on November 20, 2010
A terrific series. My son started reading them and asked me to do so as well. I was skeptical but by about 20 pages into the first volume I was hooked. I have now devoured all 9 of them, and may well go back and read them all again in a year or two.
The main characters begin as children but grow up quickly throughout the series. Unlike too many "young adult" books, the adults are more interesting than the children, and the children realize that becoming an adult is something to strive for rather than resist.
All of the books are very funny as well as exciting. The "good guys" all have a wry sense of humor (obviously the author's as well), while the "bad guys" are typically overbearing and too serious. Children also fail to grasp the humor; growing up is shown as (in part) a process of coming to understand (and use) a rather dry wit with one's friends.
These are "sword and sorcery" type books, except that there doesn't seem to be any sorcery! Several people claim to have magical type powers, but the powers seem to all be fake, and the people who claim them are all bad guys. Several strange religious prophets also turn out to be hucksters.
The battle scenes are realistically told (though the skills of the protagonists are not always realistic). Death is not whitewashed; bones break and blood spurts and it HURTS. There is a realism to the entire series that is a wonderful change from typical "fantasy" fare.
There is no sex and only minimal time is given to love. The major virtues and concerns of the characters are honor, patience, friendship, a skeptical intelligence, and hard work. The characters struggle to master themselves and become better people.
In short: realistic, serious, and honest books about growing up -- all in a fun "epic fantasy" package. Highly recommended.
on October 26, 2005
I got this book from our local library 2 weeks ago. My 12 year old son read it, and loved it so much he loaned it to a friend, who loaned it to a friend, who loaned it to a friend. Yes it was passed around THAT much. I was taking a group of them to church Wednesday night and the were talking excitedly about what sounded like a really awesome new movie, and when I asked them what the were talking about, of course, it was this book. My son was bummed to find out our library doesn't have the 2nd book of the series yet, so I'm here to buy them for Christmas.
Imagine if the Rangers from "Lord of the Rings" took apprentices -- what kind of life would that be?
John Flanagan does a decent job answering the question in the first book of the Ranger's Apprentice series, "The Ruins of Gorlan." Besides setting up the medieval Anglo backdrop, Flanagan also spins up a solid fantasy story with plenty of monsters, weapons, a likable pair of teenage heroes, and a growing menace from a rarely-seen villain making a comeback.
On Choosing Day, Will hopes to be selected for Battleschool -- but he's rejected by all the people taking apprentices. The one exception is Halt, a Ranger.
And after Will inadvertently passes a test (climbing up a sheer wall into the Baron's study), Halt accepts him as an apprentice. At first, Will's new life seems to be all chores and unglamorous lessons, but he starts to realize the importance of the Ranger's skills. And at the same time, his fellow orphan Horace is being tormented at Battleschool by a gang of bullies.
Unfortunately, the kingdom is in new trouble -- the evil baron Morgarath is starting to send his monstrous Wurgals out once more, and there are even rumors that the ghastly Kalkara are also abroad. When it seems that the king himself may be Morgarath's target, Will and Halt are sent on a mission to stop the Kalkara -- except that the target isn't who they expect.
The world John Flanagan conjures up here is pretty recognizably a medieval England-that-never-was, with hints of similarly semi-familiar lands to explore (Gallica, Temujai). And he makes it more his own with elaborate fictional history, slightly too-Tolkienian flourishes (a villain named Morgarath?) and the first blossoming of a solid action/fantasy series.
The first half of "The Ruins of Gorlan" is a fairly slow experience, mostly made up of Will and Horace finding out what their new lives are all about. Lots of knife study, ponies, stew and tracking exercises, as well as a fairly nasty boar-hunt. And Flanagan liberally strews the story with plenty of historical backstory, and interesting details about medieval stuff (boar-spears, throwing knives, etc).
But about halfway through, the story suddenly becomes much darker, faster and bloodier. While the mild humour is still there ("Halt, Halt!"), Flanagan's tale becomes a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with a pair of assassin Sasquatches. And he definitely knows how to weave a sense of tension and foreboding around the clash between Kalkara and Rangers.
Will is also an excellent hero in the Lloyd Alexander mold -- he dreams of being a great knight, but doesn't seem to have much chance of it. And as he works with Halt, he gradually comes to realize that there are ways of serving that are just as important, though not as glorious. And Halt is a good foil for Will -- quirky, taciturn and incredibly tough and deadly.
"The Ruins of Gorlan" is an excellent start to a solid fantasy series, and serves as a pretty entertaining fantasy/adventure in its own right. An excellent story for all ages.
on July 23, 2005
After I had purchased the book a friend mentioned to me that the book was listed for the tweens audience. I thought of returning it but I am glad I didn't because the book is great! Flanagan writes very well and obviously understands a wide range of male age groups. I am 40 and I was hooked after the 2nd chapter. You really do start to like all the main characters and I can't wait for the next installments. And no I am not biased because my name is Will as well. ;-)
This book is well written and very entertaining. I recommend it for those with a good imagination and a appreciation for strong character writing.
