By John Flanagan
Penguin Young Readers Group, $17.99, 352 pages

Kind and fair, Emperor Shigeru of Nihon-Ja, defender of the common man, is an excellent role model for young readers. The tenth book of the Ranger’s Apprentice series teaches readers the value of commitment and discipline in the face of insurmountable odds. The Emperor is joined by the four young protagonists of the Ranger’s Apprentice series who become bonded by loyalty to the Emperor against the evil Lord Arisaka, usurper to the throne. Parents will appreciate how each character faces challenging situations with grace and sense. The language is accessible for fifth grade readers and up, and the plots are full and active. The series heroes lead the Emperor and a rag-tag band of simple peasants to overcome the army of the treacherous lord using their wits, skill and a commitment to do what is right – even if it means sacrificing their lives. The story rambles at times and the pages could easily have gone on a diet, but all in all, it is an active read where even the bad guys are given a chance to make good.

Reviewed by Bryan Burch