Series Title: The Ranger’s Apprentice
Author: John Flanagan
Publisher’s Synopsis: They have always scared him in the past—the Rangers, with their dark cloaksand shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied. . . .
One of best written new children’s series out there is The Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan. When my friend Kirky suggested the series to me, I confess I only got the first one so I could say I’d read it. It did not sound interesting. Furthermore, it sat on my shelf for days if not weeks before I finally picked it up. Two chapters into it, I ordered the second book– just in case. By the second half of the book, I ordered the third book. Once I finished, I went online and tried to find out how many more there were. There weren’t. Seriously, there were only three or four available. So, I somehow found out that they are first released in Australia. I bought the next books from there. Yes, yes I did. At twenty-five bucks a pop. For paperbacks (I’m a hardback gal all the way). With ugly covers. My apologies to the Aussies, but the covers of those books compared to our American versions are atrocious. We have cool neat ones like the one you see to my left. The Aussies got…
Yeah. Not a fan. But the words are what count, so that’s what I went with. I did it again for the next two books. Yeah. So, several of the books, I bought twice. Once in ugly paperback covers, and once in my lovely hardbacks… with more aesthetically appealing covers.
So, what do I like about them? Why all the hoopla over a few childen’s books. These books have several things going for them. First, the characterization. John Flanagan knows how to write strong, interesting characters. The hero has flaws, but he’s honorable and worthy of emulating. One thing I think many authors (including myself) struggle with is keeping children acting like children. When you have a young character behaving in an honorable or heroic way, it’s very easy to give them adult thoughts, motives, or actions. John Flanagan doesn’t cross age boundaries with how Will thinks and behaves. I think that’s part of what makes the series so great. Even Horace, with all he goes through in the Battle school, is behaving as much out of self-preservation as honor. In addition, there are character building examples in the stories that reinforce excellent virtues without being preachy. For example, near the beginning of the first book, you learn that two years earlier, Will was caught stealing from the kitchen. Will confesses that he almost lied about it, and Halt informs him that had he done so, he would not have been given the opportunity of being Halt’s apprentice. I love that. It’s a strong reminder that doing what is right today may not have immediate rewards, but it may some other time. Someone is always watching– God for one.
Secondly, his plots are interesting, action-packed, and well-developed. He keeps all parts of the story moving forward at a steady pace. He manages to balance description and action very well, and his dialogue is highly realistic. The only objection I have to his writing is the occasional use of “hell” or “damn.” Frankly, I don’t appreciate it, but I know that the words tend to be used, even by Christians, in Australia and/or England, so I try to ignore them. I think there were two of the former and one of the latter in the first book. They are so few and far between, that I don’t know if they’re in every book and if so, which ones. I only remember the ones in the first book because I just reread it. Definitely one of each… but I think there was another hell… I think. Maybe. Thankfully, even then, the use of them isn’t just gratuitous. There’s a purpose to them. Kind of like the one time I used one, quite deliberately, in one of my books. Took every ounce of will to force myself to do it too. Don’t know if it’ll make the final cut though, but that’s off topic.
And finally, the series as a whole moves forward with each book standing alone as worth reading (but you do want to read them in order). I don’t love each book equally; I rarely do. In one book, Will is a prisoner being kept as a slave on drugs. I just didn’t like that one. It was essential to the SERIES, but I wouldn’t go reread it, out of order, just because I loved the plot like I might in The Sorcerer of the North.
Speaking of that title, these books are fantasy/adventure stories but they do not contain sorcery, witchcraft, or magic of any kind. There are the appearances of these things, but each of them are explained by reasonable occurrences etc. The fantasy element comes in with the knights and some of the creatures he creates. I think there is more magical/fantasy stuff in the books by Chuck Black than in this series.
I think everyone would enjoy these books. The characters are mature and well-developed enough for adults, but the story is not too lofty for the average kid’s enjoyment.
I figured out how to do a giveaway on this one! I’ve been thinking about it for two weeks. If you don’t mind me giving your address to a seller such as Amazon and/or Half.com, just leave a comment and I’ll draw a name. If you’ve read the first, just tell me which one you need, and I’ll send that one if you win.