“The Sorcerer of the North” (Book 5 in “The Ranger’s Apprentice” series) by John Flanagan
I’m sure this book—and the series—is being marketed as a guy’s book—which it is—but I loved it. In fact, I’ve read all five of the books in the series and recommend all of them to anyone interested in adventure or fantasy.
Though books 2-4 follow, chronologically, right on the heels of the last, book 5, “The Sorcerer of the North,” begins with five years having passed. Will is now a true Ranger on his own rather than just Halt’s apprentice.
Will is assigned to the Fief of Seacliffe, a place where there is little action, because he is new to the job and needs some practical experience. However, very soon he is called to a secret assignment. On the kingdom’s northern border, Castle Macindaw appears to be beset by sorcery. Even those who don’t believe in such stuff cannot attribute their problems, such as ghost sightings and possession by evil, to anything else. And Lord Orman, the son of the deathly-ill proprietor of the castle, appears to be involved in practicing dark arts.
Will is to discover what is happening by going in disguise as a roving musician. Alyss, also no longer an apprentice, but a Courier in her own right, is also dispatched when things get rough. She, too, is in disguise—as a dimwitted, self-centered woman of noble caste. She and Will are romantically interested in one another. Even some Skandians with evil intent (the treaty of the last book is in jeopardy) make an appearance.
Although I did miss some of the characters I’ve come to know, especially Princess Cassandra (and Halt until he finally appeared about halfway through the book), I liked seeing Will with more responsibility for his own fate.