Unconditional Recommendation: A 15-year-old orphan boy is recruited and trained to become a ranger and must, with his master, track dangerous creatures before evil Morgarath’s bidding results in someone’s death.
Set in a fantasy world of a kingdom against a mysterious villain, the reader is introduced to a scrawny young man who must choose his path in life and become an apprentice to a master of a trade. Right away, I was drawn into this book by its intriguing characters and then I was kept there by the interesting and engaging plot. This book is perfect for anyone who enjoys knights, kingdoms, skilled characters, and classic adventure where courage, a willingness to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others, and doing what is right over what is easy are all highly valued.
They have always scared him in the past—the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied….
Honor, courage, honesty, respect for authority and self-sacrifice for the sake of others and for the greater good are all qualities that this book exalts. The masters over the apprentices are characters of integrity and wisdom. They act in the best interests of their apprentices, reward courage, value honesty, and appreciate humility. The apprentices respect their masters, heed their wisdom and as a result, grow into men of character. As you may have already guessed, there’s a strong sense of right and wrong that prevails throughout the book (and into the next books) which can make it a refreshing read. There are also many opportunities for discussion about what courage, honor, and integrity can actually look like. C.S. Lewis says that good fiction allows a reader to “try on the armor” to see what it feels like for themselves. This book is an excellent example of that principle.
Good against evil, protecting and defending those you love, facing bullies, making lasting friendships, honoring commitments, and choosing your path in life are all major and minor themes in this book.
15-year-old Will is easy to like and to root for. His innocence and curiosity are displays of his child-likeness, but he also proves himself to be mature in his growing sense of integrity and courage. Horace, a large boy Will grew up with in Castle Redmound, has a tendency to bully Will who has always been much smaller. Once the two are assigned to their masters, their training and experiences mature them and their relationship is forced to change. Horace undergoes bullying at Battleschool that increases in intensity as the story progresses. Horace struggles with this, but as Will and Horace’s relationship changes for the better, the bullying brings out courage in Horace. Will and Horace’s relationship at first as enemies and then as friends is a main thread through the book and it’s abundantly praiseworthy in its execution and conclusion.
A first book in a fantasy series can tend to have a slow pace because of all the world building that needs to happen, but that isn’t the case with this book. The pacing is steady and Flanagan gives the reader details but not tediously, both of which make the story seem true to life. There is enough intrigue, mystery, and minor cliffhangers to keep the reader willingly engaged, wanting to read more. This isn’t a book that keeps you on the edge of your seat (at least not for the brunt of it) but the pace and activity of the plot is just right for an enjoyable experience that you don’t want to stop.
This story takes place in a fantastical kingdom with evil fantastical creatures. Morgarath seems to have some magic about him because he is able to mentally communicate with and control the creatures he discovered in the mountains, besides that there isn’t any other magic in the book.
If you’re looking for a book with medieval knights, archers, kingdoms, action/adventure, fantasy then this is an excellent read in the genre. Happy reading!
*Audiobook read by John Keating is excellent!