“My how pretentious,” I muttered softly to myself as the corners of my mouth turned downwards into a frown

Rangers Apprentice: Battle for Skandia by John Flanagan

In this exciting, if … unfortunately written fourth book, we see Will and Evelyn still blundering along where we left them (stranded in a cottage in the mountains) and Horace and Halt making their slow, unnecessarily complicated (courtesy of all fantasy novels ever written) way towards them.

Seriously, if real life was like a fantasy novel you wouldn’t be able to get groceries without having to stop to rescue a country, pretend to be someone you’re not, sleep in a sketchy tavern and answer a dying man’s last wish. It’s ridiculous.

The two parties unite, but before they can get themselves safely home they realized that Skandia, their sworn enemy and the people who kidnapped Evelyn and Will to enslave them, are being invaded by an even bigger, badder enemy so they are forced,  in order to protect their homeland of Arulan, to fight alongside their former enemies.

See, and I know that it’s not an original story but there aren’t that many original stories anyway, so it’s all about the telling of the story.

Which is kind of where this book falls down in my opinion.

There was some luck for anyone who was mostly reading the book for the single moment when Halt and Will finally run into each other. I’m not sure if it’s good luck, because they met up in the first few chapters, or bad luck because then I had to read the whole rest of the book but whatever.

It’s one of the few, well written moments in the book, when the author decides that the reader can infer how excited and happy and frightened and overjoyed Halt is to see Will and vice versa through their actions without spelling it out. Without feeling the need to state it six hundred times. Without really driving it home by reworking the previous sentence and slipping it in two lines later. Because that’s what irritated me most about this book – his need to state everything as many times as possible.

That and his unnecessarily verbose language use.

I like to think that kids can understand when they read and infer meaning.  Subtle clues like stating the character has a dry mouth, that their hands shake, that they exchange nervous glances with their friends, that their heart is beating fast and that they are facing down an army of crazy horse riding bow-and-arrow wielding warriors should really be enough to indicate to the reader that the character is frightened. Even if the reader is a nine year old boy (let’s give them some credit shall we?). Therefore stating that they are frightened is a little redundant and frustrating.  But you know what makes it worse? Having every other character also reflect on each others moods and thoughts. Yes of course he looks nervous! Thank you for that staggering piece of information random secondary character. The author mentioned that. Several times. We don’t need it from the guy standing on the other side of the battle field debating the merits of dropping his weapons and running for the hills.

I also found the language use a really combination of archaic (standard high fantasy rubbish) and modern. I really want examples but I read it on an ereader and I don’t think I can get back to all the pages without going through the whole book again (it’s a pretty old ereader). Anyway, next time I read one I’ll write them down as they come up.

So mostly I found this book frustrating. The story is great. I mean, not original but that’s what genre fiction is for. But the writing just drives me crazy.

It’ll be a while before I read the next one. I need to forget how much I disliked this one.

Last movie I watched: Dark Knight Returns Part 2. EPIC!!!

Last TV episode I watched: Grimm. Which is really, really clever and getting more clever as it goes on.


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