Taking off from where The Ruins of Gorlan left off, The Burning Bridge returns with Will still apprenticed to Halt and learning that while he has natural talents, there’s a lot he still needs to learn. We learn very quickly that Morgarath is plotting revenge on Araluen and Will and Halt believe they’ve discovered his plans. Oh but they haven’t! Soon they realize they are being double-crossed which leads Will, Horace, and Gilan to Celtica to find out what’s going on. Trouble ensues and the whole place erupts into war. Luckily, Will and Horace’s quick thinking at least gives the army of Araluen an even playing field.
Another excitingly quick paced read, this time we have a female protagonist join the gang evening out the male dominated cast. I was worried that once she appeared on scene that she might become the archetypal medieval female who’s pretty and smart, but doesn’t have much agency and who is included only to serve as the romantic interests of the male protagonists. Luckily Princess Cassandra hasn’t fallen into that trap…yet. She’s smart and witty, keeping her identity secret because she’s aware she could be used as a pawn in someone’s political machinations. She also makes it clear that she doesn’t need protection but also appreciates the camaraderie that Will and Horace offer her. As of yet, there’s not even a hint of romance, but I’m just waiting for that shoe to drop.
There were parts of the story, especially on their mission, when I thought Will et al were being way to cavalier about the consequences of what they were doing. However, I realized that instead, they were taking the consequences for being part of the adult world of the Ranger Corps. It’s never easy to think that young people would have to sacrifice their futures on behalf of adults, but sadly that’s a lot of the time what happens in our own military. This is a sobering thought. There’s also a scene in which a young woman is confronted with bald misogyny and reminds us all that this isn’t just a problem in the Middle Ages, we still face this in the 21st century.