Review: The Battle of Hackham Heath (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years #2) – John Flanagan

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After Morgarath’s untimely escape, an uneasy peace spreads throughout Araluen. But there’s a lot of work in repairing the country after Morgarath’s influence: figuring out which Baron’s are trustworthy, finding Rangers to fill their quota, and protecting the country from Morgarath’s eventual return. When he does, they are faced with fierce creatures called Wargals, and are greatly outnumbered.


Why this book?: The Ranger’s Apprentice is one of my favorite childhood series. I loved the first prequel, and I was SO excited for this one as well!!

No correlation between previous book or original series

Let me just say this first. If you’re writing a book, and there’s a SLIVER of a possibility that there COULD be a prequel-whether you write it first or last-you have to match your facts. You can tell nearly immediately that that isn’t what Flanagan did. Not only did he go against facts he presented in the original series, but he also flipped facts around in the first book, The Tournament at Gorlan.  I was shocked when I saw these blatant mistakes, and realized that it wasn’t likely that there was anyone who knew the series that read through this book before publication.

Flanagan constantly lost track of numbers as well, which also irked me. At one point there were five archers. And then one was forgotten. Then there were six? Now four. I was so confused as to what the hell was going on, that I was forced to go with what was said first and ignored the added comments. It was almost as if Flanagan had people leave and come into the scenes without added introductory sentences.

There was also no clear plot to the book, not until later on. It was as if he needed two different plot lines to happen to lead up to the actual battle, but couldn’t figure out how to add them both in. So instead of integrating, he cut the book in half, and focused on stuff that had nothing to do with the battle at all in the beginning.

Distinct lack of care for female characters

One reason I was excited for the sequel was because we were supposed to be meeting characters that weren’t mentioned in the original series-the Queen, young Gilan, and possibly even the parents of the orphans.

Flanagan lost an opportunity here. He used Queen Rosalind as a tool instead of making her a character, dismissing her the moment her character became useless. Same goes for Queen Mother Deborah, Duncan’s mother. He had such and opportunity with her, but instead decided to go with a short paragraph that exemplified her personality, while dismissing her at the same time.

I did enjoy the return to our characters though. While I found Halt’s characterization to be off, I realized that he still had 15 years to become who he was. Crowley was the same lovable dork he always is, and it was funny to see how Halt rubbed off on him. The Battle of Hackham Heath gave much more insight to the world of Ranger’s Apprentice, even if Flanagan screwed up a few basic facts.

Final Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall?

After being blown away by The Tournament at Gorlan, I was dismayed to see that The Battle of Hackham Heath suffered from the Middle-Book Syndrome. Flanagan warped the story to fit what he wanted at the time, instead of going along with what he had previous set in people’s minds. He also lost so many opportunities to make strong female characters, after a lack of them in the main series. I was also hoping that there would have been some indication that Crowley wasn’t straight, but instead Flanagan dismissed Crowley as “being married to his work”.

Would I Recommend?

Sigh. This one’s difficult. With this big of a disappointment, normally I would say no. But Ranger’s Apprentice is a nostalgic read, so for those who have read the main series, and The Tournament at Gorlan, I would recommend for this book to be read. However, if you’re just starting to read the main series, I would skip this book.


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Additional Information:

Published: November 29, 2016

Publisher: Philomel Books

Page Count: 346

Genre: Fantasy/YA/Adventure

Synopsis: via Goodreads

When the former Baron Morgarath escaped to avoid punishment for treason, an uneasy peace fell on Araluen. But Morgarath, now in hiding, is already planning his next move, recruiting an army of savage, overpowering beasts known as Wargals. Newly crowned King Duncan knows he must assemble his troops for battle.

To find out the full extent of Morgarath’s plan of attack, Halt prepares for a seemingly impossible task–climbing the deadly cliffs of the Mountains of Rain and Night and venturing deep into enemy territory to spy. After all, the winner of this war could be determined by one wrong move.

At the Battle of Hackham Heath, the fate of a Kingdom will be decided. This origin story of how Halt came to be Araluen’s most famous Ranger – and how war will decide the future of the next generation – will thrill Ranger’s Apprentice fans and new readers alike.

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