My 15 year old son heard me listening to this book on CD and asked what I was listening to. When I told him he scrunched his eyebrows and cocked his head. "Really? Have you listened to all the others, too?" I had to admit that I had. "But, mom, they are like: And then he drew his broad sword with one smooth motion and blocked the killing strike just inches from his head." (this he said in a mock-serious narrator voice) "I know." I said, "But I just like them."
Of course that made me think: why have I enjoyed this series enough that I am on # 8 and still going strong. I think the key is strong, interesting characters. Halt, Will, and Horace are all different, but well defined and likable. They are like the Harry Potter characters in that way. I feel like I know them, and often when they do something in the story, I think to myself, "oh, yeah, it is just like Horace to do something like that." Even the secondary figures are well drawn. Alice, Gilian, Baron Arald, Lady Pauline, etc all have unique personalities.
The story lines are good, too. OK, I have to admit the general story line is pretty much the same each time. They go out on an adventure, and they meet the bad guys. They seem to lose ground, but come out on top in the end. But there is quite a bit of variation. Flanagan takes on different social issues in each book. In this episode, Halt goes back to the country where he was born. We find out that he really is from the royal family of Clonmel, and why he had to leave. Flanagan also deals with religious scams and explores how and why they work. Flanagan's pacing is good. He includes interesting details about being a ranger and a warrior. The reader of the recorded version, John Keating, is fun to listen to because he is good with accents. It was a fun book, and a great series for the kind of kids who breeze through a couple of fantasy books a week. Hey, this series will keep them busy for a month or more. (358 p)