Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan

          I'm not sure if you would consider this a review or just some of my scattered thoughts on the book.
I enjoy this series. I like Flangan's twist on the real world countries. His world is loads of fun and always hilarious. Some of the plot is kind of predictable. But the characters are so much fun. It makes for a relaxing book. Except for the climatic, chewing-your-nails-to-nothing parts, yeah, it's a peaceful read.

           Flanagan balances scenes packed with tension very well with scenes packed with humor. It's good mixture.

           Let's just skip to the characters, shall we?

           Gilan. The first book I wasn't particularly impressed. But we didn't see him much either. Now he's one of my favorites. He has a good sense of humor. Unlike some Rangers. He's always willing to give advice to the young apprentice, Ranger or no, and still he takes correction and instruction from others very well. He has a good sense of judgment, even if he does go hollering into deserted villages as if nothing nasty may be awaiting his arrival. Another thing I really like about him is that he's one of the most human of all Flanagan's characters. He seems so real.

           Alyss. I got to know her more in this one. She's very sincere. I like how she's innocent and yet intelligent, not naive. She's very much like Lady Pauline at times, but if pushed to her last resort she will use Halt's good sense. :) Yes, I like Alyss. She has a good balance of respectability, wit, and fun. She's not a rude, annoying girl demanding that people see her reason. But she's not so stiff with formality and rules that she's just plain boring and stuck up.

           And by of way, I admire Lady Pauline. How she can laugh at something so amusing and yet have enough discretion and self control to merely smile and not share the joke at someone's expense (particularly someone of import's expense).

           Erak. The Skandian. I actually like the Skandians as a whole. I mean, for barbarians and pillagers, they're likable lot. They did take Will and Evanlyn prisoner. That's a count against them. But they didn't want to let the Wargals or Morgarath get to them either. They detested the idea of what either would do to the prisoners. Of course, they had their own reasons too, being Vikings and all. But when Morgarath did find them out, Erak put up quite a fight. Those are likable villains. And another reason I like Erak. That first encounter between Erak and Morgarath. Morgarath is used to people fearing him; he wants people to fear him. And yet Erak made jokes to the man's face, refused to be belittled, and could really care less about Morgarath's power play. I love that scene. Tons of tension. It's was fun to see someone could get under Morgarath's skin without getting his head cut off.

           I like Will even more with this second book. I may begin to like him more than Halt. He faced his fears and proved himself an amazing leader. Though I do have to say, as talkative as he is when he's with Halt, when he's away from Halt he does seem to be more like his craftmaster. A little grim, more observant and mysterious, and less chatty. But he's still the same curious, funny Will. He's very brave too. Going back on that bridge. Ack! I was pulling my hair out. I knew they had to make it; there was still half the book left not to mention there's a twelfth and final book coming out in November. But still. . . I don't know if I could do that. I hate fire.

           Ahem, but Halt is still my favorite so far. He was grumpy and grim as ever, but he really isn't that tough at heart. Alyss proved so. And he's a bit reclusive. Even though he doesn't go out of his way to be funny, people's reactions to him and some of his methods. . . Yes, they do find him peculiar, and undiplomatic, at times.

           Now when I read the first book, I really loved the characters. But a part of me didn't see them as very real or human. They didn't have too many faults. Sure they each had a few quirks of their own assigned to them. But they were all the best at what they do, and they never failed. And Halt was the most glamorized of the heroes, and the least 'human.' But in The Burning Bridge, Halt became more real for me. More human. For starters, he's the introvert who was actually lonely (*gasps* Yes, that actually happens to introverts. Ironic, I know). And not that he would admit it, but he missed Will. Even though Halt doesn't exactly appear kid-friendly. . . or people-friendly, he would give anything to protect Will. And in the end he failed to do that very thing. Even though he's the best of the best.

           Remember I said that it seemed a little predictable at times? Well, I was actually wonderfully surprised at times. And part of this was because before the characters didn't see very human, they always seemed to win, escape at just the right moment, etc. Here's some of the things I didn't quite expect. (You may want to read the book before you finish this post)

          -for Will and Evanlyn to be captured. I thought for sure they would get away and the remainder of the book would be their return and the battle. Even when Will was knocked out, I thought that, for a small second, maybe Evanlyn would be a good shot. Yeah, how naïve of me.

           -for the Skandians to capture them. Once those hands grabbed Evanlyn, it had to be a Wargal. Then what would they do? But the Skandians? That made their captivity more interesting if you ask me.

           -I was kind of looking for a scene that cut to Halt and Gilan battling Horth and his Skandians.

           -the bagpipes. Not a major plot point, but. . . Yeah, that was interesting.

           -that Morgarath finally did find Will and Evanlyn. I was really expecting them to get away.

          -that Tug didn't go after Will. I thought he would sneak off during the battle and Will and Evanlyn would ride to Araluen's side.

           -that Halt didn't just send an arrow into Morgarath. It was tempting, but Halt has respect for his knight friends.     

           -that Horace accepted Morgarath's challenge? Definitely didn't see that coming.

           -that Horace used the two knife defense. Will was the one learning it; it was part of his training. So naturally I had expected that sometime in the book Will would have to use it. But Horace did. And it was amazing!

           -that Morgarath actually died. I really expected him to violate the rules of chivalry and break from the fight to kill Halt and/or King Duncan. And then he would fail and slink off to his villainous lair in the mountains to fight another day. But he died. The main villain died.

           -that. . . that Halt didn't reach Will and Evanlyn in time, that. . . Will didn't get to escape. . . that he's gone to Skandia. . . over the sea. I really thought Halt would succeed, like he always does. But this did make Halt more real also.

          Now I can't wait to read the next one and see where it leads. :) To Skandia!


  1. This is, and still remains, my favourite book of the series with Halt's Peril as a close second. I love everything about it. Will rushing back out onto the bridge, the wrenching ending when Halt can't reach him in time, Evelyn, and Horce's duel.

    I second all of your thoughts on the books, except Alyss. By the end of the series I wasn't very fond of her, but that is one small detail and I still love the books.

    They are a very great series. All about good heroes who are always fighting for what is right and about friendship. There is a sad lack of these kinds of books around.

    As you said, they can be predictable. The heroes are sometimes made out to be almost perfect. They aren't the most fabulous things ever written, but the stories are fun and exciting once you near the end. (The beginnings can be a little slow, but that is when we get to spend time with everyone so I don't mind too much.)
    Will and Halt and Horace are the greatest friendship team ever. I love them together. (Oh, and if you haven't, don't forget to read the Lost Stories, it has a VERY cool Galin story in it.)

    Anyways, now I want to read them all again.

    1. Alyss? Well, who knows, by the end of the series I may not like her either. Characters tend to change over a series. :P For instance I like Gilan more now, and currently I don't like Evelyn much.

      I don't mind it being a little predictable. It's my relaxing book time. The kind of book where you don't have to think too much, but it's still engaging. :)

      The Lost Stories? I've have never heard of them. But now I'll be sure to keep an eye out for them. :)


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