Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ranger's Apprentice Series by John Flanagan

Rating; 4 out of 5 stars

The Rangers Apprentice series is set in a mythological medieval world of Araluen (that has a lot of similarities to Europe). The series follows the adventures of Will Treaty as he is apprenticed into the Rangers corps. The Rangers are a highly respected special forces unit who act as both a police force, military unit, intelligence agency (similar to CIA) and sometimes out right spy. Will and his friends embark on many perilous journeys and adventures over the course of the books that will test their knowledge, beliefs and friendships. There has now been eleven books released in this series since 2005.

Synopsis from book one:

"Will is small for his age, but agile and energetic. All his life, he has dreamed of becoming a great knight like the father he never knew, so he is devastated when he is rejected as an apprentice to Castle Redmont's Battleschool. Instead he is apprenticed to Halt, the mysterious Ranger whose uncanny ability to move unseen is thought to be the result of black magic. Reluctantly, Will learns to use a Ranger’s secret weapons: a bow and arrow, a mottled cloak and a stubborn little pony. It may not be the sword and battlehorse he longs for, but when Will and Halt set out on a desperate mission to prevent the assassination of the King, Will finds that a Ranger’s weapons are not so useless after all."

When I first began this series way back in 2008 I was not sure what to expect. I picked up the very first book The Ruin's of Gorlan from the library as the description sounded interesting and I liked the cover, plus I wanted to read a new author and this book ticked all the boxes.

So in the first book we are introduced to Will and his friends Horace, and Alyss who are about to be apprenticed into various occupations on The Choosing Day. Will is apprenticed to the Rangers, Horace to Battle school and Alyss to the diplomatic core. Through the next eleven books we get to follow their adventures and lives, as well as be introduced to many more interesting characters (who go on to be main characters) such as Halt, Gilan, Evanlyn, Lady Pauline, and Erak to name a few. They are well rounded and fleshed out characters, you can understand their decisions and see their drives. They are not always perfect full of doubts and insecurities which helps make them feel real.

Most of the books are of the "can't put them down, must read until its 3am and my eyeballs are hanging out of my head" type. I literally burned through the first 6 books in the first week of discovering them. Two of the books are continuation stories. The Seige of Macindaw (follows The Sorcerer of The North) and Halt's Peril (follows The King's of Clonmel) and both of these books to me felt stretched, like they were not really necessary. Especially Halt's Peril. But having said that I still enjoyed them.

Each book is filled with adventure and humour. Will and Halt's banter in particular is always a joy to read. The action sequences are well written and the story is well paced. The similarities between this mythological world and medieval Europe makes it easier to understand the cultures and weapons being used and discussed. For instance Eraks people closely resemble The Vikings. The books have not lost momentum and I have not felt that it is getting stale or old as the characters are still developing and changing.

Also I feel the characters, Will in particular are a great literary role model for young boys and girls. Along with Will, Horace and Alyss are wonderful examples of intelligent, thoughtful and grounded teenagers. Will is smart and clever but kind and fair. He is put in dangerous situations but uses his intelligence and training to get him out of them. Most of Will's mentors pass out wisdom and highlight lessons that most boys in the early teen years can relate too. It never seems over the top or preachy but more like how Yoda treated Luke Skywalker.

My only quibble is that to date every ending has been a bit nice and neat. Everything works out. There has been no real challenge like a death of someone close to them, or the fall of a major nation. It's not a huge deal but it is there all the same.

It is hard to pick a favourite book in the series. The first book The Ruins of Gorlan and The Sorcerer in the North would have to be amongst my favourites.

Boys between about 8-15 will really love this series. But anyone who likes a good clean adventure series will enjoy this immensely. I would recommend the series easily to anyone who enjoys good fantasy adventure.

Some quotes from the series:
“‎Halt looked up at the trees above him. "Why does this boy ask so many questions?" he asked the trees. Naturally, they didn't answer.” - The Ruins of Gorlan
“‎Halt looked up at the trees above him. "Why does this boy ask so many questions?" he asked the trees. Naturally, they didn't answer.” - Ruins of Gorlan
“You had this young man with you for... what, six years?" Halt shrugged. "Near enough," he replied. "And did you ever understand a word he was saying?" "Not a lot of the time, no," Halt said. Crowley shook his head in wonder. "It's just as well he didn't go into the Diplomatic Service. We'd be at war with half a dozen countries by now if he was on the loose." Will drew a deep breath to begin talking. He noticed that both men took an involuntary half step backward and he decided he'd better try to keep it as simple as possible.” - The Sorcerer in the North
“You surely can't be trying to blame us for Erak's habit of charging ashore waving an axe and grabbing everything that isn't nailed down? No offence, Svengal." Svengal shrugged. "None taken. It's a pretty accurate description of Erak on a raid, as a matter of fact.” - Erak's Revenge
The books in order are:
  1. The Ruins of Gorlan 
  2. The Burning Bridge 
  3. The Icebound Land 
  4. The Battle for Skandia 
  5. The Sorcerer in the North 
  6. The Siege of Macindaw 
  7. Erak's Ransom 
  8. The Kings of Clonmel 
  9. Halt's Peril 
  10. The Emperor of Nihon-Ja 
  11. The Lost Stories
Hope you liked my series review. I will start to do this more for series such as Harry Dresden, Stephanie Plum etc which have lots of books now and can be difficult to review as an individual book.

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