

Readers will enjoy the advancement of Kel’s training and watching as her relationships with her friends grow and change. Kel’s maid Lalasa is a well-developed character that grows throughout the story. At first, Lalasa is timid because she has suffered great abuse from men. However, while she is in Kel’s service, Lalasa develops confidence and flourishes into a capable young lady. This story highlights the importance of friendship as well as the importance of perusing one’s dreams.

While this book covers the span of three years, where the first book covered only the span of one, the story does not feel rushed or lacking. Kel is a unique heroine who must fight against her own fears as well as discrimination. Both male and female readers will be drawn to Kel’s world and will come away with a positive message—with hard work and determination, dreams can come true.

Sexual Content

  • Garvey asks Kel’s friend, “So, Faleron, you’re friends with her now because you can have her whenever you want?” In retaliation, Neal says, “Joren is so pretty. Say, Garvey, are you two friends because you can have him?”
  • When thinking about self-defense, Kel remembers how, “Nariko had taught the court ladies, including Kel’s family, how to preserve their honor from rapists.”
  • Kel tells Neal, “What you said about Harvey and Joren—it’s not an insult in Yaman. Some men prefer other men. Some women prefer other women.” Neal replies, “In the Eastern Lands, people like that pursue their loves privately . . . Manly fellows like Joren think it’s a deadly insult to be accused on wanting other men.”
  • Kel is shocked to notice she is growing breasts. “Flabbergasted, Kel stared at the front of her nightgown. Sure enough, there were two slight bulges in the proper area for such a thing.”
  • Kel starts her period. “Blood was on her loincloth and inner thighs. She stared at it, thinking something dreadful was happening. Then she remembered several talks she’d had with her mother. This had to be her monthlies, the bleeding that told every girl she was ready to have babies if she wanted them.”
  • Kel’s mother tells her that she, “didn’t have much of a bosom until I got pregnant . . . your sister Patricine, though, she developed at twelve . . . Remember-you may be able to do so, but no one can force you to have babies. You do have a choice in these things. I’ll get you a charm to ward off pregnancy until you are ready for it.”
  • Owen asks Kel, “When did you turn into a real girl?” Kel replies, “I’ve been a girl for a while, Owen.” He then exclaims, “It’s not like you’ve got melons or anything, they’re just noticeable.”
  • When a man attacks her maid, Kel threatens to take him, “‘before the court of the Goddess . . . A man convicted of hurting women in the Goddess’s court faced harsh penalties; those for actual rape were the worst of all.”

Violence

  • Kel gets in a fight with a group of bullies. “Garvey came at Kel from the right, punching at her head. She slid away from his punch, grabbed his arm, pushed her right foot forward, and twisted to the left. Garvey went over her hip into Vinson, who’d attacked on her left. Joren, at the center, came in fast as his friends hit the wall. Kel blocked Joren’s punch to her middle, but his blow was a feint; his left fist caught her right eye squarely.”
  • The squires get in a fight when Neal insults Joren. “Garvey roared and charged, but Joren got to Neal first. Before they landed more than a punch each, Neal’s friends, including Kel, attacked them. More boys entered the brawl, kicking and hitting blindly, striking friend as often as foe. Kel nearly fainted when someone’s boot hit her bruised collarbone.”
  • Kel and her friends are attacked by a group of bandits. The fight takes place over the course of eleven pages. “The enemy coming at her raised a short, curved sword. She saw he would be unable to touch her until he was directly alongside. Kel dropped her extra spear out of her way, making sure she wouldn’t trip on it. She brought her other spear point-down by her right calf, holding it in the glaive position broom-sweeps-clean. The Hillman was almost on her, just five yards, now –She stepped forward, to the right of the charging raider, and brought the spear up in a firm, sweeping movement. The leaf-shaped blade, razor-sharp, cut deep into the man’s leg before Kel had to dodge the downward sweep of his sword. The man turned his horse and came back at Kel. This time she drove her spear through his belly, where it lodged.”
  • Kel fights off a man who attacked her maid. “Rather than shatter Vinson’s kneecap, she hit just above it, where the thigh muscle narrowed. He lurched, knocking Lalasa against the window frame, then let go. Lalasa scrambled back inside Kel’s room, tears streaming down her face.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Adults sometimes drink a goblet of wine with dinner.

Language

  • Phrases such as Goddess bless and by the gods are used frequently as a part of Tortallian culture.
  • The word wench is used several times.

Supernatural

  • Kel lives in Tortall, a world filled with monsters and magic. The monsters include griffins, centaurs, and more. Some are good, some are not. Kel even has a basilisk for a teacher.
  • Several people at court have the Gift, which can be used for light, to heal, and more. One time, the king, “called a ball of light from the air so he could read.”

