The Battle for Skandia, by John Flanagan, was published in 2006 by Philomel. It is the sequel to The Icebound Land.
For Will and Evanlyn, freedom has never felt so fleeting. Still far from their homeland after escaping slavery in the icebound land of Skandia, the Ranger’s apprentice and the princess’s plan to return to Araluen are spoiled when Evanlyn is taken captive by a Temujai warrior. Though still weakened by warmweed’s toxic effects, Will employs his Ranger training to locate his friend, but an enemy scouting party has him fatally outnumbered. Will is certain death is close at hand until old friends make a daring, last-minute rescue. The reunion is cut short, however, when they make a horrifying discovery: Skandia’s borders have been breached by the entire Temujai army. And Araluen is next in their sights. If two kingdoms are to be saved, the unlikeliest of unions must be made. Will it hold long enough to vanquish a ruthless new enemy? Or will past tensions spell doom for all?
The Battle for Skandia might be one of my favorite Ranger’s Apprentice books. Part of the reason might be because it comes right after the disappointing, unresolved The Icebound Land and is so action-packed that it makes up for that slow pace. Or maybe it’s just because The Battle for Skandia is a thrilling read. I never knew I could be so gripped by descriptions of a battle.
I think one thing I like about Flanagan is that he writes battle scenes well. They’re descriptive, but he doesn’t use so many terms that someone unfamiliar with weapons or fighting would be lost. They’re also not so descriptive as to be tedious or read like an action movie script. He explains the mechanics and strategy well enough that the reader is swept up in the action rather than confused by everything going on. It reminds me a little bit of how Brian Jacques wrote his fighting scenes in the Redwall series, but Flanagan does it better.
The humor is still on point and Flanagan does a good job of balancing the tense fighting with light humor scattered throughout. I also appreciate how he makes the characters interesting and fresh, and gives the ones that appear less often memorable and distinctive traits so that when they do show up again they are remembered through what they do and say.
The Ranger’s Apprentice series might not be for everyone, but for me, The Battle for Skandia is a testament to what I love about the series: great action, humor, and interesting characters. It more than makes up for the disappointing book that comes before and makes me excited to read more.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“What ‘what’ are you asking me?” he said. Then, thinking how to make his question clearer, he added, “Or to put it another way, why are you asking ‘what’?”
Controlling himself with enormous restraint, and making no secret of the fact, Halt said, very precisely: “You were about to ask a question.”
Horace frowned. “I was?”
Halt nodded. “You were. I saw you take a breath to ask it.”
“I see,” said Horace. “And what was it about?”
For just a second or two, Halt was speechless. He opened his mouth, closed it again, then finally found the strength to speak.
“That is what I was asking you,” he said. “When I said ‘what,’ I was asking you what you were about to ask me.”
“I wasn’t about to ask you ‘what,’” Horace replied, and Halt glared at him suspiciously.…
“Then what, if I may use that word once more, were you about to ask me?”
Horace drew breath once more, then hesitated. “I forget,” he said. “What were we talking about?”