Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan

Biblio Bits The Ranger's Apprentice, Book One: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan, Puffin, 2004 (ISBN 9780399244544)

Reading Level/Interest Age 920 lexile/ages 11+

Genre Fantasy, Adventure

Plot Summary
15 year-old Will is a castle ward, meaning that he has been raised with a small group of other orphans. On the day of the Choosing, Will is devastated when he is not chosen to attend Battleschool to train to be a knight. Instead, he is apprenticed to the mysterious ranger Halt, who trains him in the complex skills that are required of a ranger. Will shows his willingness to learn, his persistence and cunning, forms a special bond with his ranger's pony, and begins to earn the respect of his taciturn master. When Will saves the life of his former wardmate and rival, Horace, a unique bond of friendship develops between the two boys. But the real climax comes when Will accompanies Halt to the annual ranger's gathering, only to find out that the power-hungry Morgarath is marshaling his forces. Halt and Will must hunt down the monstrous kalkara, the mythical and deadly creatures who are now the trained assassins of Morgarath.

Critical Evaluation
This book is an engaging choice for those readers in the mood for a classic and well-conceived fantasy book, even adults. The writing, language, and description are literary, but without seeming dry or slow. The pace is a good balance between character development and action, and the rivalry between Horace and Will is developed in a satisfactory way. Horace's own experience at Battleschool is also explored, giving the reader a sense of what Will is missing out on, as Horace encounters three brutal bullies who target him. Also equally enjoyable was the way that the relationship between Halt and Will develops through the story. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by this book and look forward to reading others in the series.

Reader's Annotation
The rangers are weird, solitary types, maybe even associated with witchcraft. What's Will to do when he is apprenticed to a ranger, instead of to the Battleschool where he would have learned to be a knight?

Author Information
John Flanagan initially conceived of the Ranger's Apprentice series as a way to interest his own son in reading, and wrote installments in short story form. He had worked in advertising and television prior to becoming one of Australia's premier YA/fantasy authors. He lives in a suburb of Sydney, Australia with his wife. They have several grown children and four grandchildren. (Information in this author biography can be found here, in the author's reading guide to the series.)

Challenge issues
Some violence during the battle against the kalkara, as well as during a boar hunt, although not out of proportion or overly graphic.

Booktalking Ideas
A booktalk that included this title might also include other books that deal with a medieval setting, such as the Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schiltz, or Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman.

Curriculum Ties
Again, the medieval setting is the obvious choice. While it is not overly underscored, the world of Araluen is clearly a kingdom that is comprised of smaller fiefs, ruled by barons. The stratification of classes is discussed tangentially, and the concept of apprenticeships is a main theme. A complete guide to the series, including an author interview and discussion questions, is at this address.

Why this book?
Good, solid fantasy series are always popular with tweens and it's great to know another one. The book will appeal to those with somewhat literary tastes, but there's enough action, some humor, and plot development to engage other readers as well.


Yes. This book is followed by several others; the second in the series is The Burning Bridge (2005). Since the books are published first in Australia, there is some lag time between that first printing and a US version.

Rockport Public Library owns?

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