The most hotly anticipated new release for a certain 10-year-old member of the bookstogether household this spring may have been The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan (Philomel). The tenth and final installment in the Ranger's Apprentice series sees Will and Co. travel via Skandian ship to exotic Nihon-Ja (a sort of feudal Japan) in search of Horace, there studying Senshi fighting techniques. After a military coup overthrows Horace's friend, the Emperor Shigeru, the Araluens become entangled in the fight to restore benevolent imperial power to Nihon-Ja This involves training (I love a good training scene) a band of woodcutters and farmers in a remote mountain fortress to do battle with the Senshi warriors under Lord Arisaka.
It was by all accounts (my husband read it, too) a satisfying conclusion to the series, tying up loose ends and romantic subplots while providing lots of the tactical detail and military action that my 10-year-old son loves, and that Flanagan does so well. Bonus points for strong female characters in Alyss and Evanlyn.
The good news for Ranger's Apprentice fans, though, is that the first volume in Flanagan's news series, Brotherband Chronicles, Book 1: The Outcasts, debuts this fall. And it's got Skandians!