Spiritual Content

  • Tortall has many gods. They are named differently but are similar to the Greek gods. For example, Mithros is the god of the sun, and there is a god of death. The gods are mentioned often in the Tortallian culture, but are not an integral part of the plot.
  • Characters often pray before meals or battles. “We ask the guidance of Mithros in these uncertain times, when change threatens all that is time-honored and true. May the god’s light show us a path back to the virtues of our fathers and an end to uncertain times. We ask this of Mithros, god of the sun.”
  • When climbing a terrifyingly high tower, Kel thinks that “When I reach the Realms of the Dead . . . I’m going to find the genius who designed this tower and I’m going to kill him a second time. Horribly.”

by Morgan Lynn

 

First Test

Keladry of Mindelan dreams of becoming a lady knight. A generation ago, that would not have been possible. But ten years ago, the King announced that ladies could try for their knighthood. In the decade since, no girl has dared to try. Until now.

Kel knows becoming a knight will not be easy. Years of hard training and study lie between Kel and her dream. But that’s not all. Kel did not know she would be placed on probation—something no boy has ever endured. And she did not realize how much resistance she would meet. Knights don’t think she is strong enough, her trainer does not think women should be knights, and the other trainees are determined to drive her away.

A delightful start to the Protector of the Small Quartet, First Test is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Kel is a brave and kind soul that readers will fall in love with. The other characters in this book are also refreshingly well-developed, from her training master and friends, to her enemies and even her horse. Protector of the Small is an enjoyable story filled to the brim with equal parts fun and excitement. It teaches readers how to be a true knight—how to be honorable, selfless, brave, and to always protect those who are weaker than yourself.

Kel wants to fight, but she’s not interested in glory. She wants to use her shield to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Unlike many female heroines, Kel doesn’t disguise herself as a boy or throw temper tantrums. Instead, she uses quiet determination and her intelligence to overcome obstacles. Kel’s story touches on themes of friendship, bravery, and shows the importance of not bullying others.

Several characters from the Song of the Lioness series appear throughout The Protector of the Small series, which will be a treat for fans of Alanna. However, readers do not have to read the Song of the Lioness series first in order to understand this series. Jump into a medieval world where fantasy and action combine to create a girl-centered adventure that will keep readers turning the pages until the very end.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Kel survived a pirate attack when she was a girl. “The lady tumbled to the ground. Kel slid out the door on her belly. Turning, too startled to cry, she saw the lady at her mother’s feet. There was an arrow in the Yamani woman’s back.”
  • Kel fights with a group of boys when they try to drown a bag of kittens. No one is seriously injured. “Another lad grabbed a branch and swung at her; she blocked it with hers, then rammed the length of wood into his stomach. He doubled over, gasping.”
  • Kel tries to rescue a bag of kittens from a spidren that wants to eat them. The spidren bites a kitten in half, then comes after Kel. Kel freezes in terror, and she does not see when soldiers kill the spidren.
  • Kel fights a group of bullies several times. “Gripping Zahir’s index finger, Kel jammed her thumbnail into the base of Zahir’s own nail . . . He yelped and let go. Joren lunged for her. She stepped back, ducking under Zahir’s frantic punch . . . She grabbed Joren’s tunic and turned, kneeling as she did. He went flying over her shoulder.”
  • The pages say that “a page failed the examinations about six years ago and jumped off the Needle.”
  • The pages go on a spidren hunt with a group of knights. The spidren took a woman, and the knights say they have to find the spidrens because, “Often they bite off a victim’s limb, then slap a web on it, to keep them from dying of blood loss. The woman they took may yet live.”
  • The pages fight when the knights find the spidrens. “The weapon’s slim razor point sliced through the spidren’s chest and arm, releasing a spray of dark blood. Kel reversed the spear and cut back, dragging the blade down. It bit into the spidren at the neck and stuck there as crossbow bolts riddled the immortal.”
  • After the battle, soldiers rolled, “a barrel of blazebalm into the [spidren’s] nest. A mage whispered, and the blazebalm roared into flames. Hearing the young shriek as they burned, Kel found it was her turn to vomit.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Adults sometimes drink wine with their meals.

Language

  • Phrases such as Goddess bless are used frequently as a part of Tortallian culture. One time, Alanna thinks, “Goddess bless . . . How will I ever get on with him if I’m to help this girl Keladry?” Another time, Neal asks Kel, “Why in the name of all the gods in all the Eastern and Southern Lands would you start a fight with them?”

