The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan
Will, the hero of The Ruins of Gorlan, could probably have been taken in entirety from any number of authors who have written this sort of children’s/YA stuff, but for me it was like I was 13 years old and reading Magician’s Apprentice by Raymond Feist. That is high praise because I read that book over and over until the cover literally fell off and the binding no longer held the pages together. Will is an orphan who has grown up around a nobleman’s keep and lived with his support. He is nothing special to speak of in his own estimation and he has goals of becoming a warrior and a hero. His history is touched on briefly and it leads nicely into later parts of the plot.
Will is not selected according to his wishes to be a warrior, but is chosen as an apprentice to the local Ranger — a man of great mystery to the people of the keep. The story progresses as Will learns to not only respect but also admire the Ranger who is his mentor. Will’s unique talents and abilities begin to manifest themselves as he is shaped and trained.
The story is written in simple enough terms that a younger reader can get through it without difficulty, but it has enough excitement and adventure for a more mature reader to also enjoy. I found the contrasting characters and much of the story to be reminiscent of other things that I had read, but instead of feeling like it was copied, it felt more like well used ground that is tried and true for a good story.
I really enjoyed the ride back through youthful fantasy and will probably read the next couple of books as well in order to make sure that my son, who is now reading RANGER’S APPRENTICE, is not biting into subject material that grows beyond his maturity.
I also enjoyed this flashback children’s fantasy which I began reading with my 10 year old daughter. As John says, it’s pretty typical — a medieval European feudal society in which an orphaned boy wants to be a warrior — but most young readers are not likely to be too familiar with similar works and will not notice the derivative nature. It should be fun and educational for children to learn, along with Will, some ranger skills such as riding, tracking, stealthiness, and boar hunting (you never know when that skill will come in handy).
Will makes a great protagonist and his adventures are exciting. There are a few more characters (other wards of the baron) that I suspect will play more important roles in subsequent books, which will be a nice way to freshen up this series. Despite being set in a medieval society, these children deal with universal age-old problems such as insecurity, anxiety about the future, bullying, and a wish to make their parents proud, even though their parents are dead and, in Will’s case, he never met them. There are also a few subtle lessons such as “do not gloat over your enemies.” The fantasy elements are also subtle so far. Other than the setting being a fictional world and the addition, toward the end, of some magical beasts, there’s not too much of it. So far.
The Ruins of Gorlan is a pleasant children’s story that I enjoyed reading with my daughter. I’ll continue reading this series.
Yep, which is why I'm willing to give a sequel a shot
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