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VOYAMuch like its predecessor's jumpstart prologue, this sequel leaps into action as if there is no time to waste, picking right up where Ruins of Gorlan (Philomel, 2002/VOYA December 2005) left off. Halt and Will are tracking Wargals, war is pending, and Morgarath is gathering followers. Fans will recall that Wargals are bad, Morgarath is worse, and Halt and Will are sort of reconnaissance/messenger/foresters in a medieval-styled fantasy world on the brink of civil war. Will, having earned a silver oak leaf, is now entrusted with traveling as emissary to Celtica and gets mixed up in the middle of solving the mystery of why miners have gone missing. Is it part of Morgarath's evil plan? New characters are introduced, each as delightfully complex as the last. Will, Horace, and Alyss mature, and Evanlyn, a rescued refugee is an interesting addition. Halt remains gruff and unintentionally humorous. Honing new skills such as knife combat and near misses with arrows make for exciting scenes. Details are carefully placed, and clues to the denouement are mentioned early. Politics and geography play noticeably larger roles in this book, resulting in a deeper and richer story: Military success hinges on the control of a specific narrow mountain pass. The book's title and fiery cover give away the climatic ending, and occasionally the plot's direction is too obvious, but a surprise twist will keep readers on pins and needles waiting for the next book. Purchase this one where book one was popular. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2006, Philomel, 259p.,Ages 11 to 15.