Book Four of Flanagan’s captivating series for juvenile readers finds Evanlyn and Will hiding out in a tiny cabin dreading spring meltdown and their inevitable discovery. Will, a young apprentice Ranger pitifully weakened from the aftereffects of warmweed and slavery must husband his strength and heal. While gathering food, Evanlyn is captured by a Temujai scouting party and weak as he is, Will knows it is up to him to free her but how? A timely reunion with Halt his mentor and Horace, a knight-in-training gain Evanlyn’s freedom but clearly there is trouble brewing for Skandia and consequently, Araluen. The Temujai, reminiscent of the Mongolians, are poised to launch a full-scale attack on Skandia. There is no time to get Evanlyn safely back to Araluen yet there is a death sentence on her head should she be discovered within Skandia’s borders. Few know her true identity as Princess Cassandra and fewer still know Halt has been expelled from the Rangers, a punishment that cuts to the bone yet cannot keep him from working hard to defend his King from the Temujai threat. It falls to a banished Ranger and his three young charges to lead the way in setting aside old animosities if Skandia and Araluen are to unite and defeat an overwhelming army.
Although created for the preteen and teen audience, many adults will likely enjoy Flanagan’s rough and ready fantasy world with parallels to England, Scandinavia and Europe of the Middle Ages. Plenty of battles keep short attention spans entertained as the young characters begin discovering the weight of their social positions now that they are growing up. It’s not an easy thing to come to terms with as each of them must follow the different paths of Ranger, Knight and potential ruler.