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Ranger's Apprentice, Book 2: The Burning Bridge

Review

Ranger's Apprentice, Book 2: The Burning Bridge

With war threatening the borders of Araluen, apprentice ranger Will is sent on a diplomatic mission to Celtica. With him are Gilan, his master's first apprentice, and his friend Horace, a battle school apprentice. Expecting a routine journey, the three are unprepared for what they find.

The villages of Celtica are deserted, and brigands wander the hills in search of abandoned treasure. The country is also crawling with Wargals, the fighting beasts that are under control of their enemy Morgorath. When a mysterious woman appears at their camp with the news that Morgorath has been abducting villagers, the three boys stumble across a plan that threatens their country and the lives of the people they love.

Like the first book in John Flanagan's series, THE BURNING BRIDGE relies on typical fantasy tropes for its characters and setting. Araluen is clearly England, with Celtica standing in for Wales. There is a Dark Lord who controls fighting beasts, and our heroes are primarily untried boys. Readers who enjoy fantasy will find much that is familiar in this book.

What makes Ranger's Apprentice unique is the author's attention to strategy and combat techniques. Flanagan's war plans could be easily mapped to show natural obstacles and the movements of armies. The scenes involving combat are so specific, they could be acted out by readers. Even the training sequences are easy to follow and interesting to read, and unlike most fantasy adventures, the apprentices have lots of practice before being thrown into battle.

Another interesting aspect of THE BURNING BRIDGE is the introduction of the Skandian mercenaries, who are clearly based on Norse raiders. The Skandians are crude and brutal, but they are not beasts like the Wargals, or without their honor. They are also one of the book's most unpredictable elements, as they are on no one's side but their own. This ambiguity makes for a much more interesting read than the usual battle between the forces of light and darkness.

Ever since the success of Harry Potter, children's literature has been flooded with fantasy. Ranger's Apprentice is more in line with Tolkien than Rowling, but its racing plot and likable characters offer fantasy fans a new series to read and love.

Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood on June 26, 2007

Ranger's Apprentice, Book 2: The Burning Bridge
(Ranger's Apprentice #2)
by John Flanagan

  • Publication Date: June 26, 2007
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin
  • ISBN-10: 0142408425
  • ISBN-13: 9780142408421