Supernatural

  • Kel lives in Tortall, a world filled with monsters and magic. The monsters include griffins, centaurs, and more. Some are good, some are not. Kel even has a basilisk for a teacher. “The creature was fully seven feet tall, not counting the long tail it used to balance itself, and it was viewing her with fascination. Its large gray slit-pupiled eyes regarded her over a short, lipless muzzle.”
  • Several people, called mages, have the ability to use magic and some can heal with magic. Kel’s friend Neal is one of them. “Neal rested her foot on his hands and bowed his head. A soft light of such a deep green as to be nearly black shimmered between his palms and Kel’s flesh . . . The pounding in her foot began to soften until it had ceased. Her toes shrank back to their normal size as she watched.”
  • “A mage was briefly granted the power to raise the dead last year.” One of the things he brought back to life was, “a kind of living skeleton, a creature of bone and air. It had flown to perch on her, yet its wings were empty, slender fans made of very long finger bones.”

Spiritual Content

  • Tortall has many gods. They are named similarly to the Greek gods. For example, Mithros is the god of the sun, and there is a god of death. The gods are mentioned often in the Tortallian culture but are not an integral part of the plot.
  • Characters often pray before meals or battles. “We ask the guidance of Mithros in these uncertain times, when change threatens all that is time-honored and true. May the god’s light show us a path back to the virtues of our fathers and an end to uncertain times. We ask this of Mithros, god of the sun.”
  • While visiting a foreign land, Kel hears about their sacred relics. “They are the swords given to the children of the fire goddess, Yama . . . The short sword is the sword of law. Without it, we are only animals. The long sword is the sword of duty. It is the terrible sword, the killing sword.”

by Morgan Lynn

 

 

 

The House on Stone’s Throw Island

Eli isn’t happy when he boards the ferry to go to Stone Throw’s Island. He’s not looking forward to his sister’s wedding. Even though groom’s sister, Josie, is his age, he doesn’t want to meet her.  In fact, Eli can think of a million things he’d rather do than spend the weekend on a remote island.

Josie feels the same; she doesn’t want to spend time with her soon-to-be brother-in-law. But when a ghost girl enters her room, Josie decides that Eli might be the best person to help figure out who the ghost is and what she wants. As the two try to figure out the secrets of the island, they soon discover that when the dead want revenge, there is little anyone can do to stop them from getting their ghostly desire.

The House on Stone’s Throw Island grabs its readers’ attention in the very beginning and captivate them until the end. Poblocki weaves a wonderful mystery using suspense and vivid descriptions to keep readers wanting more.

Though the story deals with the ghost of a World War II German spy, most of the violence is hinted at rather than described in detail. This allows readers to use their imagination to create their own images of what happened. The story is well crafted and the two main characters, Josie and Eli, are compelling. The House on Stone’s Throw Island is a perfect book for both older and younger readers who want a good scare.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Someone tries to kill Margo while she is asleep. “A hand came down over her face. It covered her nose and her mouth with a sweat-slick grip and squeezed . . . She pushed at the figures’ chest, but the attacker managed to slap her hands away before pressing against her face even harder.” She hits the person with a lamp and he runs off.
  • Josie reads a diary entry that describes how a German spy was, “standing over my brother with a rifle.  He used it to strike Frankie in the face.”
  • A possessed wedding guest hits someone across the face.
  • A ghost explains how he and his friends died. They were locked in a cavern and, “a storm rose up and flooded the cavern. Despite our cries for mercy, the savage siblings allowed the seawater to fill our lungs.”
  • A possessed wedding guest captures Josie. “But Bruno squeezed her tight.  Tighter. So tight, she could no longer move. So tight, she could barely breathe.”  Josie, “snapped her head forward as hard as she could, making contact with his sternum . . . She wasn’t sure if she had broken something in him or herself.” As she tries to escape his grasp, they fall down the stairs and he is knocked unconscious.
  • The skeletal remains of a German spy try to get Josie and Eli to help him.  “Here was the sallow skin, the collapsed nose, the empty eye sockets.” The ghost wants them to give them a wedding guest in exchange for Eli’s father.
  • A U-boat rams the Sea Witch. The Sea Witch crashes, but everyone survives.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When discussing WWII, one of the wedding guests says, “Screw Hitler.”
  • Before one of the guest reveals a secret, she says, “I think now is the time to tell it. And I don’t give a good-gosh-darn about the repercussions.”
  • When being accused of being negative, one of the guests says, “Negative? Are you freaking kidding me?