Here is to "The Burning Bridge".
on November 18, 2006
My son has read this series - and I read them too! It is a fantasy series based around the life of Will, a fifteen year old who is apprenticed to (warning, spoiler alert) a ranger (not much of a spoiler, I know!). Will has dreams for what he wants to do and be - but is forced into another path (being a ranger) which he eventually appreciates is the right one for him.
At the same time as developing his skills as a ranger and growing up, he is engaged in some of the troubles in his country, Araluen (a thinly disguised England).
The book(s) are pacy and well written. While Will is the main character, other characters are well drawn and develop over the series, as do the relationships between them, in a way that I believe is appropriate for the age group. You also get to see some foibles and weaknesses - they aren't cardboard cutouts! The fantasy genre is managed without magic (despite the title of Book 5, The Sorceror in the North) - "success" is about values such as character, skill, courage and teamwork - oh and skill? the message there is one of 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, as we see Will and his friend Horace, practise, practise, practise...
One small downside is that some of the books - eg Book 1 - stand alone, but some of the others flow into each other a bit more. I guess that is good for marketing (!) if a little dissatisfying when you finish a book and feel like the story is still up in the air. Just as well the author is getting them out very quickly!
The age recommendations on these books are appropriate. The length is good for this age group too.
My son was clamouring for the latest book - book 5 was released a fortnight ago here in Australia - and he has read it with great enthusiasm. Several other children in his class are reading them and they have greatly enjoyed discussing them and sharing them around. It is great to see that buzz around a series of books.
There should be more like this one!
This is actually the first in a new fantasy series for juveniles, but I thought it was excellent. Lord Arland has taken in the orphans of the area, and in their 15th year, they have Choosing Day. Will, whose parentage is unknown, wants to go to Battleschool more than anything. However, his slight stature stands in his way, and he, instead is lured into apprenticeship with the Ranger. Will comes to enjoy his apprenticeship, although he still finds his master, Halt, a little strange. When danger threatens the kingdom, though, Will finally realizes the importance of his job and his master. I really liked this story - and I look forward to the next in the series, The Burning Bridge, released in June.
I was very intrigued by the exceptional reviews it had received here on Amazon - no review received less than three stars! After reading it, I understood why.
This very solid, well-written book displayed remarkable accuracy with respect to its portrayal of what I'll call "medieval life". Such accuracy is usually reserved for older readers.
The main character was immensely likable, not to mention well portrayed and tangible. Halt - who seems to be a fan favorite if the reviews here are any indication - is a bit too archetypal and at one point displays a remarkable departure from his "core identity". I'm referencing the scene where Horace faces his three tormentors. Halt actively encourages revenge, and this - while certainly enjoyable - was shocking. Vigilante justice doesn't fit his core identity.
Still, this book held its audience captive even without the use of magic. Considering what some young adult fantasy novels need to do to captivate their audience, this is a remarkable feat.
on February 18, 2015
This whole series is great. Recommend for anyone over the age of 8 or 10, depending on how mature the reader, as some of them can get quite intense - parents beware if your child is reading well beyond their age, some of these books have addiction to drugs, death, beatings, all sorts of stuff. I suggest you read first, to make sure your child is up to it. Any one over the age of 12 will love them. (I'm 26)
on October 13, 2011
I'm not sure what can be added to the 100+ reviews this book has already chalked up. Books with this many reviews generally have something to recommend them and so it is in this case. I think this is a good series for 10-14 year old group but it will have less appeal for older teens and adults. The book is quite readable; indeed it is a very quick read. But I have some reservations:
1. The writing can best be described as competent or adequate. I never found myself admiring a clever turn of phrase, a neat bit of characterization, a nicely developed concept, or a surprising plot twist.
2. The characters seemed overly stereotypical or inadequately developed. The villain of the piece gets next to no on page time. The bullies one character has to deal with are just stock two dimensional cutouts to provide some conflict. The protagonist and his mentor have few flaws to make them easy to identify with.
3. The world the author has created as a setting for his story didn't really grab me. It appears to be an alternate universe British Isles. The names are Anglo-Saxon with a few variations: "Araluen" instead of "Ireland", "Solitary Plain" instead of "Salisbury Plain", etc. It is ostensibly medieval but idealized with the medieval horrors excised. There doesn't appear to be much special about it.
4. The book focuses too much on Will's training to the detriment of the main plot which doesn't get going until three quarters of the way through the book. The chapters with Horace dealing with the bullies and the boar hunt seemed gratuitous, as if to provide some action.
I bought the Kindle edition which seems to be adequately formatted; everything works as it should. The only curiosity was the paragraph spacing. Throughout the book there appears to be two line spaces between paragraphs until one gets to the epilogue where there are none at all.
Recommended for the kids from 10 to 14 but older kids and adults have better choices. This isn't a bad book; I'm just not excited about the next one in the series.
on August 11, 2014
...especially for kids and grown ups looking for a break from the heavy stuff we sometimes submit ourselves too. The Rangers Apprentice is quite elementary, but we'll written and engaging. I cared about the characters and enjoyed the simple plot. I'll be anxious to keep moving through the series. 12 books though? I'm going to have quite a collection when I'm done!