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View all 13 comments. Wow, what a start to the series.

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Ranger's Apprentice can be compared to Brian Jacques's Redwall novels and Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians, but forges its own identity in an intriguing fantasy world. The Kingdom of Araluen has experienced trying times ever since Lord Morgarath's violent grab for power. The inscrutable Rangers thwarted his attempt to use mind control of animals called Wargals to attack the kingdom, and now Morgarath is exiled to the Mountains of Rain and Night, whe Wow, what a start to the series.

The inscrutable Rangers thwarted his attempt to use mind control of animals called Wargals to attack the kingdom, and now Morgarath is exiled to the Mountains of Rain and Night, where he obsesses over destroying the barons of Araluen and uniting their fifty fiefs under his own rule. A decade and a half has passed since Morgarath lost the war, and he's ready to make his next move.

Araluen will rue the day it cast him out. Fifteen years after the war, its orphans are adolescents. Baron Arald, Lord of Redmont Fief and chief benefactor of the orphans, is preparing to host the annual Choosing Day, when all fifteen-year-olds announce what career they want to apprentice into and are accepted or declined by the Craftmaster in that profession.

Parents usually strike a deal with the Craftmaster in advance, but orphaned wards must rise and fall on their own merits. Will, Horace, George, Alyss, and Jenny are among this year's wards. Like Horace, Will is desperate to go to Battleschool and become a knight, guarding Araluen from threats foreign and domestic. Horace is a shoe-in for selection: he's big, strong, and speedy, but Will is a borderline candidate. Rumor has it that Will's father—who remains unidentified—was a war hero, a rumor Will chooses to believe despite having no evidence, but the boy lacks the physique of a warrior.

Will Sir Rodney the Battlemaster overlook this in light of Will's eagerness to follow in his father's footsteps? Never take too much notice of it. Horace proudly enters Battleschool, well-spoken George is apprenticed to the Scribemaster, Alyss is taken into the Diplomatic Service, and Jenny will study with Master Chubb, the cook. Will is not so readily matched with a Craftmaster. He's too small for Battleschool, Sir Rodney insists, and Ulf the Horsemaster denies him admittance to Horseschool for the same reason.

Anyone rejected by every Craftmaster is assigned to learn farming, which couldn't be further from the legacy of Will's father. No outright offer is made, but would Will accept an apprenticeship with Halt? Rangers are feared by every youth in the kingdom, who have only a vague idea of the profession, but surely it's closer to being a warrior than farming could be. Entrusting his future to Halt is a leap of faith, but Will is ready. Settling in at Halt's cottage in the woods is a rough adjustment. Will's inquisitive nature exasperates Halt, who assigns the boy menial household chores to keep him busy and quiet.


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But though Horace, who engaged Will more as a rival than a friend during their teen years, was admitted to Battleschool as he wanted, his transition is more stressful than Will's. The cadets are pushed to the limits of endurance, hardening them for war should it return to Araluen. Academic standards are high. But it's the sophomores who make Battleschool miserable for Horace. Three of them—Alda, Bryn, and Jerome—leverage their seniority to demean and make outrageous demands of him, all out of earshot of Sir Rodney.

Horace despises the bullies, but doesn't want to draw attention to himself as a cadet who can't handle Battleschool.

The Ruins of Gorlan Summary

Recognizing Horace's exceptional talent for weapons combat, Sir Rodney considers him for special training in the future, but the boy seems to lack the discipline to even graduate. Sir Rodney senses there's a hidden dimension to Horace's problems, which is why he hasn't expelled him, but he can't wait much longer for the ill-tempered teen to bloom.

Will thrives under Halt's strict instruction. The Ranger systematically dispels his misconceptions about their profession, letting Will make mistakes when he acts rashly, and teaching the boy more gently when he humbly listens. The horse Halt has chosen for Will, named Tug, is nothing like the ones knights ride. Tug is closer to the size of a large dog than a battle steed, but Halt reminds Will that he knows how it feels to be misjudged because of size.

A small horse is just right for a Ranger, whose priority is stealth. Ranger weaponry is also a far cry from the broadswords that knights carry. A sturdy bow and quiver of arrows is better at a distance than a sword, and a throwing knife has multiple uses to stop an enemy. Will develops into a deadeye archer, and hones his natural ability to move around undetected until it resembles a superpower.

The Kingdom of Araluen relies on Rangers to deal with burgeoning threats before the populace is impacted, and every day Will trains to do that.


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But can he be effective when the peril is real? There's tension the next time Will and Horace see each other, but they're both committed to defense of Araluen. That shared loyalty won't let them stay enemies. A sinister threat looms: Morgarath's Wargals are on the move for the first time in years. Is the evil lord just stirring up trouble at the border, or plotting something worse? Morgarath once controlled a horde of creatures called Kalkara, and though only two are left alive, they're as deadly as any foes in the kingdom or beyond.

The half-bear, half-ape beasts are capable of killing several knights in full armor simultaneously, and their hypnotic gaze paralyzes opponents. Halt and Will must hunt down and slay the two Kalkara before they pick off Araluen's best knights one by one, leaving the kingdom vulnerable to a military coup by Morgarath.

It's Will chance to prove he can be as indispensable to king and country as any Battleschool knight. But will he survive his encounter with a bitter enemy whose power almost exceeds the bounds of imagination?

The Ruins of Gorlan is a delight to the imagination, but also tactfully imparts timeless lessons. Halt repeatedly demonstrates to Will that mastery of a craft means prioritizing function over flash. The uninitiated are awed by a warrior who skillfully wields a sword, but a Ranger has failed if the enemy gets that close. Use your bow and supply of arrows judiciously and you may never need to fight an enemy at close range.

A Ranger who wins every battle at long distance survives to soak up more knowledge and experience, and serves the kingdom better for it. If arrows don't stop your foe, a knife thrown with precision can pierce their heart before they get their hands on you.

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Only when both options fail does a Ranger resort to proximal combat, where a stubby knife is better suited for a quick plunge into the heart than a showy sword could possibly be. His entire life Will has imagined being a warrior, but had no concept of his own ignorance; now he's learning how one who earnestly wishes to defend the kingdom goes about it.

Will has the potential to be more important than any knight, and he could have no finer instructor than Halt. A Ranger's apprentice has a variety of lessons to learn. Halt is gruff and hardly a socialite, but shows Will by example how to treat people. Courtesy and decency lay the groundwork for future alliances, and that means behaving diplomatically toward rivals.

Be generous and find something in his actions to praise. He won't enjoy being bested, but he'll make a good face of it. Show him you appreciate it. Praise can win you a friend. Gloating will only ever make enemies. An aura of mystique surrounds the Rangers because being one is about more than reconnaissance work. Regardless, many share Will's early instinct to value knights higher.

Alda, Bryn, and Jerome, Horace's tormentors at Battleschool, can't square themselves with Will looking like more of a hero than a Battleschool cadet, and lash out as a result. Only over time will good Rangers prove their indispensable contribution to Araluen. Still, Will has lingering doubts about his future as a Ranger when his father excelled on the battlefield, and Halt acknowledges this uncertainty.