I stumbled upon this series as I was looking for something to read that I could rent right away from the library. What a lucky find! I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the series – I’m currently on book 10 and realized I haven’t posted about any of the books yet. Suffice it to say that I am TOTALLY HOOKED on the series! I keep having to wait for the books to come off hold on the library (the first was free but since then I’ve had to wait for others) but it’s fully worth it!
Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan
The Rangers are a mysterious group that most ordinary people in Araluen believe are secretly sorcerers. As such, they are regarded with trepidation and Will is not alone in his fear of the Rangers. An orphan under the protection of the Baron, Will faces choosing day, where his lot in life will be determined. Hoping to enter Battleschool, Will is small for his age and his skills are better suited elsewhere. Will has now been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. Hesitant about this unforeseen path, little does Will know that the Rangers are indeed a force to be reckoned with. Highly trained in archery, camouflage, unseen movement, and surveillance the Rangers are an elite force that protect the Kingdom and it’s people. They are sorely needed now, for the exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces to take his revenge. Will finds himself right in the thick of things as he discovers that his talents may be suited to the Ranger lifestyle after all.
Of all the books, this one was probably my least favourite, and it is with the other books in mind that I write this review. Obviously the storyline hooked me or I wouldn’t have kept reading, but I felt that in this first book there were a few tropes that I rolled my eyes over a bit, and I felt the plot was a bit shallow and stereotyped. You get introduced to a range of characters including:
- Will – the young somewhat naive young man who is to become a Ranger. Obsessed with the idea of his father (whom he believes to be a great knight), Will is pretty disappointed that he’s not found suitable for battleschool. At first I didn’t like Will all that much – I felt that he baited Horace and that he was immature and impulsive. As Will’s character developed I found myself liking him more and more. His honesty, courage, and integrity are all traits that I appreciated.
- Horace – a fellow foundling and Will’s initial antagonist, Horace is a strapping young man who enters battleschool. A bit of a bully, he ends up on the receiving end of some nasty bullying himself. I felt like John Flanagan (the author) didn’t really know what to do with Horace, and was trying out a few directions before settling on his character. I felt that Horace’s development was a little bit … surprising. I didn’t really think his trajectory was super believable as he seemed to completely change. However, he is one of my favourite characters NOW (after having read a bunch more than book 1), and although that about-face I still feel was not entirely believable, I’ve come to accept it.
- Halt – The mysterious ranger who prefers not to be in the limelight, Halt is seen by Will as grim and humourless. As the reader you get a bit more insight into Halt’s feelings and thoughts, and I liked him right away.
I feel like those are the main three for this book, although there are a bunch of other characters including Alyss and Jenny (girls who were foundlings like Will and Horace), Sir Rodney and Baron Arald. I actually quite like the Baron who has a sense of humour that apparently no one else in his life appreciates.
The book is designed as middle-grade fiction, so the writing style isn’t complex and neither are the characters in general. I love that the fictional Araluen seems a bit like England and later books introduce characters that seem like Vikings and also the French. Its’ fun!
As I said, this book was definitely enough to get me hooked, but I feel like the rest of the series really picks up after this one and I am REALLY enjoying the series. I’ll post reviews on the other books soon!!
4 / 5
P.S. I’m finding it hard to get around to writing posts now that I have a sweet baby boy in my life, but I am doing lots of reading!