Title: The Battle of Hackham Heath (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years 2)
Author: John Flanagan
Publication Date: 2016
Although Morgarath has been discredited to many and escaped treason by hiding out in the Mountains of Rain and Night, the kingdom of Araluen has not found peace. King Duncan ascends to the throne after the abdication of his father. King Oswald never fully recovered from his capture and mistreatment by Morgarath as he attempted to discredit the King and his future lineage to the throne. Duncan is young, but fair, and his experiences have made him cautious and intelligent. Unfortunately, not all the Barons are able to comprehend Morgarath’s deceit and some of them have chosen to align themselves with the fugitive. Also, under Morgarath’s previous control, the Rangers, a group of skilled archers who have perfected the art of unseen movement, were disbanded and discredited. As the eyes and ears of the kingdom, the Rangers are essential for securing peace and maintaining trust and honor for the new King.
Crowley, the Ranger Commandant, and his fellow Ranger Halt, were instrumental in restoring Duncan’s right to the throne. Now they work together to reform and rebuild the Ranger Corp as they are ever vigilant about the happenings and mutterings in the Kingdom. When a rumor starts about Morgarath’s building of an army, Halt braves the treacherous Three Step Pass to spy on the exiled Baron. Three Step Pass is the only access to the Mountains of Rain and Night and is heavily guarded. Halt’s climbing ability serves him well as he ascends the steep cliff side. What he discovers is horrifying. Morgarath has found a way to enslave and command an ancient group of creatures – the Wargals. Part bear, part beast, these savage, simple-minded creatures will follow the order to kill to its culmination, or perish trying. Araluen’s weakened defenses and army have no recourse against these terrifying monsters.
In addition to dealing with the uncertainty of Morgarath’s next move toward impending war and the unease in the kingdom, King Duncan does have one bit of joy in his life. He has married the beautiful Lady Rosalind and she now carries the heir to the throne. The stakes in this battle have been raised and the future of the kingdom and its rulers lies with the Rangers and their king as they must fight against an unrelenting foe.
Sigh. This is one of those series that makes me so happy! John Flanagan fans will not be disappointed. The same attention to detail, witty humor and banter, and enduring characters are present as in all of his books. Flanagan truly is a master storyteller; his description and focus on detail create true pictures in the reader’s mind while still finding just the right balance of action and exposition.
In some ways, I feel that this book is written for the fans, as we learn the answers to some questions that have plagued readers throughout the series: questions about Duncan’s wife, the discovery of the Wargals, Halt’s early relationship with Lady Pauline, and Halt’s future apprentices. The dry and wonderful banter between Halt and Crowley and Halt and Abelard are truly at their finest. A delightful book throughout that I finished in a single day.
Who might like this book:
I have said this before, but really, there is no better way to explain this: This is a book for all ages, but you MUST . . . seriously, I won’t talk to you ever again if you don’t . . . read the entire series in order. It is kind of like the Star Wars saga: read the books in the order that they were written, not in chronological order.
The Ranger’s Apprentice Series in Order:
Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan
Book 2: The Burning Bridge
Book 3: The Icebound Land
Book 4: The Battle for Skandia
Book 5: The Sorcerer of the North
Book 6: The Siege of Macindaw
Book 7: Erak’s Ransom
Book 8: The Kings of Clonmel
Book 9: Halt’s Peril
Book 10: The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
Book 11: The Lost Stories
Book 12: The Royal Ranger
The Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years
Book 1: The Tournament at Gorlan
Book 2: The Battle of Hackham Heath
Additionally, John Flanagan wrote (and is still writing) a spin-off series to the Ranger’s Apprentice that focuses on Skandia. Those books have some overlap to characters and settings to the original series.
Book 1: The Outcasts
Book 2: The Invaders
Book 3: The Hunters
Book 4: Slaves of Socorro
Book 5: Scorpion Mountain
Book 6: Ghostfaces