I like, seriously, want to name a son William Horace someday. I've always liked William, and I couldn't decide on the perfect middle name, but naming a kid after both Will and Horace? Perfection. And I want a daughter named Alyss too.
Will's no longer an apprentice, and he has his own fief: Seacliff, where basically nothing ever happens. It's where they send the rookies. Will's already seen plenty in his young life, so the prospect of a sleepy little fief isn't particularly appealing. Far away from Redmont and all his friends. With just his horse Tug and the injured dog he found on the way, for whom he can't choose a name. Have I talked about Tug before? Tug is so awesome and a character in his own right. Ranger horses are amazing. They can't be stolen (heehee), they never have to be tethered because they won't wander off, they have incredible speed and stamina, they're very smart, and they always get the last word with their masters. Yes, the Rangers talk to their horses. They just don't like to do it with other people around. "Stop talking to your horse, dear."—from The Royal Ranger
Seacliff is about to be attacked by Skandians, but Will knows Skandians, and more importantly is a good friend of the Oberjarl Erak. So that works out and he makes friends with Gundar Hardstriker in the process, and then Halt and Ranger Commandant Crowley send for him because they need him for a special mission. There's something odd going on at Norgate fief in the north, as Lord Syron has a mysterious illness that many are blaming on the Sorcerer of the North. Alyss, as a Courier and a member of the Diplomatic Service, is also going to Norgate to investigate. Will is to be disguised as a jongleur, as he'll be better able to find out what's going on because you play for people, they talk around you. And Will does NOT play the lute. He plays the mandola, which is like the mandolin, but a fifth lower (to the mandolin what the viola is to the violin). And he's always trying to explain it to people, because people always call it a lute, but it isn't— Anyway, Halt absolutely hates music, especially Will's parody song "Graybeard Halt," which Crowley loves, by the way.
"Halt! How are you? What have you been doing? Where's Abelard [Halt's horse]? How's Crowley? What's this all about?""I'm glad to see you rate my horse more important than our Corps Commandant."
Crowley's really awesome and the anti-Halt and the banter between those two. XD
And I know I'm going on longer about this one than the others so far, but anyway, Will and Alyss get to do stuff together, though under cover, and they have to figure out who to trust at Norgate and if the sorcerer is really a sorcerer, and they get scared by the "Night Warrior" but Alyss figures it out, and then Halt and Crowley are like "We need to send someone to help Will. Who should we send? Horace!", but Horace doesn't get there in time, and Alyss gets taken prisoner, and Will tries to rescue her but he fails and AAAAAAHHHH!!!!! It ends there.
Will's. Siege. Is. AWESOME!!! But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Things reeeeally aren't going too well in Norgate Fief. There's a traitor in Castle Macindaw, and someone Will cares about is imprisoned, and Alyss is being hypnotized by an evil dude, and there are Scotti invaders coming, and if Macindaw falls, they'll have a strong foothold in Araluen. But Horace is on his way and Malcolm, the healer who lives in the woods with a band of deformed outcasts, turns out to be super awesome, and Gundar has been shipwrecked in the area, so at least Will has allies.
Will's determined to besiege Macindaw because he has to save Alyss, and so he presents this to Horace, who tells him he needs three or four times the amount of men there are in Macindaw to conduct his siege. And Will's numbers, well:
"Including you and me?"
"I think you'd better include you and me."
"They'd better be."
And Will's strategy is BRILLIANT. Like, so much so that Crowley sends a report to all the other Rangers for them to study. Oh, by the way, Malcolm is afraid he's going to run out of coffee with Will and Horace around. And Will can't draw. His cartwheels so aren't round and his perspective is terrible and that exchange is awesome. And Horace can't sit still for several hours without making up a poem—at Will's suggestion!—that Will refuses to help him remember. And there's a declaration of love and it made me so happy and it makes Horace happy too even though he isn't a part of it, and I LOVE the very end of this book. It's perfection. And Halt calls Will "son." I can't even say how much that warmed my heart.
This one actually takes place prior to book 5, and honestly, if you want it to be more suspenseful, read it first. It was really good and I enjoyed it very much, but I knew they all had to survive intact because they were okay in 5 and 6.
It starts out with a wedding at Redmont. :D I'm so glad Halt and Pauline finally got married. I mean, it took him about 20 years and realizing he'll be lonely when Will graduates to propose! She has the patience of a saint. Halt even got a real haircut instead of trimming it himself with his saxe knife. XD And the Bores' table. There has to be a Bores' table at a wedding. That's where you put all the boring, annoying, and/or weird people you have to invite but don't want bothering your normal guests. I loved how when I was talking to the girl at the library about it, she told her mom "You have to have a Bores' table."
The story is about how Erak has been captured by the Arridi and Halt, Will, Horace, Gilan, and Evanlyn, along with Erak's former first mate Svengal go to rescue him. But what seems like it'll be a simple mission goes horribly wrong. People get kidnapped, a horse gets lost in a sandstorm, the Tulaghi attack our friends, Will almost dies of dehydration in the desert, he almost loses Tug forever only you know Tug was in 5 and 6 so he has to get him back, they make new friends and almost die multiple times in multiple situations, and Evanlyn is awesome with her sling (unlike me), and Alyss stayed behind even though Pauline told her she could go if she wanted but Alyss is afraid she'll hit Evanlyn in the head with an oar. I'd shipped Will and Alyss in book 1, Will and Evanlyn in books 3 and 4, but 5 started me shipping Will and Alyss again, so I felt her pain.
SOOOOOOO many bad things happen in this book, but it's funny too, like how they all needle Halt when he gets seasick. And then when Will graduates. Oh, goodness. It's so funny the way they do it to avoid giving the apprentices big heads. I love it. And Crowley's suggestions for Will's last name. They don't know his real one and there are other Wills in the Ranger Corp, so they decide to do something related to one of his accomplishments. Like Will Boar Killer or Will o' the Bridge—but that one sounded too much like will o' the wisp. He becomes Will Treaty, and it suits him perfectly. He's a true Ranger now, with a silver oakleaf.
P.S. I was poking around on Overdrive while I was reading the series and found the German language editions—my library doesn't have them, I was looking at books eligible for suggestion. Apparently the German title of this one translates "The Prisoner of the Desert People," which is quite an accurate name.
*This book contains one usage of the word b---h, the only instance of any language worse than d--n. D--n is used with some frequency, but it seemed to me to lessen as the series went on.