Author: John Flanagan
Length: 272 pages
Series or Stand Alone: Book 1 of 10 in the Rangers Apprentice Series
Content appropriate for: Grades 4-8
3 adjectives that describe this book: believable, addictive, page-turner
This book has been on my TBR shelf for years. I kept hearing about it's awesomeness from students and Ashley so I finally made the plunge. And boy am I glad I did!!
The first 2/3 of The Ruins of Gorlan focuses on the training that Will and Horace endure for their future jobs as a Ranger and a knight, respectively. Sometimes this section of plot can really drag a book down, but John Flanagan is a masterful world builder. The training sessions were wonderfully written and really fleshed out this pseudo-medieval world. I especially enjoyed the character development. Again, this is an aspect that can really drag down a book, but Flanagan's characters are rich, believable, and interesting. Each character fills a clear niche and no one is a caricature. The one exception may be Jenny, the somewhat rounded cook's apprentice who excels at baking meat pies, but her character adds some really fun elements.
Although this book is a fantasy novel, set in a made-up world with some invented creatures, it felt very real. The workings of the kingdom and its hierarchy, the bullying and resentment among boys, and the outsider feelings of those whose work is misunderstood were clear and palpable. I found myself fully immersed in the lives of these characters, especially Horace as he dealt with harassment while being somewhat of a bully himself.
In the last third, Will and his colleagues must battle an enemy of the kingdom and his 2 terrifying monsters/assassins. This section really builds in intensity and culminates in an epic battle. The most incredible thing about Flanagan's writing is that the plot was truly unpredictable. The events in The Ruins of Gorlan surprised me at every turn, and yet made total sense. When you read a lot of children's and YA novels, the stories sometimes run together, often following similar plot lines. The Ruins of Gorlan was a completely unique plot.
I'm glad I finally read this book and I can't wait to read the sequel, The Burning Bridge!