Will is determined to rescue Alyss - even if it means laying siege to an enemy castle. In this desolate northern fief, where can Will find the fighting men he needs to overcome the traitorous Sir Keren and his band of criminals? Across the border, the fierce Scotti tribesmen are waiting for the signal that Castle Macindaw is in friendly hands and the way is clear to mount a full-scale attack. Time is running out. Will’s courage and ingenuity - and the arrival of an old friend - may be the only things that stand in their way.
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Not a stand-alone novel. This book wraps up the plot that began with the prequel, Sorceror of the North. There are no fantastical elements, and no magic. No cursing and no sex. Written for older kids and young adults ((like me, at 42)), this is imaginative alternative history, set in medieval feudal England (which is called Araluen), with Scottish Highlanders (from a place with the likely name of Picta), and axe-wielding sea-faring Vikings called Skandians ((go figure)).
Macindaw is a besieged castle perched in the narrow gorge that separates Picta from Araluen. There is a good map and a fun app at the author's website.
As with the entire series, this is another humorous, entertaining, adventurous, and heartwarming tale of treachery versus loyalty, science versus superstition, courage versus cowardice. There is a bitter thread of regret, too, and even a touch of romance.
Characters make the story (including the dog and the giant). One of the two main villains is somewhat sympathetic and three-dimensional, which makes this book stand apart. The other villain is your standard vicious thug. The protagonists are — of course — very likable, but not vapid. Characterization clearly portrays different personalities and abilities in the heroes of this tale. The battle strategies are clever, as Will, Horace, and Malcom make use of decoys, ruses, secret codes, Trojan horses, mind-games, superstition, etc. Alyss, the female character, plays a slighter role, but her bits are believable.
I like this narrator (Zappa) better than Keating, because he reads with a natural cadence and rhythm, and his portrayals of the various characters sound more believable to me. However, I really don't like the musical intrusions at each chapter break. Obnoxious! Zappa gets 5, but the recording studio gets 2. That cost the audiobook a star.