I'm making my way through John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice books. Having attended the launch of Brotherband 1 last week, I thought I'd better get into this universe. I have already read the book, which I will be reviewing shortly, but to be honest, I'd only read the introductory volume to Ranger's Apprentice when I went to the launch last week and now I'm finishing up the fourth novel, Oakleaf Bearers. I'm glad I have, because it tells you a lot more about the society of Skandia, the parallel Viking society in which Brotherband I: The Outcasts is set, and you get to see more of Jarl Erak, the likable Skandian leader, before he became Oberjarl Erak.
I'm finding it a fascinating read. Despite the cheeky - deliberate! - anachronisms - coffee, tea, turkey, blueberries and potatoes available in the equivalent of mediaeval Europe, not to mention showers in the castle - the author doesn't muck around with the technical stuff. He knows his weapons and battle stuff and I found myself utterly delighted by the scenes in Gallica in the third volume, The Icebound Land, in which Halt the Ranger and Horace, the apprentice warrior, make their way through the parallel France, having to deal with the kind of knights who turn up in Malory's Arthurian tales and are sent up by Monty Python - you know, the ones who guard bridges and crossroads, demanding tolls or fights. Of course, Horace is pretty good with a sword and shield and the knights aren't, so he somehow develops a reputation as a fearsome knight. Halt would much rather do an Indiana Jones and just shoot the pests, but goes along with it. Young readers won't be familiar with the Arthurian tales, but the kind of adults who read these books generally will be. I couldn't stop giggling.
Oakleaf Bearers has an alliance between the Viking-Skandians and Halt and his young friends, to oppose the Temujai, aka Mongol hordes, who are fully expecting the Skandians to do what they always do and just yell, "Attack!" and be wiped out.
I'm going to have to wait for Volume 5, till i get back after the long weekend, so I will, meanwhile, attack some of my other review stuff, such as Rowena Cory Daniells' The King's Bastard and Melina Marchetta's Froi of the Exiles. Stand by!