The Ranger’s Apprentice Series: An Appreciation

When a favorite series comes to an end, it’s time to pause for a moment of appreciation.  John Flanagan started the Ranger’s Apprentice series in 2005 and completed it in 2013.

The books are:
  1. The Ruins of Gorlan
  2. The Burning Bridge
  3. The Icebound Land
  4. The Battle for Skandia
  5. The Sorcerer of 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.  Ranger’s Apprentice: the Lost Stories
  12. The Royal Ranger

As a children’s librarian, I don’t have time to read every book in every series.  Just one or two samples have to satisfy me. But there was something about the saga of young Will Treaty and his training under the gruff Ranger Halt that had me compulsively checking out each one, in order, and placing a hold on the last volume as soon as I could.

Certainly I’m not the only fan; these books have been on bestseller and award lists over the years. I’ve been ruminating about just what generates their appeal.

First of all, the fantasy world they are set in is not all that different from our own, if we could set back the clock to medieval times. The countries where Will travels have rough equivalents in history:  The Emperor of Nihon-Ja is the quintessential Samurai, and Erak of Skandia is a most intriguing Viking. Will’s best friend Horace is a knight worthy of King Arthur’s court.  Flanagan combines these cultures in a single compelling narrative with lots of battle action in every locale.  There are some mythical creatures and fantasy touches, such as the Rangers’ ability to “talk” to their horses, but overall it’s a realistic world.

Even more, Flanagan has created a cast of characters who are so appealing that you want to find out what happens to them next. Will: the small but quick apprentice with a mind for military strategy; Halt, the legendary, taciturn Ranger who imparts his skills for archery and intrigue; Horace, the natural-born swordsman who is not as quick as Will but has a knack of perceiving the truth; intelligent Alyss, who is training in the diplomatic service, and Evanlyn, the princess who packs a mean slingshot.

Sure, their adventures are exiting.  I particularly like the scene where Will scales a tower wall like a rock climber to visit the imprisoned Alyss (who eventually becomes his wife).  But ultimately it is their good character and humor that endear them to readers.  In every book, you know that Horace will be hungry at an inopportune moment, that Will’s addiction to really good coffee will have to be satisfied, and that Halt will be shown for the softie he really is.

If you start this series now, you won’t have to wait for the last installment like I did. Go to it!

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