A trilogy. Say it in three. Done.
3.8 stars, rounded up for a promising start. This is the opening salvo of an epic fantasy series set in a world of castles and fiefdoms, reminiscent of medieval England, Scotland, and greater Europe. Classified as YA (young adult), this book was probably written for teens, but I enjoyed it. Told in 3rd person POV, omniscient, there are only 260 pages creating a swiftly flowing pace. (Long books wear me out).
There's very little magic (so far), just fantastical beasts and a powerful dark master-mind pulling their strings. The plot is solid but straightforward, not confusingly complex.
No sex. No cursing. There are schoolyard bullies, tension-filled battles, brains, strategy, friendship, loyalty, courage. There's humor, too, and decent dialogue. Adults are wise and likable, so the theme isn't "kids versus grown-ups" (an overdone trope). Apprentices (age 15) and their craftmasters work together.
The five 15-year-old apprentices are Will (ranger apprentice), Horace (warrior school), George (scribe), Alyss (diplomat), and Jenny (cook).
Quibbles: Sometimes the writing style feels slightly pedestrian, but the plot carried me along anyway. I will probably go on to the sequel, if the next book isn't too expensive.
Good narration by John Keating, but I found myself reading the ebook instead, mostly.
A spoiler-free view of the entire series, copied from an Amazon review:
"The main characters begin as children but grow up quickly throughout the series. Unlike too many "young adult" books, the adults are more interesting than the children, and the children realize that becoming an adult is something to strive for rather than resist.
All of the books are very funny as well as exciting. The "good guys" all have a wry sense of humor (obviously the author's as well), while the "bad guys" are typically overbearing and too serious. Children also fail to grasp the humor; growing up is shown as (in part) a process of coming to understand (and use) a rather dry wit with one's friends."
It's wonderful to know that I can find a book that is full of excitement and life's lessons and not worry that my children are going to say certain words that young people don't need to hear or repeat.
This book if good, clean and fun. This will hold your attention from beginning to the ending.
So, I listened to this entire series (including the lost stories) and I really enjoyed it. The details given to things like stealth and archery discipline was really enjoyable. The full character development that the main characters experience was excellent and you really feel like you are growing up with them throughout the series.
However, be prepared to spend 2 credits for every story after the first one. Yes, the books are just 1 credit each, but starting in book 2, you only get half of a story in each book. That was very annoying, but the books were long enough and I got some credits/books on sale so it was still worth it.
I feel like this book is the only one that stands on its own as a complete story.
I like the narrator for this (Keating), but I prefer the alternate narrator (Stuart Blinder). Unfortunately, audible did not have all of the books narrated by him (only 2 and 5). So, I stuck with Keating even when I got to book 5 since the change was too jarring (different pronunciations and accents on characters).
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the medieval type fantasy genre with swords and bows. It is targeted toward the early to mid-teen age (I think) but I enjoyed it at twice that age. The language and the content is safe for family listening (depending on your tolerance for violence, it is full of action) so it would work well for family trips. It might be a little intense for listeners under 10. I'll let my kids listen to it in a couple of years (mine are 6 and 8 right now) but I doubt they will really enjoy it until they are a bit older.
I was looking for a book to play during family car trips. I thought this fantasy coming-of-age book would fit the bill.
There is a gem of a story in here, and paced nicely enough to keep you interested. This isn't the work of a polished author, yet there is real promise. The language can be a little stilted. There are more than a few holes, and some holes which the author evidently could not bridge without resorting to "here a miracle occurs". These are a mild distraction.
The narrator could use a lesson or two from Simon Vance or Bronson Pinchot... It doesn't seem to matter which character is speaking, you can never seem to picture anything but a British university student desperately trying to land a role in the summer stock production.
Distractions aside, I was pleased to see a story where the kid (hero) couldn't quite measure up to his own unrealistic expectations, and yet finds he is ideally suited to be a hero in his own right. I was also pleased to see interesting and engaging secondary characters whose aspiration was NOT to storm castles or slay the dragon.
Estate planning lawyer and mom to two boys. My older son liked audiobooks as an infant, and I've listened to a lot since then.
I would strongly recommend this. It was one of our favorite listens as a family.
It reminds me of the excitement my son felt about the Percy Jackson series, though of course the setting is quite different. I first bought it because of the medieval setting -- we have been listening to other books set in that period at my 10 year old's request, such as Castle Corona and some books by Avi. It has familiar Hero's Journey elements found in many novels, and the theme of the talent found in the unexpected place (here a boy who is small for his age), such as found in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
The narration was one of the best aspects. He has a pleasing voice and voices the different characters clearly without going over the top. The differences are subtle but we always know who is speaking. The Irish accent for Halt is especially fitting and adds to that character's compelling qualities.
Yes if I could have!
A great book for tween boys, but this middle-aged mom is liking it as well as her son. I've now got the teenage older brother listening too.
elementary school art teacher
Started with the first one and couldn't stop there! Wonderfully written and read. Nice combination of intensity, action, and description.
in "On Writing," Stephen King describes adverbs as "dandelions" in the lawn of your writing, where one or two is pretty but too many turns your yard into a tangle of weeds.
In "Ruins of Gorlan," Flanagan uses adverbs in almost every dialogue attribution. Awkward ones, too. "She smiled brilliantly," "he said encouragingly," "he said cryptically," and my favorite, "he sighed resignedly."
If you don't mind that every earnest statement is said "earnestly" and every smile is done "winningly" or "prettily," you'll be okay.
We meet our hero Will on the day before his choosing day. Just like a hundred other YA books. All of his friends have painfully obvious vocations, all of their stereotyped talents aligned neatly in a row so that Will is the only character with teenage angst and confusion about his future.
Cooks are fat, warriors are strong, scribes are skinny and mouselike. Rangers are dark and mysterious. They enter the room "mysteriously."
This is that fantasy manuscript you tried to write when you were a sophomore in high school, where you gave up after you realized in chapter 4 that everything was a cliche and your writing was not refined enough yet.
In the choosing ceremony at the beginning, each craft master looks at a child "thoughtfully" and then accepts each child stereotyped to match their craft. The kids don't need to prove they have any particular type of skill, they're just picked, in grand regal ceremony, at a glance. Except for Will, because he's too small, and because he's the main character.
That's how far I made it: one hour. The story is probably charming and the characters might be likable, but I have to shrug my shoulders "resignedly," and shake my head "contemptuously," because the writing just isn't strong. It reads like a first draft.
In other news, Keating narrates this very "charmingly," and if you're looking for a stereotypical fantasy romp, this might be it.
I'm more than glad I stuck through the background bits. A few chapters in, I was quickly looking for excuses to sneak away, go to the store or take a walk so I could spend time listening to this book.