Supernatural

  • Three dead German soldiers from World War II take over the bodies of the wedding guest.  The ghosts want revenge for their deaths.
  • The ghost explains what happened to him. “Our souls have been trapped here. Trapped until you arrived on this island, Madame Lintel. Your presence woke us up, and we slipped inside the skins of these men.”
  • An old U-boat and a ghost crew come up and claim three of the wedding guest.  “The three reached up, claiming the help that was being offered to them. . .the men climbed aboard the sub and stood with their compatriots, reunited in spirit at long last.”
  • Eli thinks that, “each of their souls must have been cracked just enough to let in the bad spirits. Or maybe it hadn’t been anything like that. Maybe Eli had merely been lucky they hadn’t crept inside his own head too.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Lioness Rampant

Alanna is restless. She has already accomplished the impossible by becoming a female knight, but that is not enough. She craves the sort of adventure that can only be found in legends. Luckily for Alanna, her life is quickly making her story legendary. Lioness Rampant introduces enjoyable and richly developed characters. Along with the reappearance of an old evil, Alanna must decide where she fits in. Will she ever be welcomed back at court, or will she spend the rest of her life wandering along the edge of the world?

There is slightly less fighting in this book than the others, but still plenty of excitement to keep readers engaged. Alanna takes a lover, as she did in book three, but there are no graphic descriptions and her relationship is not the main plot. Alanna continues to be a likable heroine and a fun character to follow.

Sexual Content

  • Coram tries to warn Liam off, but Liam assures him that his interest in Alanna is because he likes her, not because she is famous. “I’m not a village lad wanting to boast of having the Lioness’s pelt in my hut, Master Smythesson. I like her.”
  • When Alanna tells Coram that Liam didn’t touch her, Coram says, “maybe he’s plannin’ to.” Alanna responds, “Nothing wrong with that.”
  • Alanna gets involved with Liam, who is a Shang Dragon, a great warrior. She sleeps with him, but nothing more than kissing is ever described. “He kissed her gently, then passionately, and Alanna surrendered. Any misgivings she had were put away for thought at another, less interesting time.” Another time, “His first kiss was gentle, the second passionate. Alanna let him pull her into his arms, thinking, We should talk some more about why he was angry. I don’t think lovemaking will settle anything. The Dragon was so determined, however, that once again she put her questions aside to be dealt with later.”
  • Alanna kisses Liam a few times. “He jumped down and held his hands up to her. She slid into his grasp, and they kissed.”
  • A background check is run on a man called Claw. It is discovered that “He was disinherited after the attempted rape of the second daughter of the bailiff… The girl’s maid threw acid in his face, thereby leaving the purple scars of which you spoke.”
  • George kisses Alanna awhile after she breaks up with Liam. “He cupped Alanna’s face, his grave hazel eyes searching out her own. He nodded, liking what he saw, and kissed her gently.”

Violence

  • A group of rogues tries to kill Alanna and her man-at-arms. “The thieves understood simultaneous attack. Alanna and Coram blocked automatically . . . One of the staffmen swung and missed–she ran him through. Coram shouted fiercely, and someone screamed. When a swordsman looked to see the screamer’s fate, Alanna slashed his leg.”
  • Alanna finds a pile of dead bodies, the aftermath of a war. “Here the dead had been piled up and left, until only skeletons remained . . . Bone hands still clutched weapons. Kneeling, Alanna slid a lowland sword out of the pile.”
  • Buri tells a story of a queen who killed herself in protest of how her people were being treated. “Lowlanders take us for slaves; they steal our horses . . . She and Thayet tried to make the Warlord stop . . . Kalasin stood at her window and sang her death chant, about her shame at jin Wilima’s laws. A crowd was there to witness: nobles, commonborn, and slaves. My mother and brother were killed, but they held the door until it was too late for the Warlord’s men to stop her from jumping.”
  • An assassin shoots an arrow at a princess, then jumps off a roof to escape capture. “She lifted the assassin’s headcloth. The face, sickeningly misshapen after the fall, was male and coarse, the cheeks filled with a drunkard’s broken veins.”
  • Alanna battles an elemental for the Dominion Jewel. When she decides she does not want to kill the beast, it gives her the jewel. “She ducked and dodged. When he gave her an opening, she executed one of the jump kicks Liam had taught her, slamming into the ape’s shoulder and making him roar. When he swung to chop her down, she was away and circling. She sought her chance and flew in again, hitting the same shoulder . . . “
  • After the Queen dies, the King kills himself by jumping into a ravine. This act is not described, and the reader only learns about it when the Prince tells his friend.
  • A man is attacked. We don’t see the fight, but Alanna finds him afterward. “The old man staggered in, clutching a bloody right arm. Alanna grabbed a towel and swiftly bandaged the priest before he lost more blood, fighting brief nausea. Si-cham’s right hand was gone.”
  • Alanna is attacked by her once-friend, Alex. “He lurched once more, cross-cutting with a speed she could not dodge, slashing across her cheek and her bare right hand. In the split-second opening in the path of his sword she rammed forward, crushing his windpipe with one fist as she struck his nose with the other, thrusting bone splinters deep into his brain.”
  • Alanna kills the evil sorcerer who tries to destroy Tortall. “The effect was like loosing a bolt from a crossbow. Released from her pull, the sword shrieked as it flew . . . He didn’t even seem to know what she’d done until Lightning buried itself in his chest. Roger grabbed the hilt. Amazingly, he laughed. He laughed until his dying lungs ran out of air.”

