Review Blog

Oct 07 2009

Ranger's Apprentice (series) by John Flanagan

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Random House, 2009. Reprints.
(Ages 10+ ) To see this reissue of this fabulous series brought quivers of excitement down my back, as I recalled the story of Will, the undersized young man about to be given his role in life. He had dreamed of becoming a knight, but was passed over because of his size, but noticed by the castle Ranger, Halt, a spy. He valued Will's smallness and ability to move unseen about the castle, taking all in with his gaze.
With bold, new jackets, the series will be read by a new audience and reread by those who have read one or two of the books since 2004. Each charts Will's adventures as a spy for the castle, through his apprenticeship with Halt and then as a Ranger.
Beginning with The Ruins of Golan (ISBN 978 1 86471 904 8) which relates Will's apprenticeship and growing mastery of the bow and arrow, the mantled cloak and his pony, he and Halt must find the assassin, sent to kill their king.
The Burning Bridge (ISBN 9781864719055) follows with Will and Halt having to accompany the Ranger Gilan on a mission to neighbouring Celtica for help against their enemies. Here Will meets the girl, Evanlyn, and works out that their kingdom, Araluan is about to be betrayed, so must work fast to prevent its destruction.
The third book, The Icebound Land (ISBN 9781864719062) sees Will and Evanlyn taken to Skandia as captives, bound for a life of slavery. Halt follows trying to seize an opportunity to rescue the pair, overwhelmed by the ignominy of being expelled from the Rangers, and keeping the marauding knights at bay.
The fourth, Oakleaf Bearers (ISBN 978 1 86471 907 9) has Will and Evanlyn escape the terrors of Skandia, only to see Evanlyn kidnapped by the terrible forces of Temujai. Halt and Horace arrive and only just have enough time to be grateful that Will is not dead, before they all set off to rescue the girl.
The fifth,The Sorcerer in the North (ISBN 978 1 86471 908 6) sees Will finish his apprenticeship and is now a Ranger. He and his friend, Alyss, are sent to the north to investigate rumours of sorcery in this remote place, causing Will to rethink his stance on whether this exists or not.
The sixth, The Siege of Macindaw (ISBN 978 1 86471 909 3) is set again in the north, where Alyss has been captured and Will must attempt a rescue. Will must use all his skills, both in mastery of the bow and arrow, alongside his ability to see past what men say to what they are actually thinking, to keep himself alive.
Erak's Ransom (ISBN 978 1 86471 910 9) is the seventh in the series, with Will and Halt having to deliver a ransom to free the Skandian Oberjarl. But his exchange necessitates a royal presence, and the Princess Cassandra persuades her father to let her go. (The seventh book with Will still an apprentice predates numbers 5 and 6)
Number eight in the series, The Kings of Cromnel (ISBN 978 1 86471 977 6) shows Halt and Will fighting to maintain Cromnel's safety in the face of a religious cult called the Outsiders, threatening to take over this kingdom as they have the other five of Hibernia.
And number nine, Halt's Peril will be available in November, 2009. This excellent fantasy series, full of adventure, promoting the values of honesty, bravery, truthfulness and loyalty will appeal mightily to upper primary and lower secondary readers of both sexes, and is supported by a website.
Fran Knight

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