One of my favorite books in the series. One of the things I've always enjoyed about Ranger's Apprentice is Flanagan's ability to present a multitude of different "real" cultures within his fantasy world, in a way that is accessible to young readers. There has always been a bit of anachronism in the stories, but I've been able to excuse that because it's a fantasy world, not historical fiction. Nihon-Ja is presented in lush, vivid realism -- I use the term realism in the sense that fantasy worlds should
have realism -- and the character of Shigeru is one of my favorites in the series.
I loved seeing almost the full cast of the series taking part in this one. Selethen, one of my other favorites, makes an appearance, which made me quite happy. One thing that bothered me a little bit was the interplay between Alyss and Evanlyn, which, for their ages, seemed a little immature. For two highly-trained, diplomatic, world-experienced young ladies, their bickering came off as a little childish. Maybe that was the point. As another reviewer pointed out, we don't get quite as much of the internal dialogue this time around. For most of the characters that didn't bother me, since I felt like I knew these characters so well, I could guess what they were thinking during any given exchange. The head-jumping had always bothered me ever so slightly, anyway.
All in all, this was exactly what I hoped for from the conclusion to this series. An exotic new land, a careful account of a new culture, old favorite characters and new favorites, and closure on some of the big questions of the series. I'm really quite sad that the series is over. But all good things have to come to an end, and this series, like any other, could run the risk of becoming stale and predictable if it were dragged out indefinitely. There were already elements creeping in that felt a bit worn-out, but luckily nothing so bad as to make the later books any less enjoyable.
I'll miss our Rangers and warriors, barbarians and rulers. I'll miss the vivid world John Flanagan shared with us. I hope this isn't the last we see from this talented author -- I look forward to reading whatever he writes next!