Book Review: Halt’s Peril by John Flanagan
Reading Time: about 7 hours
Halt’s Peril is the 9th book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series. After the positive review I gave to The Kings of Clonmel, the 8th book in the series, I was really looking forward to this story. Some spoilers of Book 8 will be revealed, as the two stories are linked, so if you haven’t read that book you may want to stop here. Otherwise, it’s on to the review…
The book begins a little after the events in the previous story – Will, Halt, and Horace are attempting to track down and capture the fake prophet/cult leader/con artist Tennyson, who always seems to be a step ahead of them. There’s some solid opening scenes, one taking place in a smuggler’s port and the other in a pirate attack on the sea during a storm. The boys continue to pursue Tennyson, but when they finally get close, they’ve got to deal with an ambush from the Genovesan assassins. The ambush scene is fantastic – Will & Halt know it’s coming, but there’s really no avoiding it. The tension builds as both sides attempt to take down each other, knowing the first to make a mistake will die. This showdown is tension-filled and logical, and is perhaps the highlight of the book.
Although I may be about to reveal a spoiler here, it’s in the synopsis on the inside of the book cover, so I’m not sure it’s a shock. Halt gets nicked by a crossbow bolt from one of the assassins, who happen to use poison. When they get back on the trail of Tennyson, Halt takes a turn for the worse. This leads to the fight to save Halt’s life. Unfortunately the story at this point becomes a grind, as Will and Horace try to figure out what to do, then set out to do it. This subplot consumes about 125 pages, or roughly a third of the book, during which not much happens. At several points I was gritting my teeth as it took the characters several pages to work through obvious solutions, although the means by which Horace & Will determine which antidote to use is well-conceived.
The characters continue to act consistently, though there’s a lot more angst & bickering in this book than there was in the previous one. There’s also one curious scene where Halt rants at Will in a manner that is totally out of character, nor is it explained why. The humor continues to be the guess-you-had-to-be-there variety, and there’s quite a bit more of it forced on the reader than there was in the previous story.
Some previously-introduced characters make an appearance, including one of my favorites. The ending is wrapped up nice and neat, with no cliffhangers or loose threads to be resolved. There aren’t really any major shocks or surprises in the book.
Although I did enjoy Halt’s Peril, I feel it wasn’t quite up to the standard set by The Kings of Clonmel. It’s a little slower, a little more predictable, and a little more forced. My feelings are mixed on whether or not I’ll by the final book in the series, The Emperor of Nihon-Ja. The reviews are somewhat mixed on Amazon, and it does take place in an eastern setting, which I have loathed thus far; however, that setting is akin to feudal Japan, which I think I would like, and Halt’s Peril wasn’t awful, so I may take the plunge and finish out the series.
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