Post number thirty-nine is for the first book in John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series, The Ruins of Gorlan. This book was another requirement for my Fantasy Lit course, and I have to admit, was the toughest to get interested in thus far.
Quickish thoughts, some spoilery, follow.
So the Ranger's Apprentice of the title is Will, a ward of the Baron in a fief in a magical world that is very medieval in its nature: there are knights, castles, battles with Dark Lords who tried to overthrow the King, etc. The first part of the book – to me, mind – read very VERY slowly. Will doesn't have a last name, he's fifteen, and has come upon his Choosing Day, wherein he'll either be chosen by one of the fief's Craftmasters or made to work in the fields as a farmhand. Will doesn't initally get chosen – he wants to be in the Battleschool and train to be a knight, but he's too small – but it soon comes out that Halt, a mysterious Ranger, has decided he'd take Will to be his apprentice. (This is rare; Ranger's don't take very many apprentices, as Rangers are placed one in each of the fifty fiefs and are in charge there until [I think] they become too old. Or something. That's not really explained.) Anyway, Will is initially disappointed, because he's gotten it into his head that has father – who died in the battle against Morgarath (said Dark Lord, although he doesn't have magic) – was a brave, heroic knight, and he wants to follow in his footsteps. But he comes to realize that being a Ranger isn't all bad, and even starts to enjoy his time with Halt.
And that's the first part of the book. It's all about the world building, and introduction of characters, and the chapters are split between Will's pov and that of Horace, another ward who used to live with Will, who WAS chosen for the Battleschool. It's kind of dull, rather unexciting, and while I liked Will's character and that of Halt, that was pretty much all that I enjoyed for the first 150 pages. And then it FINALLY starts to pick up.
Of course, it picks up because something actually HAPPENS – which I won't spoil – and we get more action scenes, which are pretty well written and rather engaging (for the most part). The final four chapters are so are this book at its finest, and while I enjoyed that portion of the book for the most part, that's not exactly high praise from me. Overall this book was just okay, bordering on something that I didn't really like.
Also? There is a distinct lack of decent female characters, and those that do exist are thrust into preconceived (and gender-specific) roles. Jenny, the pretty but overweight girl who wants to be a Cook; Alyss, who is graceful and aloof and well-spoken, and therefore is chosen to be a Diplomat (because she's a girl, see, and girls solve their problems with their brains rather than their brawn like boys, don't you know). We also get a glimpse of Alyss' Craftmaster, Lady Pauline, who is older but you can "still see the signs that she was a great beauty in her youth." Ugh.
So, yes. This is my least favorite book of the semester to this point. Two thumbs up, right? :-P