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Ranger’s Apprentice Book 10The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
by John Flanagan
The Story: When Horace travels to the exotic land of Nihon- Ja, it isn't long before he finds himself pulled into a battle that is not his - but one he knows in his heart he must wage. A kingdom teeters on the edge of chaos when the Nihon-Ja emperor, a defender of the common man, is forcibly overthrown, and only Horace, Will, and his Araluen companions can restore the emperor to the throne. Victory lies in the hands of an inexperienced group of fighters, and it's anybody's guess who will make the journey home to Araluen.
The Good: Even though there are two more books left in the Ranger’s Apprentice series, for many this story is the send off for the series. If it truly was the last book in the series, Bookworm would have been just fine with that. What an ending it would be.
In a genre that at times seems completely dominated by a Tolkien-esque medieval Europe cliches, it is very nice for a fantasy book to take place in a land inspired by ancient Asia, more specifically medieval Japan is extremely refreshing. Asia has such rich, cultural traditions that it is really a shame that more authors don’t explore it more often. The author does explore them though and in a way that feels very authentic.
Adding to the authenticity is the depiction of war and battle in this book. As stated in previous reviews of this series, one of the author’s strengths is the realistic depiction of warfare. The first few chapters of this book have been criticized for being out of place and dragging, but Bookworm disagrees. The purpose of those chapters is to introduce the tactics that will later be used in the land of Nihon-Ja, and those tactics are based a real life infantry tactics from that era. This adds a level of realism that makes the world-building all the more richer.
While this series has long been focused on Will and Halt, this a book where Horace gets a chance in the spotlight. He is own his own in a foreign land and his sense of honor compels him to fight a war that is not his own. Horace has grown a great deal from the bully that troubled Will in the Ruins of Gorlan. That is what has made this series so special, similar to the Harry Potter series, the readers got to watch these character’s grow. From stumbling apprentices, to fully fledged warriors and in the case of Alyss and Cassandra, diplomats.
This is the last of the regular Ranger’s Apprentice novels and at the end of this book, it really does feel like the conclusion of a long and storied journey. The old gang has just had a grand adventure in a foreign land, where they have saved the day and made new friends. On their way home, love finally blooms and a new chapter of their lives begin. Horace and Will, even Alyss and Evanlyn/Cassandra have finally come into their own, mind, body and soul.
The Flaws: Once more we run into the old fantasy cliche of how people in a completely foreign land, in a world where travel and communication are difficult, can all speak the same language. It is a tried and true fantasy technique, but can come off as laziness on the part of the writer. Then again…it’s more about the story rather than the specifics and books like this were never meant to be realistic. Not to mention that this book was written with older children market in mind.
One arc in particular feels a little forced. It doesn’t quite fit with the rest of book. No spoilers, but basically Cassandra and Alyss are sent off on their own mission. That part is okay. This book largely focuses on boys it seems and its good that we see the girls get a little bit of the action on their own. The problem is the mission itself: they have to travel into a supposedly haunted forest and there they deal with yeti like creatures. The author may be trying to insert some suspense elements into the story, maybe a little horror too, but what made the Ranger’s Apprentice series so good is that while it takes place in a fantasy realm it is still