 

Drugs and Alcohol

  • A man buys a glass of wine for Alanna, who is now an adult.
  • Alanna’s man-at-arms, Coram, drinks regularly. His worst behavior while drinking, is singing raucous songs that are not described. “Coram awoke late, with a head he would not wish on his worst enemy. For a long time he waited for his knight-mistress to arrive with her hangover cure.”

Language

  • A jealous girl calls Alanna a slut.

Supernatural

  • Many people in Alanna’s world have the magical Gift. Some use this Gift for fighting, while others use it for healing or to control the weather.
  • Alanna searches for the Dominion Jewel, which “may be more directly used, in healing and war, for fertility and death. A knowledgeable ruler, knowing fully the creation of magical formulae, may create new land from ocean deeps, or return the breath of a dead child.”
  • Alanna has a magical cat who can talk.
  • Thom’s magic is stolen by an evil sorcerer.

Spiritual Content

  • Tortall has many gods, such as the Crooked God, Mithros, and the Black God. Alanna was chosen by the Great Mother, also known as the Goddess. The Goddess visits Alanna occasionally, to bestow advice.

by Morgan Lynn

Alanna, The First Adventure

Alanna may look like her brother, but where Thom is timid and studies magic, she is reckless and filled with a desire to learn how to wield a bow and sword. When Alanna is to be sent to a convent and Thom to become a knight, the twins take their lives into their own hands. By forging their father’s letters, Alanna becomes Alan, a page in training to be a knight, and her brother goes to learn sorcery. Training to be a knight would have been difficult without hiding her true sex; with that secret on her shoulders, it becomes almost impossible. But Alanna isn’t one to quit, and being a knight is all she’s ever wanted.

The first book in a quartet, this novel is a wonderful introduction into a richly drawn world of knights and magic. Alanna is a noble and stubborn girl who will sweep readers along on her adventures and will have you rooting for her every step of the way. While there is much fighting in her story, the lack of gory descriptions and clean language will make this story entertaining for teenagers and younger readers alike.

Sexual Content

  • When Alanna begins to grow, she has to bind her breasts to keep them hidden. “Watching the glass closely, she bounced up and down. Her chest moved. It wasn’t much, but she had definitely jiggled. Over the winter her breasts had gotten larger.”
  • Alanna doesn’t know what is happening when she has her first period. “She got out of bed–and gasped in horror to find her things and sheets smeared with blood.” A woman healer asks her, “Did no one ever tell you of a woman’s monthly cycle? The fertility cycle? . . . It happens to us all. We can’t bear children until it begins.”
  • Alana is given a pregnancy charm, which she claims she’ll never use. The healing woman asks, ” ‘Do you know what happens when you lie with a man?’ Alanna blushed. ‘Of course.’ “
  • When Alanna visits George, “he wasn’t dressed–he always slept bare.” When Alanna reveals that she is a girl, George orders her to turn around while he gets dressed. She does, but she says “That’s silly. I’ve seen you naked before.”
  • Alanna and Jon fight beings of power who are nearly immortal. They expose her secret by vanishing her clothes. “Her clothes were gone. All she wore was her belt and scabbard . . . She looked at Jonathan. Her friend was openly staring . . . [Jon] pulled off his tunic and handed it to her.”

Violence

  • George hints that he killed the last Rogue and took his place. “Who knows when some young buck will do for me what I did for the king before me, just six months back.”
  • When the bully Ralon tries to force Alanna to swim, she “rammed herself into Ralon’s stomach. The older boy yelped as he tumbled into the pool . . . When Ralon finally surfaced, he was half blind and three-quarters drowned.”
  • A boy bullies Alanna mercilessly, and as a result they get into several fights. “She hit low and hard. Ralon doubled over, clutching his lower belly.” During another fight, “She bloodied Ralon’s nose. Ralon broke her arm.” When Alanna finally beats the bully, “She slammed a fist up and under, into his stomach again, knocking the breath from his body. Swiftly she broke his nose with the other hand. Ralon collapsed, crying like a small child. ‘Never touch me again. If you do, I swear–I swear by Mithros and the Goddess–I’ll kill you,’ ” Alanna tells him.
  • In an attempt to protect Alan, her friends “beat Ralon thoroughly.” When Ralon doesn’t stop the bullying, “Gary held Ralon. Raoul administered the beating, his face impossible to read.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • George gives Alanna a tankard of ale, and he and his (adult) friends often drink at his inn.

