Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although there are some violent battle scenes at the start of this fantasy epic series, the forboding cover of the hooded figure is little misleading; the Rangers may be secretive, but they value honor, community, and courage. A subplot about a boy being bullied and tolerating it because he assumes it's condoned by the adults around him is a good conversation-starter for parents and kids.
What's the story?
Choosing Day comes annually when the orphans of the Court learn which guild or school has chosen them for apprenticeship. Fifteen-year-old Will has dreamed of going to Battle School and becoming a soldier hero like his father was. Instead he is apprenticed to the Rangers -- a mysterious guild feared by many of the villagers. Such Ranger apprenticeships are rare, but it's still hard to see his nemesis Horace head off for Battle School instead of him. Will's life changes dramatically after he moves in with the Ranger called Halt, and soon he is learning to use a bow, to track, to break and ride a horse, and even to cook. Before he is fully trained he must learn to hunt, choose allegiances, and trust his instincts as a vanquished villain reappears with armies of monsters.
Is it any good?
This is a very popular series for good reason. Will is a very likable young man who doesn't quite recognize his own skills yet, and he's still learning that being small on the outside doesn't determine the size of his capabilities. He's not ready to believe that adults always know what's best, even if they are royalty. That stubborn streak, and similar qualities in his friends who alternately doubt and believe in themselves, make these characters real and leave them room to grow over the next volumes in the series.
Some lovely world building, good humor, strong adult characters, and the openness of some plot lines, including whether Will become a warrior or not, combine to make this epic livelier and more fun than many fantasies written for this age. For families who like fantasy, or for encouraging a reluctant readers, this would make a great read-aloud.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the idea of having a vocation chosen for you. In what ways does our culture do this? Talk about European cultures where the results of a single exam can determine whether one can attend university, or countries where one's choices are always limited by location or class.
Why was Horace bullied? Why did Horace tolerate the treatment? What could he have done? This same kind of bullying goes on in our schools and online; what can be done? What should be done?
This volume tells the story of Will. What did you think about the roles of Jenny and Alyss?