Skip to main content

Ranger's Apprentice: Book Three the Icebound Land

Review

Ranger's Apprentice: Book Three the Icebound Land

Kidnapped by Skandian raiders, Will and his companion Evanlyn are taken to the icebound lands of the North. They will be kept as hostages or sold into slavery. Together they endure storms at sea, the toil of captivity and the dark Skandian winter in the hope that they will live to see their Araluen home again.

Meanwhile, Will's friends Halt and Horace are on a quest to rescue Will. They make a name for themselves defeating knights throughout Gallica, until they are captured by a cruel and petty warlord who keeps them prisoner in his tower.

In dealing with the aftermath of the battle with Lord Morgorath, this third installment in the Ranger’s Apprentice series takes a detour from fantasy's classic conflict of good versus evil. Having defeated the supernatural threat to their country, the characters are now confronted with difficult moral choices and human dilemmas. A darker book than its predecessors, THE ICEBOUND LAND deals with slavery, addiction and the problem of violence in a world where might makes right.

Each of the characters is strained to his or her limit. Halt commits treason against his beloved country in order to search for his apprentice. Horace questions the codes of chivalry when he encounters those using them for selfish ends. Evanlyn bears the burden of Will's survival in harsh conditions she was not raised to endure.

These difficult conditions and moral quandaries make for more interesting conflicts and characters. Even some of the villains come to question their roles. Erak, a Scandian raider, admires the determination and bravery of his captives. He sees Will and Evanlyn as better examples of the Skandian warrior code than many of his countrymen. His choices completely change the direction of the narrative but cannot repeal the unbreakable Vallasvow his oberjarl has sworn against the Araluen royal family.

Like the previous books in the series, THE ICEBOUND LAND ends with a cliffhanger. Having already defeated the dark lord and endured captivity, the series has also become more intriguing. Who knows what adventures will befall Will and his friends next? Will they continue to battle the human evils that run rampant in their world? Or will the disparate parties be called to unite against the threat of a greater supernatural evil once again?

Ranger's Apprentice takes place in an imaginary world, but it echoes certain geographical and historical realities of this one. The Skandians are clearly based on the Norse raiders who terrorized the coast of Britain around 800. Celtica's mining culture is reminiscent of Wales, while Gallica takes both its name and its approximate language from medieval France in the age of chivalry circa 1300. Araluen is England, standing --- as it has since Tolkien --- at the heart of fantasy literature.

While Ranger's Apprentice borrows from already-established fantasy tropes, it has been marvelously popular with young readers of fantasy. John Flanagan’s elevation of a ranger character, someone more gifted at stealth and marksmanship than brute force, has fleshed out an often-neglected portion of fantasy literature. His reliance on themes of loyalty, bravery, endurance and friendship leave young readers in safe hands as they learn to navigate dangerous waters on their own.

Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood on June 26, 2007

Ranger's Apprentice: Book Three the Icebound Land
by John Flanagan

  • Publication Date: June 26, 2007
  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Philomel
  • ISBN-10: 0399244565
  • ISBN-13: 9780399244568