Dec 4, 2010

The Ranger's Apprentice, book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan

.Disclaimer: All reviews are the result of my personal opinion from a Christian stand-point. These reviews are provided for those who share my beliefs and morals, to help guide what fiction a reader may wish to pick up. For those who do not share these beliefs, please refrain from hateful comments. It is due to rude commenting that I must now include this note prior to all reviews. For more information, visit my purpose behind this blog. Thank you for your understanding.

Skinny, orphaned, bullied, and desperate for a future, Will accepted (rather begrudgingly), the opportunity to apprentice a Ranger. Little did he know, the life of a Ranger is far more adventurous than any mighty knight or soldier. A Ranger can turn practically invisible, move without being heard, shoot arrows with minute (pronounced my newt) precision, and ride horses that only respond to secret passwords.

Who wouldn't want to be a Ranger? (Are girls allowed?)

John Flanagan's series, The Ranger's Apprentice, is growing in popularity with every book he writes (up to 10 in the series, now). The books are on the shorter side (200-300 pages), which make for a quick and enjoyable read.

Book 1, The Ruins of Gorlan, introduces us to Will--the orphan with no last name. Every year, the orphans of the Baron's manor are allowed to request apprenticeship at the age of 15. Will, too scrawny and small, is denied his one dream--battleschool. Instead, the hooded Ranger, Halt, takes him in. Will soon learns he was always meant to be a Ranger, but he never knew this included boar hunting, morning-to-night practice, or patience.

When the evil Lord Morgarath sends the dreaded Kalkara (ape-like bear assassins with waxy scale-like hair) to dominate the kingdom, one murder at a time, the Rangers are called upon to defend the fiefs (estates of land). Will is thrust into the most dangerous battle of the year (and then some!) and is forced to put into action every tiny lesson his grim-faced Ranger Master ever taught him.

My Opinionated Opinion:First off, as opinions go, I must say that I like the Australian book-cover (below) far better than the American one (above):

Do you agree with me? Cooler font, cooler person, and the green just matches the word ranger, doesn't it?

Moving on...
This book is full of adventure--boar hunting, sword training, archery, tracking, climbing towers, the whole enchilada. Flanagan also makes Will very believable using natural emotions--fear, doubt, anger, excitement, curiosity. It's nice to see a character that acts human. The "violence" and danger are kept at an age-appropriate level (ages 9-12) and overall remains clean.

One disappointment is the frequent usage of the "D" word by the Ranger, Halt. This is the only "borderline" word used in the book, but Halt says it at least four times. Depending on how a reader views this word (appropriate vs. inappropriate), it may not be best for a younger reader.
The plot moves a little slowly at first and doesn't seem to have much of a purpose until a good half way through the book. This was a little frustrating for me, but I'm also an older reader looking instantly for the purpose and underlying themes. For a young reader who's just reading for adventure and discovery, I think the pace is fine.
A slightly-inconsequential habit of the author is to change the character's point-of-view (POV) multiple times on the same page. Now, I am a writer (prayerfully an author-to-be), so I notice the little technicalities like POV. To be honest, it nearly drove me crazy, but I forced myself to have a steel will. Again, young readers probably won't notice a difference (thank heavens!).

There are some issues of bullying in the book, which is a natural occurrence at this age, but I was bothered by the message the book sent. It starts with Will being bullied slightly and hating it. Then the boy who bullied him (Horace) enters Battleschool and gets bullied by the older kids. He finally receives a chance to get back at them and he takes it. Not only does he swat, kick, bruise, and punch them, but he is encouraged to do this by the adult Ranger, Halt.
I was sorely disappointed as I read this because, in a day where bullying is reaching the extreme, this book teaches kids that retaliation and revenge is good and deserved. This is far from the truth, as we know.

Lastly, on a positive note, The Ruins of Gorlan has a refreshing feel to it. It is a novel about a boy, written by a male. Many times I see children novels written by females, which tend to make the male-characters a little more emotional, sensitive, and sappy than a real boy would be. Flanagan keeps the boy-characters realistic, but still reveals touching emotion and sensitivity. This is very different, coming from a male-author, and I like it.
Overall, I lightly recommend this book. It is age appropriate, enjoyable, and clean (other than those few "D" words). But if you choose to buy it, I suggest going with the Australian cover. It will brighten the bookshelf rather nicely, I think.

Violence Level: ** (low, but present).

Romance Level: **(No romance until the very end (crush-like). He sees the girl, she kisses him, he realizes he likes her, and voila! A four-sentence romance.)
Christian Focus: *
Readability Level: * (Almost too easy to read, doesn't push the reader.)
Story Depth Level: ***
Recommendation: ***

Read my review on Flanagan's continuation, The Burning Bridge!
For a more detailed explanation of the above ratings, visit the 6-Point Nutshell post.

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She writes stories about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her debut dystopian novel, A Time to Die, releases 2014 from Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. When Nadine's not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she is out pursuing adventures. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband. You can find out more about Nadine and her books at


  1. I liked that the book had very good morals. Heavy emphasis was put on honesty, honor, and loyalty, while bullying was shown as horrible and cruel. The story was exciting and kept me thoroughly engrossed in the adventure. I am anxiously looking forward to diving into book two. If the remaining 9 books are as excellent as this one, I have some very enjoyable reading ahead of me. It's rare that a book makes it to the list of my all time favorites, but this one has. I highly recommend it, especially to fellow lovers of fantasy and those who love the idea of Rangers.

    1. I, too, really liked the morals of the book. And the concept of Rangers is very intriguing and excellently delivered.

  2. The first book of this series was very good. I have already started reading the second and it is just as good as the first. The rest of the series looks as if it will be just as good!

    1. Awesome! I've only read the first two. I hope to continue with the rest soon. :)