The Ruins of Gorlan: The Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1

Book review by
Debra Bogart, Common Sense Media
The Ruins of Gorlan: The Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
1st in popular series has positive characters, some battles.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 14 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 57 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Fantasy adventure meant to entertain.

Positive Messages

Respect, service, trust, community, honor, and courage -- the messages are strong and enduring. There's also a lesson about handling bullies.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Will is lucky to be surrounded by men who are strong and caring role models, even though he never knew his father. Although Will is being tested in many ways, including giving up his dream of becoming a warrior, he finds out that hardships early in life don't have to limit what he makes of his own future. He also learns how grace, good humor, hard work and patience can bring greater things than fame and fortune.


Some battle scenes include a monster set on fire and killed; battles fought with swords, bows, and axes; a gory boar hunt; and bullying of one character that includes being beaten unconscious.


Single use of "damn" and "hellish."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Ruins of Gorlan kicks off John Flanagan's epic Ranger's Apprentice fantasy series set in a medieval-style world where highly skilled fighters called Rangers are trained to protect king and villagers. This first installment focuses on the training of 15-year-old Will. Although there are some violent battle scenes, the foreboding cover image 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7, 9, and 10-year-old Written byheather1881 March 5, 2021

Language Warning

We love the story. It is the story of an underdog who comes out on top. It has the child enemies who become best friends. However, be aware that their is a sign... Continue reading
Adult Written by1AcB1 January 30, 2020


I’ve been reading and rereading this series since I was 12! It never gets old!! It’s has great role models and filled with honor, honesty, and valor! It is a gr... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old June 12, 2011

BEST SERIES EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Best book ever I can't think of a reason why someone would hate this book. I usually hate reading but I finished this book in one day Other recommended s... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byEliasador April 27, 2011

Breathtakingly Brilliant!!!!

It is the spectacular kickoff to one of the best series that I have read in a few years. I have just finished the fourth one and I loved it. I can't stop t... Continue reading

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?

Lovely world building, good humor, strong adult characters, and brave Will combine to make this epic livelier and more fun than many fantasies written for this age. The Ranger's Apprentice 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.

For families who like fantasy or want to encourage reluctant readers, this makes a great read-aloud. And the openness of some plot lines, including whether Will become a warrior or not, only adds to its appeal. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk how a young person's path is chosen by the Court in The Ruins of Gorlan. In what ways does our culture do this? Can the results of a single exam determine whether you can attend college? 

  • 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?

Book details

  • Author: John Flanagan
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Philomel
  • Publication date: July 19, 2006
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
  • Number of pages: 249
  • Last updated: July 13, 2017

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and adventure

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