Language

  • A bully tells Alanna, “If I say you’re the goatherd’s son, you say, ‘Yes, Lord Ralon.’ ” Alanna responds, “I’d as soon kiss a pig! Is that what you’ve been doing–kissing pigs?”
  • Ralon calls Alanna “dunghill trash.”

Supernatural

  • Some are born with The Gift, which can manifest in different ways. Some are great healers, while others use their Gift to control the weather or to fight.
  • Alanna threatens to make a man see things that aren’t there, unless he helps her become a knight. She also admits that she has made people see things in the past. “Coram turned pale. The afternoon the tarts were discovered missing, Cook started to see large, hungry lions following him around the kitchens… When the twins’ godmother came to Trebond to snare Lord Alan as her next husband, she had fled after only three days, claiming the castle was haunted.”
  • Magic is used to send a fever to the palace, in an attempt on the prince’s life. “The fever continued, drying Jon’s lips till they cracked and bled.”
  • Alanna uses her magic to heal. “She reached inside herself. It was there: a purple, tiny ball of fire that grew as she nudged it with her mind. Her nose started to itch, as it always did when she first called on her magic.”
  • Alanna asks the Goddess for aid, and the Goddess tells her to call her friend back from edge of death. Alanna has to go through the Black God to get to her friend. “She was twisting in a black, writhing well . . . Shrieks and cackling and the screams of doomed souls sounded all around her. She was on the edge, between the world of the living and the Underworld . . . A huge, dark shadow shaped like a hooded man came between them . . . This must be the Dark God, the Master of all death.”
  • Alanna and Jon fight powerful beings who say, “We are gods and the children of gods . . . We were here before your Old Ones, and we laughed when their cities fell.”

Spiritual Content

  • There are many gods in Tortall, such as the Black God and the Crooked God. Some gods guide mortals, while most never interfere directly.
  • Alanna discusses whether or not she should use her magical Gift. She says, “If a person has power–something that can be used for good or evil, either way–should they use it?” Her mentor tells her, “Magic isn’t good or evil by itself. I believe you should only use it when you are absolutely certain your cause is just.”

by Morgan Lynn

In the Hand of the Goddess

Few know that tiny Alan, who is squire to none other than the prince himself, is actually a girl named Alanna. In order to become a knight, Alanna has been forced to disguise herself for years. Despite this secret, she has managed to become one of the greatest squires of her year. Squire Alan is admired for his skill with the bow and sword, and he’ll need those skills for what’s coming. Dark magic and treachery surround the crown and Alanna’s friend, Prince Jon. Alanna might be the only one capable of bringing such plots to light.

While this book has slightly more adult content, the descriptions are not gory and the writing is discreet. During the course of the book, Alanna kisses two men and takes one for her lover, but there are no descriptions of her having intercourse. This book continues the exciting adventures found in the first installment, and Alanna remains a strong and likable female heroine.

Sexual Content

  • The Goddess asks why Alanna fears love. “Yet what is there for you to fear? Warmth? Trust? A man’s touch?” Alanna replies, “I don’t want a man’s touch!”
  • George and Alanna kiss. ” ‘Alanna,’ he whispered, ‘I’m takin’ advantage of you now, because I may never catch you with your hands full again.’ He kissed her softly and carefully. Alanna trembled, too shocked to do anything but let it happen.”
  • Alanna thinks about Jon’s relationship with Delia. “The girl would convince Jon one day that she was his alone, and ignore him the next. Soon they were sleeping together–”
  • George kisses Alanna goodbye. “George kissed her, pulling her close. His mouth was warm and comforting. Alanna had not forgotten the last time, and she had discovered that she liked his kisses. Relaxing, she let her friend hold her tightly.”
  • Jon kisses Alanna. “Suddenly he was very close. Alanna discovered she was afraid to breathe. Carefully, almost timidly, Jonathan kissed her mouth.”
  • Alanna is walking in a garden. “A night for lovers, she thought, then bit her lip. She had no lover, and she didn’t want one.”
  • Jon kisses Alanna again. “Swiftly he kissed her again and again . . . She was scared. She suddenly realized she wanted to be the one in his bed tonight. Jonathan stopped kissing her, only to start unlacing her bodice. Alanna shoved him away, terrified.”
  • Alanna and Jon start sleeping together, though it is not described further than “At night, Jonathan taught her about loving.”
  • When joking about bathing, Alanna says, “You just don’t want Gary to see me bare.” Jon replies, ” ‘You’re right I don’t! Do you?’ . . . When Alanna only giggled, Jonathan repeated, ‘Do you?’ “
  • Jon kisses her goodbye. “He kissed her fiercely before letting her go.”

