Title: The Tournament at Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years 1)
Author: John Flanagan
Publication Date: 2015
The Ranger Corps is commissioned to protect the kingdom; they are the eyes and ears of the King and seek justice and order for his subjects. Crowley, a recently commissioned Ranger, joins up with a young man named Halt. Halt, the rightful heir to the throne of Clonmel, is a fugitive from his homeland of Hibernia after his younger brother usurped his throne. Halt makes his way to Araluen and meets up with Pritchard, an older Ranger who trains Halt and teaches him the skills necessary to be a Ranger.
But all is not peaceful in the island nation of Araluen. Crowley and Halt realize that most of the discontent in the kingdom is driven by Morgarath, Baron of Gorlan Fief and the Kingdom’s foremost knight. Morgarath is planning to seize power and take over the throne from King Oswald, a fair but weakening king. To gain further advantage, Morgarath discredits and accuses Rangers from all over the kingdom of corruption and slowly replaces them with his own lackeys. Soon, there are only a dozen or so who are loyal to the King and trained in the ways of the Rangers. The seeds of doubt and mistrust filter through all levels of society and the common folk even begin to question those upon whom they have always relied.
To further weaken the King’s control, Morgarath convinces King Oswald that his son, Prince Duncan, is wreaking havoc throughout the kingdom and has attempted to murder his father. Crowley is not convinced of Duncan’s deception and he and Halt go in search of the missing Prince. Along the way, they meet up with other Rangers who are true to the original code of conduct and are willing and eager to fight for their cause. With Morgarath’s minions following close on their tails, the two friends must discern who can be trusted to ensure the future of Araluen.
Squeak!!! Love, love, love, love, love this book!!! I admit that I might be a bit biased but the Ranger’s Apprentice Series is truly one of my all-time favorite books series. John Flanagan wrote for television in Australia and this skill is evident in way that he writes. He has created a fictitious world of Araluen, which is divided into 50 fiefs. What I love most about the world he has created is the believability and acceptance of the world. The correlations to medieval literature and modern history are evident: Araluen is England, Celtica is Ireland, the Rangers are like the Green Berets, and so on. He has created a world with knights and honor and chivalry, but also where women can hold positions of power and control. His heroes are masters of concealment and are skilled with longbows, but they also are quite fond of coffee. In creating this world, Flanagan has put in enough detail to make it credible but at no time has he overwhelmed the plot with so much exposition and background that the true story and essence of the novel is lost.
Flanagan’s television writing background is also evident in his beautiful descriptions of battles and strategies. The reader can truly visualize what is happening without being bogged down in technical details. The story comes alive off the pages.
The book is technically a young adult book but this series is like the Harry Potter series to me: it is ageless and can be enjoyed by all. My entire family has read and re-read this series and it is truly a favorite of ours. My older two children spent a week at Ranger’s Apprentice Camp through BookPeople in Austin, Texas, where they learned about medieval fighting strategies, sword-fighting, archery, animal tracking, the art of concealment, and so much more. Anyone who enjoys a Renaissance Faire will appreciate this book.
To give you an idea on how much we love this series, the first 6 or 7 books were released in Australia months before their US release dates. Until the two release times caught up, we would order the books directly from Australia, spending as much on shipping as on the books themselves. Yes, they are that good!!
Who might like this book:
This is a book for all ages, but you MUST . . . seriously, I won’t talk to you ever again if you don’t . . . read the entire series in order. It is kind of like the Star Wars saga: read the books in the order that they were written, not in chronological order. The Tournament at Gorlan revisits many favorite characters and explains their origins. Fans of the series won’t be disappointed.
The Ranger’s Apprentice Series in Order:
Book 1: The Ruins of 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 Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years
Book 1: The Tournament at Gorlan
Additionally, John Flanagan wrote (and is still writing) a spin-off series to the Ranger’s Apprentice that focuses on Skandia. Those books have some overlap to characters and settings to the original series.
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 of 2016!