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Let me kick off this review by saying that, despite this book being on my TBR for literal years, it took until 2022 to finally sit down and go through the first of this series. I ask that you heed my advise and don't let this gem of a story just sit on your to be read list. Don't procrastinate, it's fantastic.
A huge thank you to the readers who reached out, asked if I had read it, and then encouraged me to get to reading it.
What a way to kick off a series.
Something I find hard in the world of fantasy reading is that a lot of the popular books don't resinate with me in this modern era. Many have a heavy push for romance, which seems to take away the magic of the adventure. It makes me revert to the one extremely popular series that I feel doesn't do that--Harry Potter--which I then read again and again rather than trying to read any of the newer material out there.
Ranger's Apprentice has been on my TBR for literal years, since I first saw it on a shelf in Barnes and Nobles when I was originally writing the Ranger of Kings books (between 12-14 years ago!)
But, I've found myself with some heavy reluctance to pick it up. Much of this is, after the glowing reviews I heard from others, I was worried it would be a disappointment like other popular fantasy series I've attempted.
I was wrong.
The Ranger's Apprentice, Ruins of Gorlan, starts with the perfect amount of dark intrigue when it sets the stage with an outcast tyrant who wants nothing more than to rise to power once more. It gives you shivers to read of his dark creatures, his heartless sense of purpose.
Then you meet our hero, who shares the same name as my own hero.
Will is a boy who is lost in regards to his purpose, searching for answers in regards to his past, and determined to make something of himself. Orphaned, raised a ward of the castle, he has spent every waking moment dreaming of becoming a warrior in Battle School.
But, when at last comes the day that he envisions being the start of his training, those dreams are dashed when he isn't selected... for any apprenticeship or school. He is too small, too quiet, not the kind to wield a sword or to even assist from behind the frontlines.
Instead, he is given no answer, no future, nothing but a heartbreaking reality that he will never become a warrior.
What he will become, he is afraid and amazed to realize, is a Ranger's Apprentice.
He knows little of the Rangers. No one truly does. But Holt, the Ranger of their region, seems to know much about him. He has been earmarked for this destiny, it transpires for some time. And, the talents that before were considered useless, are the very things that make him perfect to learn to defend the castle as a Ranger.
Now he is plunged into learning archery, stealth, tracking, how to ride, how to hunt, how to keep a Kingdom safe--not with glory and valor, but with skills and silence.
And that is exactly what is needed in the Kingdom because, in the ruins of Gorlan, the darkness is rising and it will take more than a warrior to defeat it. It will take Rangers...
John Flanagan can weave characters with well rounded emotion, personality, and fun into a story with such ease and skill that it draws you from the first page and makes you eager to pick up the next book. Personally, I regret waiting so long to start this book and will have to grab the next one as soon as possible.
I actually enjoyed the audiobook version of Ranger's Apprentice and, if you are like me and prefer to listen to books, I can tell you that the narrator is fantastic. He gives life to the story and keeps your attention just as well as the adventure itself.
This book was an easy five star start to a series I can not wait to plunge further into.