Book Review: Erak’s Ransom by John Flanagan

Erak’s Ransom by John Flanagan

Pub. Date: Sept 6, 2011
Publisher: Penguin Group, USA 
Format: Paperback, 273pp
Age Range: 9 to 12
Series: Ranger’s Apprentice #7

ISBN-13: 9780142415252

Synopsis from BN.com:

What does it mean to earn the Silver Oakleaf? So few men have done so. For Will, a mere boy, that symbol of honor has long felt out of reach. Now, in the wake of Araluen’s uneasy truce with the raiding Skandians comes word that the Skandian leader has been captured by a dangerous desert tribe. The Rangers are sent to free him. But the desert is like nothing these warriors have seen before. Strangers in a strange land, they are brutalized by sandstorms, beaten by the unrelenting heat, tricked by one tribe that plays by its own rules, and surprisingly befriended by another. Like a desert mirage, nothing is as it seems. Yet one thing is constant: the bravery of the Rangers.

In this red-hot adventure, winner of the Australian Book of the Year Award for Older Children, John Flanagan raises the stakes on the series that has already sold millions of copies worldwide.

My Review:

As this is the seventh in a ten-book series, I can’t divulge too much without spoilers.  Therefore, I’m going to do a mini-review.  I’ll tell you what I like about this series and what I enjoyed about Erak’s Ransom in particular.
With the Ranger’s Apprentice series, John Flanagan has created a host of endearing characters.  In this book, a great number of them are thrust together for the latest quest.  The strength of the series is these characters, so I was thrilled to see so many of my favorites in one book:  Will, Halt, Gil, Horace, Evanyln, and Erak.  The comraderie and humor shared by the characters is always a highlight, and there is plenty of that here.
Although number 7 in published order, according to the series timeline, Erak’s Ransom fits between books 4 and 5.  Flanagan explains that he realized he failed to address a key moment in Will and Halt’s story.  Glancing around the web, there are some readers grumbling that the author went backward in the timeline, annoyed by the knowledge that certain characters will survive, or frustrated at the delay in waiting to find out how the events later in the timeline will play out.  I am thrilled that Erak’s Ransom rewinds.  For one, the story allows us to spend quality time with Halt whose presence was lacking in books 5 and 6.  And I always love those rowdy Skandians! 
Erak’s Ransom introduces a new desert landscape and three groups that inhabit it:  the Arridi, the Bedullin, and the Tualaghi.  With this new world and new people, we have an opportunity for a different kind of adventure.  And we meet various people, gaining new friends and allies, as well as facing new foes and creating new enemies along the way.  I like that Flanagan’s worlds and races are loosely based on our own.  This can be a good opportunity for kids who are reading the books to use them as a launching point to study real-life people and their histories.  For instance, the Arridi are an Arab people, the Bedullin informed by the Bedouin, and the Tualgahi based on the Tuareg.
I highly recommend both this book and series! It’s full of adventure, bravery, honor, and action, while also alive with humor.  Clean and intelligent, these books are never dumbed down and are always fun! Think The Lord of the Rings meets Robin Hood for a young audience.
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