Book Review : Ranger’s Apprentice : The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan
Morgarath has been exiled to the Mountains of Rain and Night for attempting to usurp the new King Duncan’s power when the old king died. Morgarath has been assembling an army of monsters while in exile.
Choosing Day was fast approaching, when the orphans under the Baron’s care would have the opportunity to be accepted as an apprentice. Will has dreamed of being a knight to follow in his father’s footsteps, who he knows died bravely in the war. Horace, who is large seems to be a natural for Battleschool. Jenny has already developed some skills in the kitchen and it seems she will be able to be apprenticed to the master cook. George, who is naturally gifted with words, seems to inevitably be destined for Scribeschool. Finally, Alyss, has the naturally calm demeanor of a diplomat and will most certainly be taken on by the Lady Pauline.
Will is devastated when he is rejected by the Battleschool master, Sir Rodney, and a mysterious letter has been left with Baron Arald which will decide his future. Even though Will knows it is dangerous, he decides he must know what is in that letter and sneaks into the Baron’s office only to be caught by the Ranger, Halt. Much to Will’s surprise the letter states that Halt is willing to take Will on as his apprentice. Will doesn’t even know what the Rangers really do for the Kingdom, but it remains is only option.
Adult Point of View
Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan will feel familiar to anyone who has read fantasy, and is a great book for pre-teens to be introduced to the fantasy genre. Even though this novel is not original in its theme and structure it is well written and very accessible. The descriptions of the world are rich and full, and the characters are engaging. Essentially The Ruins of Gorlan is a coming of age novel for Will as we witness him living through his fears and finding his strengths. The Rangers have battle skills, but they also rely on their wits which is perfect for Will who is small in stature. Will even does foolish things occasionally, and is wholly likeable because he is genuine.
Another reason this is such a great introduction to fantasy is because the book has the conflict of a war and strange monsters, but it is not excessively violent. The language is quite clean and clear lines are drawn between good and evil. The first novel also deals with bullying as Horace is hazed by some of his classmates in Battleschool. The bullying is resolved in a very satisfactory manner. It is wonderful to see the development of a friendship between the boys, Will and Horace, who had been childhood adversaries.
Similar books to Ranger’s Apprentice are Deltora’s Quest by Emily Rodda (for younger readers) and The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks (for slightly older readers). The first book, The Ruins of Gorlan in the Ranger’s Apprentice series will most likely be enjoyed by kids as young as ten up to fifteen (and adults too who want a fun fantasy series). The Ruins of Gorlan can be read as a stand alone novel. Subsequent novels in the Ranger’s Apprentice series are better for teen readers.
3.5 out of 5 stars
– the Mother
Book 2 : The Burning Bridge
There is more violence and an implication that the wargals might abuse a young girl if they had the opportunity. It was fun to see Will and Horace working together. I am left wondering how the introduction of a girl will change the relationship of the two boys in the long run. This one is probably better for over the age of 12. This could be series that would be good for a high-low reading situation, high interest and low reading level for older kids who struggle with reading.
Book 3 : The Icebound Land
This book has violence, drug addiction and slavery. There are also girls who are prostitutes, though it is not spelled out directly. Books that deal with drugs can be a good opening for parents to talk to kids about their expectations and help their kids to be prepared (it’s just good to know in advance). The action is split between Horace and Halt in Gallica, while Evanlyn and Will are in Skandia. Parts of this book moved too slowly, and I felt more removed from the action. Appropriate for 12+ years old.
Book 4 : The Battle for Skandia
Evanlyn is kidnapped again, which felt redundant but was a device used to introduce the Temujai (Mongolians). As the series continues and more countries are introduced I wonder if children will become confused. I doubt that many of the kids recognize the correlation between the actual countries and the renamed fictional countries. The climax in this book is a huge strategic battle and many are killed. In ways I would think this book is better for kids over 13 years old.
Book 5 : The Sorcerer of the North
The last two novels had lost the magic element relying more on war tactics and a Medieval setting, however, this novel reintroduces that there are supernatural forces at work in this world. I particularly enjoyed the ingenuity of creating floating images on a screen of mist. This book has a similar amount of violence, there is a scene where a dog had been maliciously injured. The Sorcerer of the North ends on a cliffhanger and you will need the next book immediately. Please note Book 7 fits in prior to this novel if you want to read sequentially by time rather than when they were written.
Book 6 : The Siege of Macindaw
One thing I have learned through this series is that if I ever have to go to war I want an honest berserker on my side. Even though Alyss is a prisoner I was glad to see that she was busy sending signals and not just waiting helplessly. The loyalty of Will, Horace and the other heroic characters is a commendable trait that we could use more of in real life. There is also a declaration of love, though the book is really one battle after another and not a love story. The battles continue to be fierce and bloody and is a better read for kids over the age of about 13 years old.
Book 7 : Erak’s Ransom
Erak’s Ransom goes back in time, if you were to read these books sequentially you would want to read this one after book 4 : The Battle for Skandia. Even though I am glad that Flanagan includes strong female characters, the fact is that the majority of women in a medieval setting had little power or influence in the world of men. I found it hard to believe that the nomadic leader respected and valued his wife’s opinion from an historical point of view, however, I thought she was charming. It was also fun to have Evanlyn (the Princess) get to use her sling to help save the day.
Book 8 : The Kings of Clonmel
This book follows sequentially after book 6 : The Siege of Macindaw and is typical of the series. The opening chapter seems more gruesome because innocent villagers are being killed by the cutthroats employed by the cult leader. Unfortunately, the characters don’t seem to be growing any more and the same jokes and words of wisdom are being repeated. The repetition is fairly acceptable because the feeling of familiarity helps you feel like you know the characters as people though I would personally like to see more out of this series because I enjoy Flannagan’s writing. Better for kids over the age of 13 years old.
Book 9 : Halt’s Peril
Halt’s Peril follows right on the heels of The Kings of Clonmel as Halt, Will and Horace chase down the cult leader. This is the first time where Halt is shown to be fallible, which added a new dimension to his character making him more human. After Halt has overcome the physical ailment he does not seem to have a spurt of personal growth, which would have been even more interesting. Horace has moved away from seeing the world as purely black and white, which seems more realistic. There continues to be violence acted out on innocent victims which some readers may find disturbing. Best for over 13 years old.
Book 10 : The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
Horace is in Nihon-Ja (Japan) to learn weaponry techniques while Will and Halt are in Toscana (Italy) on a diplomatic mission. It is interesting to have a feeling of a global society during Medieval times and how that would change the world. The petty fighting between Alyss and Evanlyn was quite annoying. As an ending book to the Ranger’s Apprentice series I believe that readers will feel satisfied.
My critique of the entire Ranger’s Apprentice series would be that the first book gave the reader the most unique experience and could be read on several levels. The rest of the series really becomes an adventure series and straight forward, though it was also enjoyable. I was surprised when the conflict with Morgarath ended so quickly. I believe many teens will love the series, particularly boys.
Readers who enjoyed this series might also like The Relic Master series by Catherine Fisher. I would also highly recommend A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr and The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler.
Teen Point of View
I disliked the switching back in time, it really messed me up and confused me. I liked these books pretty well, but the reoccurring battles wore me out fast. It made it boring for me, but guys might love it. Over all I give it a thumbs up.
3 out of 5 stars
– the Daughter
If you enjoyed this series try Cast of Stones, A (The Staff and the Sword) by Patrick W. Carr. I think you might enjoy it a lot!