John Flanagan has created one of the most seductive fantasy worlds I’ve seen in a long time. He slips his readers into Castle Redmont with incredible ease and introduces them to Will, a 15-year-old orphan who hopes to become accepted to be a warrior. Will is worried, though, because he’s small.
The readers feel Will’s heartbreak when he isn’t selected for fighter training, but he is offered the chance to become a Ranger — one of the secretive warriors no one knows much about — an offer extended by Master Halt, one of the most legendary figures in the kingdom.
Prompted by a mysterious note given to the king by the Ranger, Will reveals hidden skills as he sneaks back into the castle. When he gets the note, however, he finds Halt lying in wait for him. From the moment the note was passed, and after finding out Will had a history of climbing the walls and being in places he wasn’t supposed to be, I knew what was going to happen. Still, Flanagan expertly took me through the steps to get there and I had a great time with the sequence.
There’s a second surprise waiting for Will when he sneaks back into the room to check out the note, but I was expecting that one, too. One of Flanagan’s strengths as a writer is that he gives you what you’re looking for in a story. He’s straightforward and takes his time developing the world and the characters.
After leaving the castle, Halt begins training Will in the ways of a Ranger. The training is well detailed and comes into play later in the story. With all this going on, I felt the story took a little time to build up my interest because I saw no villain on the horizon, but once Flanagan had me hooked, I was solidly hooked. So was my son. After that, we hung on every word, waiting to see where Will and Halt’s adventures took them.
One of the best aspects of the novel is Will’s relationship with Horace, a fellow orphan that was accepted to the Battleschool. At first I was a little put off that we were following Horace’s adventures. I didn’t care for him and thought he was a bully, but Flanagan deftly drew out my interest and my sympathy for the character. When Horace and Will met again, I hoped they wouldn’t fight and argue as before, but they did.
It’s not till later, during a truly fantastic action sequence, that the matter between Horace and Will is resolved once and for all. The story underscores everything good and noble about warriors and men who have risked their lives together.
Flanagan really makes the big character and story arcs pay off. My son and I flew through this book. When we weren’t reading about it, we were talking about it – the weapons, the training, the way the characters were brought together, and about the adventures that probably lay ahead of them. You know you’ve got a good book on your hands when you can’t stop thinking about it even after you’ve finished it.
Flanagan began writing the series for his son who was a reluctant reader. The books first came out in Australia. So far, seven of them have been published there. Only four have been published in the United States, but the U.S. publisher has stepped up the publishing program so readers in both countries will soon be waiting breathlessly for the same new book.
This is a great series to read whatever your age. Flanagan tells a timeless story, and he tells it well. School librarians should definitely pick this one up and put it on the shelves. Fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series will love these books just as much.Powered by Sidelines