As all book lovers know, when someone asks “what’s your favorite book?” it is an impossible question to answer.  However, if I had to answer, I would say that John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series is my most favorite book series that I have ever read.  I know!!  Huge endorsement there!  As I finished my post on Wednesday about his newest book, Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years – Tournament at Gorlan, I realized that I had so much more to write about . . . like 1300 words more!

Sent in a fictional medieval time and place, the kingdom of Araluen is divided into 50 fiefs.  Each fief is ruled by a Baron and each fief has its own Ranger.  The Rangers are a mysterious group of individuals, skilled in the arts of unseen movement and archery; they are the eyes and ears of the kingdom and help to maintain order.  Loosely based on the Texas Rangers, they are a small group of individuals who had an immense effect on the people they serve and are a formidable force, following the mantra “One riot, One Ranger.”  A young orphan boy names Will is apprenticed to the great Ranger Halt and the series tells of his adventures.

Why do I love these books so much?  Check out my four reasons:

His Description and Detail
John Flanagan previously wrote for television and that skill is evident in his storytelling.  His description is so vivid and lifelike; it is almost written as a script for director to follow.  Although there are intricate fight moves and elaborate battle scenes, his attention to detail allows the reader to see the action without being slowed down by too much exposition.  I have quoted examples from his books to teach young writers how to use all the senses and create beautiful imagery in their own writings.  His detail extends to his character creation.  My family had the privilege of meeting John Flanagan last week and it was fascinating to hear how he took bits of personality from friends, family, and acquaintances and expounded on those nuggets of behavior and created such multi-dimensional characters.  Will was based on his son Mike, for whom the stories were originally written; Lady Pauline was a bridesmaid at his wedding; and Halt has qualities of his sixth grade teacher.  Even Tug, Will’s horse, truly becomes a character through his description and personification.

I think most readers try to imagine the stories they read in their minds.  Sometimes I struggle with trying to visualize characters or settings that are so unfamiliar to my own experiences.  That is never a problem with Flanagan’s books and it makes me even more endured to his novels.  His love for the characters and his stories is evident through the pictures that the reader can create in his mind.

The Creation of his Fictitious World
The time and setting for Flanagan’s stories are fictitious but obviously based on history:  Araluen is England, Arrida is the Middle East, the Skandians and their longboats are the Vikings, and so on.  There are knights and duels and chivalry and monsters.  The world that John Flanagan created is similar enough to history that he doesn’t have to spend too much of the story creating the world and can instead use the time to tell the storySometimes I feel that authors spend so much time creating their worlds that the essence of the story is lost.  I have this complaint about a lot of current dystopian novels.  I am so drawn into the complexities of the society that story is based on that I lose sight and interest in the story itself.

Flanagan does a great job at giving just enough for the reader to see this loosely based medieval world while tying it closely enough to medieval England that the reader is comfortable with the setting.  I loved how Flanagan was not overly concerned with a precisely detailed setting.  He commented to the audience that when he was creating a battle scene for one of the novels, he needed something to block the left flank.  So, he put a mountain there.  He enjoys creating the world and making it believable but doesn’t allow it to detract from the story itself.

The Universal Nature of the Stories
I discovered this series when my son was about seven and we read the first couple of books together before he continued with them on his own.  My husband reads them and loves them, my daughters read them and love them, I read them and love them.  They are part of that ambiguous genre of young adult – adult novels, whose protagonist is a young adult and the books are often located in the Young Adult section of the bookstore, but they are appealing to and enjoyed by adults.  These series are some of my favorites because they allow families to read and enjoy together on many different levels.  These are the books we read as teens and then re-read as adults and then re-read again with our own children.  They are the “Shakespeare books” of our time; the books that transcend age because of their universal themes and enduring characters.  The Ranger’s Apprentice books fall into this category.

I love when I can enjoy books with my whole family and we can discuss them from so many different perspectives.  As I was the original discoverer of the series (yeah, I don’t let my family forget that!), I always get the latest release first.  You know, finder’s prerogative.  Anyway, I was reading Flanagan’s latest book and my family heard me laughing.  I commented that Halt had just met Abelard and everyone know what I was talking about.  Flanagan’s use of humor is also a wonderful quality of this series.  My family has many favorite lines that are quoted often.  I mean, what isn’t funny about “Gundar, having removed his axe, was anxious to use it again.”  Quirky, witty, and even whimsical at times; these books make us laugh and cry and celebrate together.

More books, More stories, More series, Oh My!
The absolute best part of John Flanagan’s works is that there are a lot of stories, multiple series, and he is writing more!!  I hate when I fall in love with an author and there is a limited number of works to read.  The series starts with the adventures of Will and his friends in The Ranger’s Apprentice Series.  As a spin-off series, The Brotherband Stories tell of a young Skandian and his crew of the Heron.  There are some cross-over characters from the Ranger’s series, which let me tell you, was so exciting.  My new favorite characters meet my old favorite characters!!  His latest series is a prequel trilogy to the Ranger’s Apprentice Series.  The first book The Ranger’s Apprentice Early Years: The Tournament at Gorlan was just released and the author has promised two more to follow.  I was even more excited when Flanagan announced that he felt he still had more stories to tell in the original Ranger’s Apprentice Series and would be writing more!  Squeak!  So excited!!

Have I inspired you to read John Flanagan?  Here is the complete list of his works . . . again.  Yes, I really love this series and am really serious that you need to read it.  OF COURSE, read them in order and let me know what you think.

The Ranger’s Apprentice Epic
Book 1:  The Ruins at Gorlan
Book 2:  The Burning Bridge
Book 3:  The Icebound Land
Book 4:  The Battle for Skandia
Book 5:  The Sorcerer of the North
Book 6:  The Siege of Macindaw
Book 7:  Erak’s Ransom
Book 8:  The Kings of Clonmel
Book 9:  Halt’s Peril
Book 10:  The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
Book 11:  The Lost Stories
Book 12:  The Royal Ranger

The Brotherband Chronicles
Book 1:  The Outcasts
Book 2:  The Invaders
Book 3:  The Hunters
Book 4:  Slaves of Socorro
Book 5:  Scorpion Mountain
Book 6:  COMING SUMMER 2016!

The Ranger’s Apprentice Early Years
Book 1:  The Tournament at Gorlan

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