The Tournament at Gorlan: Ranger's Apprentice: The Early Years, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Tournament at Gorlan: Ranger's Apprentice: The Early Years, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Slow start to prequel series with stalwart characters.

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

At the tournament, readers will learn about jousting rules and weapons and a bit of what the atmosphere must have been like at a medieval competition. On the road with the Rangers, they'll learn a bit about outdoor cooking.

Positive Messages

Loyalty is No. 1 one for Rangers, and it’s tested when bad rumors surround the prince. There's also much talk about what makes a good leader. A solid contrast is made between ruling by fear and coercion and ruling to support the community.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Crowley and Halt make a good team. Crowley is a humble leader who takes his responsibilities seriously. Halt is supportive and loyal and a skilled fighter and tactician. The Rangers overall exemplify respect for the rule of order and work tirelessly to restore it.


Rangers kill sometimes with their longbows. Usually in a skirmish they prefer to knock out enemies over the head with a club or a mean punch to the face. There's one sad death of a good guy who’s found after the fact, with another positive character nearly drowning. At the tournament, two jousts result in some injuries, and many men fight in a ring with less lethal weapons, still causing injuries. There's a mention of a Ranger killed in his bed before the other Rangers can recruit him.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

No one is underage here. Ale, wine, and brandy wine show up often in scenes. It's mostly bad guys who drink to excess and pass out. One Ranger is recruited after he's found drunk at a bar on brandy wine -- something he'd been doing daily since he lost his job. He promises Crowley he won't drink again when he joins the Rangers.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that John Flanagan's Tournament at Gorlan is the start to a Ranger's Apprentice prequel series. You can read the prequel series without reading the main series first -- there's even a foreword to get you caught up -- but readers who have read the original series will feel more drawn into this medieval-style world where highly skilled fighters called Rangers are called on to protect a king. The Rangers' weapon of choice is a longbow -- they kill a few enemies that way. Mostly they get past enemies by hitting them on the head or punching them in a few skirmishes. There's only one sad death of a good guy, and he's found after the fact. Ale, wine, and brandy wine show up in many scenes (no one is underage, and one Ranger promises to stop drinking when he gets his job back). Readers familiar with either the Ranger’s Apprentice or Brotherband Chronicles series know what to expect out of Flanagan's characters: The good guys are loyal, resourceful, conscientious, born leaders … the list goes on. Think Captain America with a longbow and camouflage gear.

User Reviews

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  • Kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written byGreat sacrifice May 2, 2021

Great book!

great book loved hearing and knowing more about Halt and Crowly in their early years.
definitely recommend it!
Kid, 12 years old May 21, 2017

Starts slow, but picks up

This book is not as good as rangers apprentice but is still very good

What's the story?

Disturbing rumors have reached Ranger Crowley and Ranger-in-training Halt. The king has gone from being under the protection of Baron Morgarath in Gorlan to potentially being his prisoner. And Prince Duncan is said to be raiding villages in the north and damaging his reputation. Crowley and Halt are determined to find out if there’s truth to anything Morgarath says, but the cunning Baron is a step ahead of them. He's firing all the Rangers and putting foppish men who answer to him in their place. Now it's up to Crowley and Halt to gather up all the fired Rangers, rescue the king, restore honor to the prince's name, and quash a tyrant. Sounds impossible for even an army to accomplish. But for 12 Rangers? No problem.

Is it any good?

This prequel to the Ranger's Apprentice series moves slowly and predictably, but the characters are admirable and stalwart. Readers who enjoyed that series will dig right in, as will anyone who loves a good joust and a look back into medieval times.

THE TOURNAMENT AT GORLAN takes its time getting to the actual tournament, slowly gathering the Rangers, camping with them, buying horses with them, traveling with them. Readers will almost forget what's at stake. Even Crowley and Halt's bold rescue feels five parts set-up and one part breaking-free action. The tournament brings all to a head and finally throws in an unpredictable twist -- and, predictably, sets up an intriguing premise for the series to continue.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about leadership. Why was Crowley elected head of the Rangers? Why did he almost refuse the job? Why did Samdash not get the job?

  • Did you read the Ranger's Apprentice series first? If so, which series do you like better so far?

  • How do you think Morgarath would be as king? What do you think would happen to the kingdom under his rule?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and adventure

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