Ranger’s Apprentice 2: The Burning Bridge

Rangers Apprentice 2

Author: John Flanagan

Publication: Puffin Books, 2005

Pages: 288

Overall Rating: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary: Lord Morgarath’s forces are on the move.   Will and Horace are sent on a scouting mission with Gilan, one of Halt’s former apprentices.  They are travelling to the neighboring kingdom of Celtica to enlist the Celts in the coming war with Morgarath.  What they discover is an empty kingdom.  In village after village, all the people are gone.  After much searching they come across a refugee from Araluen: Evanlyn, a serving girl whose mistress was killed by Morgarath’s soldiers.   From her they learn that Morgarath has already been to Celtica and driven most of the Celts down to a defensive line far to the south.  This comes as shocking news.  For years, Morgarath has been penned up behind the high walls of the Mountains of Rain and Night.  The news that he was able to get enough soldiers down the mountains to attack Celtica using nothing but ropes and scaling ladders is terrifying.  Gilan races back to Araluen to bring the news to King Duncan, instructing Will and Horace to follow at a slower pace.  But after Gilan is gone, they make the biggest discovery yet – one that could spell doom for the kingdom of Araluen and puts Will, Horace, and Evanlyn to the ultimate test.

Age of Main Character: 15

What I Liked the Most: Unlike The Ruins of Gorlan, where Will and Horace were always more or less under the protection of Halt, Flanagan has contrived to put them into battles where they are entirely on their own, fighting against men who are older, bigger, and more experienced.  It forces both of them to overcome their own doubts about their skills and training in order to meet the challenge at hand.  Flanagan does a good job of setting this up by creating a situation right at the start of the book where Will panics in battle and has to be rescued by Halt.  This gives him a major challenge to overcome when he has take command of Horace and Evanlyn, lead them to safety, and ultimately risk everything to stop Lord Morgarath.

I also liked the introduction of Evanlyn.  She’s an interesting character who ended up defying all my expectations of what her role in the story might be.

What I Liked the Least: As with The Ruins of Gorlan, the characters seem to lack depth.  The Burning Bridge has more built in tension than The Ruins of Gorlan, because of the dangers that Will, Horace, and Evanlyn are facing, but it still feels like Flanagan is skimming the surface of his characters.

During the early stages of their journey to Celtica, before they’ve really discovered what’s going on, Will, Horace, and Gilan spend a lot of their time training in swordsmanship.  The skills that Gilan teaches come into play later in the story, but the training in how to use a sword and sax knife sometimes gets a little long and heavy handed.  This is the point where the story seems to drag the most.

How Good was the Action?  This book definitely takes the action up a notch from The Ruins of Gorlan.  There’s a great scene where Will is trying to burn down a bridge while fighting off a group of soldiers intent on stopping him, there’s an all out battle between Morgarath and the Araluen forces, and a very well done fight between Horace and Lord Morgarath.  That one fight alone, between Morgarath and Horace, is worth reading the book for.

How Engaging was the Story?   Flanagan keeps it engaging by switching perspectives regularly.  He has a number of story lines running throughout the book – though never so many that it gets confusing.  While Horace, Gilan, and Will are travelling to Celtica, Halt is on a mission of his own.  When Horace, Evanlyn, and Will are fleeing from Morgarath’s men and trying to stop his army, Gilan and Halt and working with King Duncan to come up with a way of defeating Morgarath on the field of battle.  And when Horace, Gilan, and Halt are fighting Morgarath’s soldiers towards the end of the book, Will and Evanlyn are prisoners of the Skandians.  The regular back and forth between story lines keeps each one fresh and interesting.

Overall Assessment: This is a big improvement over The Ruins of Gorlan.  The action is good and the story far more engaging.  While it’s not an outstanding story, it does provide a solidly entertaining read and some excellent battle scenes.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: Some.  There are some battle scenes and people do die – shot by arrows or killed by swords.  But it’s by no means a gory book.

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