By John Flanagan
Rating: 4 1/4 stars
This is book 5 in the Ranger's Apprentice series. At this point, Will has finally become a full-fledged ranger. As he settles into his first appointment at the mostly quiet fiefdom of Seacliff, he receives an unexpected visitor--Alyss, his childhood friend, now a Courier of the kingdom, and someone he has a bit of romantic interest in. But Alyss just isn't bringing messages to the fief, she has an undercover assignment for Will in the far north at Norgate. The lord has fallen into a suspicious comatose state, attributed to Mallakam, a sorcerer from the past who had a feud with the lord's family. Other strange lights in the woods and phantoms have been sighted as well. Lord Syron's son is a weak, disliked replacement and cousin Keren is the well-thought of head of the garrison. The kingdom is concerned though since Norgate holds back enemies from the countries farther north and its current instability could spell trouble. Will is sent to Norgate undercover as a jongleur, or traveling musician, to ascertain what is really going on. Is there truly a sorcerer on the loose? Who would benefit by ridding Norgate of its lord? Will is joined by Alyss, also undercover as Lady Gwendolyn, and as the pair investigate, they conclude that some of the sorcery is just smoke and mirrors. But who is pulling the strings? Is it the son, Lord Orman? Or popular Keren? Or another person, this Mallakam? Then suddenly a new threat appears, and Will must make a choice about who to trust and what to do. This installment is quite exciting and leaves us on a cliffhanger of an ending. The last two books in the series have been outstanding. Fans will thoroughly enjoy this chapter and be eagerly awaiting the next book, The Siege of Macindaw, due out in the spring of 2009.