In W.G. Hladky’s RANGERKNIGHTS (The Book of Ruin 3), the main protagonist is the greenhorn Prince Asem, the prince of Andatunisian emir. Prince Asem is given the high-speed job of following the legendary RangerKnights on a mission to disrupt and destroy the machinations of the vile Skinweavers. In this novel, the Skinweavers threaten to flay alive the nephew of the Pope. On top of this, the world is a mess: drug addicts called Mutilators hold a priceless book for ransom, pirates called the Sea People terrorize coastal settlements, and vile Inquisitors are guilty of ruining a princess’s mind during a world-important negotiation. Only the RangerKnights, now joined by Prince Asem, can correct these maladies.
Asem’s chief instructor in the ways of the RangerKnights is Lovell Weir, a veteran of American force. As to be expected, the incursion into the Skinweaver’s territory goes sideways and demands that all the RangerKnights go above and beyond, including Prince Asem. RANGERKNIGHTS is an intricate science fiction novel that includes a healthy helping of high fantasy and hard-boiled military fiction. There is also plenty of real history here: Andatunisia is clearly modeled after the Muslim state of medieval Andalusia, while Inquisitors and the Sea People all existed in the distant past. Present villains like Jihadists also make appearances in this fascinating novel.
Hladky, who has written two other novels in the BOOK OF RUIN series (which can be looked on as the successors to the legendary work of Robert A. Heinlein), is a veteran hand at worldbuilding. The future drawn here is realistic, with humble characters thrust into nearly impossible situations. The RangerKnights are depicted as the true inheritors of both the Rangers (both the American frontiersmen and U.S. Army operators) and the knights of the Middle Ages. They are honorable, well-disciplined and hardy. They are also the ones who are called in to do impossible missions, thus giving them an esprit de corps that is a pleasure to read. The RangerKnights are also all too human. Both Prince Asem and Lovell Weir are forced to struggle with personal desires–a weakness that can be exploited by their enemies. In this post-apocalyptic landscape, those emotions that make us humans make the RangerKnights and civilians vulnerable to fatal attacks. Asem must decided between love of person and love of duty.
RANGERKNIGHTS is a sci-fi fan’s delight: it is full of action, granular details, and rich characters who must face familiar battles in an unfamiliar war.
~Benjamin Welton for IndieReader