It’s been a few years since Bobby Pendragon first found out he was a Traveler. He’s been all over the territories of Halla, trying to thwart Saint Dane’s plans to throw all of Halla into chaos. Now the final battle is here. Can Bobby and his friends kill Saint Dane, or will all of Halla be forced to live in the terrible universe he has created?
The Soldiers of Halla, the final PENDRAGON book by D.J. MacHale, begins with Bobby learning who he is, where he came from, and what happened to his family — all in one huge infodump. I’m not sure why Bobby couldn’t know these things before… (Well, actually, I do know why — it’s because MacHale likes to withhold information for dramatic effect, even if it doesn’t make sense to the plot. This happens frequently. For example, dying characters will continue to talk around the important information they need to impart until, finally, in the last breath, they manage to croak it out…) But, anyway, all this information is welcome news for Bobby and fans. Finally, some answers!
So, Saint Dane’s goal all this time was to create a weird cult called Ravinia. It’s an elitist utopia with a eugenics campaign. Its philosophy (which feels post hoc at this point in the story because we did not hear about it until book nine) is to embrace everyone who displays some sort of excellence and to invite them to live in beautiful walled cities that exclude the undesirables. Those left outside the walls have few resources and will die off. This sort of elitism is happening in all the territories.
Back in the previous book, Raven Rise, Saint Dane had arranged for 70,000 people, most of the people who didn’t support him (including Mark and Courtney), to attend a rally at Yankee Stadium. Then he opened a flume and sucked them all out to who knows where. This was a really big (and unbelievable) mistake because he didn’t kill them. They are now somewhere else in Halla. Their spirit of hope and revulsion to Saint Dane’s “utopia” are the only thing keeping all-out evil at bay. Realizing his mistake, Saint Dane is now frantically searching for them so he can get rid of them for good. But they are the only hope for Halla, so Bobby and the other Travelers are also searching for them. They plan to use the exiles to defeat Saint Dane.
Nobody who has read the previous nine PENDRAGON books isn’t going to pick up book ten, so I won’t suggest that you don’t read The Soldiers of Halla. I’ll just say that while there were a few shivery moments (even though I had predicted some of those moments, they were still effective), and while I was glad to learn what happened to Bobby and his friends in the end, overall I was slightly disappointed. Compared to the best installments in this series, The Soldiers of Halla often feels chaotic and messy. There is way too much time spent on the dull existential parts, the final show-down between Bobby and Saint Dane is kind of anticlimactic, and one of the romantic subplots was inexplicably dropped. But at other times the story is fun and exciting, Mark’s character development is gratifying, and the ending is sweet and conclusive enough to satisfy most fans.
The main strengths of the PENDRAGON series is its likeable, relatable characters — especially Bobby, Mark, and Courtney — its fast pace, imaginative settings, subtle (mostly) teaching moments, and its eventual theme of redemption. The major weaknesses, which I never managed to get over, were its sloppy plotting (especially toward the end), really stupid villain, and post hoc explanations.
The PENDRAGON series will certainly appeal to many in its teen target audience and I heartily recommend it to them. However, it probably won’t impress adults too much, which is fine, though my preference is for books that manage to do both, and there are plenty of those.
William Dufris’ audio performance of the entire series, especially after the first couple of books was excellent. The Soldiers of Halla is about eighteen hours long.
Pendragon — (2002-2009) Young adult. Publisher: Bobby Pendragon is a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy. He has a family, a home, and even Marley, his beloved dog. But there is something very special about Bobby. He is going to save the world. And not just Earth as we know it. Bobby is slowly starting to realize that life in the cosmos isn’t quite what he thought it was. And before he can object, he is swept off to an alternate dimension known as Denduron, a territory inhabited by strange beings, ruled by a magical tyrant, and plagued by dangerous revolution. If Bobby wants to see his family again, he’s going to have to accept his role as savior, and accept it wholeheartedly. Because, as he is about to discover, Denduron is only the beginning…
Pendragon: Before the War — (2008- ) A Pendragon prequel with Carla Jablonski and Walter Sorrells. Publisher: Before Bobby Pendragon. Before Saint Dane. Before the war… Every territory of Halla has a Traveler. They lived for years — some even for decades — before learning of their true destiny. What was life like for Bobby Pendragon’s fellow Travelers before they joined him in the fight to save every time and place that has ever existed? What led up to their becoming the guardians of Halla? The answers are here! In this first of three thrilling Pendragon prequels, read about Vo Spader’s death-defying adventures in the underwater world of Cloral, Gunny Van Dyke’s race to find a murderer in 1930’s Manhattan on First Earth, and the tough challenges Kasha faced on Eelong well before Bobby Pendragon arrived…
The Guide to the Territories of Halla — (2005) Publisher: All there ever was; all that will be. For the first time, see the amazing sights of Halla as only Bobby Pendragon has. From the watery depths of Cloral to the rugged mountain ranges of Denduron to the jungles of Eelong, from the Earth territories to the decaying fantasy world of Veelox, it¹s all here. So are the Travelers: Uncle Press, Vo Spader, Loor, Aja Killian, Alder, Gunny, and Kasha, and of course, Bobby Pendragon and Saint Dane. This is your private flume to Halla. Enter and discover old friends while you learn new secrets. But remember one thing: This is only the beginning.