Erak’s Ransom by John Flanagan 2007
Erak’s Ransom is the seventh book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan. Despite being the seventh book published, the story itself fits chronologically after the fourth book, The Battle for Skandia.
Erak, the new Skandian Oberjarl and ally of Araluen, is taken hostage during a failed raid in the desert land of Arrida. His second-in-command, Svengal, arrives at Castle Redmont on the night of Halt’s wedding seeking the ransom fund for their mutual friend. A plan is quickly devised and a small party consisting of Halt, Gilan, Will, Horace, Svengal, and Princess Cassandra sets sail. Their plan is smoothly executed, but a violent sandstorm wreaks havoc on the band of travellers, as does the discovery of a common enemy. When they encounter the barbaric Talagahi tribe, the group must work together to survive. Their situation grows increasingly dire and Will may be their only hope of escaping the desert alive.
Ideally this would have been book five in the series, which would have made the storyline with Will and Tug much more suspenseful and Will’s apprehension over ending his apprenticeship more meaningful. For whatever reason, they are out of order and some people may be turned off by that fact. I found it to be mildly annoying, but quickly got over it. I really enjoyed meeting Halt and Gilan again and the new desert setting was an interesting break from the haunted forests of the previous two books. Throughout this book Will becomes increasingly nervous about his upcoming exams. As he observes Halt’s calm demeanor and ability to think quickly under pressure, Will begins to doubt his own ability to assume the role of full-fledged Ranger. As usual, when his friends are in danger, the young apprentice finds it within himself to bravely rise to the occasion. His deep affection for his little horse is heartwarming and his loyalty to his friends is nothing short of heroic. This book is an enjoyable flashback and offers readers everything they have come to expect from a Ranger’s Apprentice book-action, adventure and humor. Seven books in and the author continues to produce exciting new stories. I have book eight, The Kings of Clonmel, ready and waiting at home.