Violence

  • When Alanna duels, her partner breaks the rules. “She stepped back too slowly, and the tip of Dain’s sword sank deep into her right arm below the elbow… According to the rules, Dain had won… He lunged for her chest, his eyes wide and crazy. Alanna jumped aside, just missing dying on the Tusaine’s sword.”
  • Alanna gets into a border skirmish. “Swiftly Alanna slid Lightning into the opening between the knight’s arm and chest armor, thrusting deep. With a gasp of surprise, her enemy fell from his horse, dead.”
  • Alanna is attacked by a wolf. “She saw nothing but the wolf, who was doing his best to fling her off his back. She held on, desperately striking again and again with her knife. Suddenly the wolf shuddered and howled; her blade had entered his side. He fell, his paws twitching. She had stabbed him to the heart.”
  • Alanna and George are attacked. “She rode Moonlight straight at a man who was putting an arrow to his bow. The mare trampled him ruthlessly as Alanna drew Lightning, slashing at a third attacker.”
  • Alex tries to kill Alanna when they are practicing their swordplay. “The blunt edge struck her collarbone rather than her skull. Bone cracked in her shoulder as she fell to her knees with a cry of pain. Helplessly she watched the sword swing up and down, unable to stop its slicing toward her throat.”
  • Alanna kills Roger after he tries to kill the Queen. ” ‘The Goddess!’ She yelled, leaping forward. Lightning struck the cloud, slicing it open to find Roger at its heart . . . The sword cut even deeper this time as Alanna opened her eyes, blinking to clear her vision. Roger stood, trying to pull her sword out of his body.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • George and his other friends, all in adulthood or their late teens, drink ale.
  • George offers Alanna brandy in celebration. Alanna says, “Normally I just drink this stuff to clear my head, but–this is quite pleasant.”
  • George knows Alanna will worry herself silly before her Ordeal of Knighthood, so he sneaks something into her drink that makes her sleep.

Language

  • When captured, Alanna distracts a man so her fellow captives can escape. “Behavior I’d expect from the goatherd’s bastard, not a nobleman . . . Perhaps your mother tricked your father?”
  • Alanna occasionally curses with the gods’ names when surprised or upset. ” ‘Great Merciful Mother!’ Alanna gasped.”
  • Damn is said once or twice. “Myles said he was damned if he would get up at this hour . . . “

Supernatural

  • Alanna is blessed by the Mother, also known as the Goddess, who is one of Tortall’s many deities. The Goddess visits Alanna occasionally, bestowing advice and sometimes gifts.
  • Someone tries to kill Alanna with sorcery. “When an ugly, cloven hoof burst through the beaten snow over the tent opening, Alanna thrust upward with all her strength. She burst from the snow, shaking clumps from her face, to feel her sword wrenched from her hand… Gripping her sword hilt to pull it free, she stopped; the boar’s eyes were a demonic red. Suddenly he shuddered one last time–and vanished.”

Spiritual Content

  • There are many gods in Tortall, such as the Dark God, the Goddess, and the Crooked God. Different people honor different gods, and Alanna has glimpses of them because she is god-touched. “A huge shadow figure was bending over her. ‘Thor,’ she sighed, recognizing the Dark God. ‘You want Thor.’ Reaching out a hand that was blacker than night, the God touched Alanna’s eyes.”
  • Alanna’s partner cheats during a duel. Afterward, her friend says, “he gave you every excuse to kill him . . . even his Ambassador would have understood if you had.” Alanna replies that “Just because he behaved badly is no excuse for me to behave badly.”
  • Alanna thinks that soldiers, “only cared about pain and the Dark God’s arrival.”
  • When Alanna finds a dying friend, he asks for her help. ” ‘I’d just like to . . . go to sleep. I’m that tired.’ Alanna trembled. Healing was natural for her, but she had never killed a human being with her Gift. She didn’t think she could . . . Alanna pressed her good hand to Thor’s forehead, her Gift lighting the clearing with a deep violet fire. ‘Sleep, Thor,’ she whispered. She felt him falling away gently, slipping into a long, dark well. Alanna rose. Thor’s chest was still.”

by Morgan Lynn

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

Alanna has revealed to the world that she is a woman; the first woman knight in hundreds of years. Thanks to the less-than-warm welcome she received at court, Alanna decides to travel south in search of adventure. After a violent conflict with some hillmen, Alanna is set on a course that leads to her being adopted by a tribe of Bazhir. After becoming the tribe’s shaman, Alanna must train the young Gifted children in the tribe how to control their magic. As she begins to learn what life is like in the Southern desert, she finds herself the student as often as the teacher.

