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The Icebound Land (Ranger's Apprentice, Book 3) by John Flanagan
Cover Artist: John Blackford
Review by Drew Bittner
Philomel Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0399244565
Date: 26 June, 2007 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

When Ranger's Apprentice Book Three: The Icebound Land opens, apprentice Ranger Will and his friend Evanlyn are prisoners aboard a Skandian wolfship, bound for lives of slavery. Their bravery and quick wits aside, it seems nothing can save them.

Will's master Halt has other plans. One of Araluan's greatest Rangers, he will not accept that Will is beyond his help or that hunting down a minor villain is more important than rescuing the captives. He contrives to be kicked out of his homeland, only to find that Will's erstwhile bully and now closest friend, Horace, intends to go with him. Halt will end up glad of the help, as Horace proves to be a natural fighting man.

Will's captor, the Jarl Erak, cannot head straight for Skandia, as terrible storms block their path. They rest up at a rocky and inhospitable island, where Will learns a surprising secret about Evanlyn--one that could prove deadly, when the two youngsters hear that Erak's "oberjarl" Ragnak has promised to kill all of his enemies. And Evanlyn is, surprisingly, one of them.

Attempting escape, the two nevertheless find themselves in Hallasholm, city of Skandia, where they are made slaves and forced to brutal labor. Will sets himself against a group of bullies and learns to rely on his wits more than his muscle, while Evanlyn is surrounded by enemies and only a careless word--or a sly betrayal--from death.

Meanwhile, Halt and Horace find trouble of their own. Although Horace is able to overcome roadside troublemakers in armor, his skills are over matched by the terrible Deparnieux, a warlord of Gallica (through which they must pass). Horace learns the hard lessons of combat while Halt struggles to find a way out of their predicament.

Can Halt and Horace save Will and Evanlyn? Or will they need to rely on the mercy of a captor, whose goodwill may prove as fragile as their hope of escape?

John Flanagan has created a fast-paced and highly entertaining series; Icebound Land is a worthy addition, with terrific new challenges for the heroes, including some truly despicable villains (especially the ship's captain Slagor and the loathsome Deparnieux). His heroes are models of virtue and decency, yet even they suffer temptations and are (happily) not so perfect or saintly that their adventures grow tiresome.

Although perhaps intended for younger readers--and perfectly suited for a good night's bedtime story--adult readers will be entertained and find themselves looking for the next installment of Flanagan's adventure tales.

Recommended.

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