Ranger’s Apprentice: The Icebound Land by John Flanagan

November 22nd, 2007 by Brian Leave a reply »

John Flanagan, please come to my library.

If you have not read book 1 and 2, don’t read this review. There will be spoilers.

I am usually a big fan of fantasy, but as I’ve become a librarian I’ve seen so many fantasy books recycle the same concepts/plots. When Ruins of Gorlan came out, it breathed life into the genre. Amidst all of the Eragon-wannabes (which Eragon, by the way, borrowed heavily from some earlier works), Ruins of Gorlan took classic themes and added a modern feel. Icebound Land continues this success (which is good to know that as a librarian the series that you are updating/stocking is still quality literature).

Straight Shot

  1. The mentoring relationships that endear the series to me continue, but take on new forms. Since Will was captured in Burning Bridge, Halt decides to go rescue him. Horace and Halt develop a bond revolving around loyalty to kingdom and friend. Seeing the two of them traverse the towns and countrysides in a constant battle between chivalry/tradition/sanity and individualism/community is awesome.
  2. The theme of sacrifice runs throughout. Halt is important to the current clean-up from book two, so Baron Arald and the king can’t spare him the trip to Skandia to rescue Will. Halt has to figure out what to sacrifice, gets himself banished, and may have lost all that he worked for as a ranger to save Will. (Total Jack Bauer moment when he gets banished, by the way.)
  3. Slavery, gender stereotypes, and drug use are all challenged in Icebound Land. What I love about Tolkien I love about Flanagan. You can write socially challenging books that make readers comfortable until they realize it’s no longer about orcs/wargals and instead about the reader’s own dark world. Will gets poisoned by someone slipping him some warmweed. As people are trying to help him, he struggles with addiction. The shakes, listlessness, friend disappointment, and a general lack of motivation for anything other than the next fix show a natural consequence for drug use (besides just ‘You’ll get arrested.’ Our students are invincible/immortal, didn’t you know that?).

Off the Mark

  1. Not much misses the target in this book, which makes sense that book one was a Grand Canyon Award book. The reading level is listed as high, but Flanagan does a decent job of using context to show what ‘poultices’ and ‘jarls’ are.

If you have not read the first book because it was ‘another guy with a cowl and a bow on the cover’, give it a shot. A fan of fantasy or not, many of my students have these books on hold (and are very jealous that I have an advanced reading copy of Battle for Skandia). Once you get to the epilogue, sit back, relax, and listen for the dramatic music during the credits.


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