Alanna has become a knight, a duty that she takes seriously. She is a kind and honorable woman; a strong role model. Her story is packed with fighting, magic and adventure. The fighting is exciting but not gory, making it appropriate for a wide range of readers.

Sexual Content

  • Alanna and Jon are lovers. “He kissed her fiercely. She returned the kiss, feeling heat rush through her at his touch. He bore down to her sleeping mat; in the time that followed, they knew they still desired each other.”
  • Alanna tells Jon that, ” ‘women of bad reputation’ go without veils among the Bazhir . . . All this time I haven’t worn a veil, but it took me until tonight to get a bad reputation.”
  • Jon proposes to Alanna, then asks. ” ‘Do you still wear that charm Mistress Cooper gave you to keep you from getting pregnant?’ She showed it to him, hanging half-hidden on the same chain that suspended her ember-stone. ‘I never go without it.’ ‘I trust you’ll leave it off after we’re married,’ he said with a yawn.”
  • Alanna and Jon get into a fight. ” ‘What about all those women at the palace and the way they look at you?’ Alanna demanded. ‘And I know you’ve had affairs with some of them! They’ve made you into a conceited–’ “
  • After Alanna breaks up with Jon, she asks George to kiss her, but he says, ” ‘Oh, no . . . If I kiss you again now, one thing will lead to another, and this isn’t the proper place for that sort of carryin’-on.’ ‘Then take me to a place that is,’ she suggested.”

Violence

  • Alanna and Coram fight with hillmen. Coram is, “trying to fend off three at once. He yelled in pain as one of them opened a deep gash on his sword arm. He swore and attacked again, dropping his shield and switching his sword to his good left hand . . . Alanna caught another blow from the crystal blade on her shield, feeling the shock through her entire body.”
  • Alanna duels a Bazhir to prove her worth. “He feinted high and then drove in, his knife coming up from beneath. Alanna turned her side toward him; as his arm shot past her, she seized it and wrenched him over her hip . . . Twisting, Alanna stabbed through the web of muscle on the bottom of his upper arm. She yanked her knife free just as one of his fists struck the middle of her spine, driving the wind from her lungs.”
  • Alanna is forced to fight a shaman. “Violet fire sprang into being, whirling to encircle Ibn Nazzir. He shrieked and swept the sword around him; the wall vanished. He charged; Alanna jumped, kicking him to the ground. With a roll she was on him, wrestling for the sword.”
  • Alanna tries to tame an evil sword. “She ducked under the swing of the axe-man and came up inside, running him through. For an instant sick, black triumph roared into her mind. She froze, knowing the sword’s magic was turning her fierce pride in being the better fighter into an ugly joy at killing.”
  • Alanna helps her tribe fight off another tribe with her Magic. “She sent a whip of violet fire at the shamans, determined to end the problem at its source. One dropped to the ground when her magic reached him, screeching in agony. A second streak of fire, red in color, picked off another shaman–Ishak had seen her purpose, and was helping.”
  • A boy is destroyed by a magical sword. “The sword’s magic reflected back from her protection, enveloping Ishak in a ball of flame. He screamed, once. Then he was gone.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • The Voice of the Tribes smokes a “long pipe.”
  • Alanna gives a girl wine to calm her down.
  • George tells Alanna’s brother that he, “Best have a shot of brandy to steady your nerves.”

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Some people have the magical Gift, which manifests differently in different people. Some are able to heal, while others use their Gift to fight or control the weather. In the Bazhir, people with the Gift are trained to be shaman. Alanna eventually starts a school for magic.
  • Alanna is adopted by a Bazhir tribe. “In a swift movement the man opened a low shallow cut on the inside of her forearm. Holding out his own wrist, he did the same to himself, then pressed his wound to Alanna’s . . . Alanna shuddered as an alien magic flooded into her body. She knew without being told that Halaf Seif was only a pathway for this sorcery, that its origins were as old as the Bazhir tribes.”
  • A shaman attacks Alanna’s pet. “Frantically he drew shimmering yellow magical symbols in the air . . . A wall of purple magic streaked from her fingers to surround Faithful, just as yellow fire left the shaman’s hands. It shattered against the wall protecting Faithful.”

Spiritual Content

  • There are many deities in Tortall, such as the Dark God and the Crooked God. Different people honor different gods. Alanna is watched over by the Goddess, who has visited her and given her a token. ” ‘It is a token given me by the Great Mother Goddess, from Her own hand!’ Those listening drew back, awed and frightened. The Mother was as well known and worshipped here as she was in the North; none of them would use Her name lightly.”

by Morgan Lynn

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