The Ruins of Gorlan

A Wolfe Stew Book Review
Welcome into the world created by John Flanagan in The Ruins of Gorlan.  The first of ten novels in the Ranger’s Apprentice series, not including the three prequels, The Ruins of Gorlan vividly immerses readers into a world filled with adventure, fantasy, courage, and mystery.  And, after many years of hearing the Mr. recommending it to anyone and everyone who would listen, I finally got around to reading it.  Believe me, it did not disappoint.  In fact, the second read through with my nephew is proving even more enjoyable.  We’ve decided he is clearly Will and I've told him he can call me Halt.  Although he objects because, “You’re a girl!"  But someone must force him to think things through, have accurate answers and above all be honest!  It might as well be Halt if it can’t be Aunt E.  Anyway, the entire Wolfe Stew household is excited to see it on the big screen!

That’s right folks.  You heard it here (if you haven’t already heard it elsewhere).  They are making it into a movie!  John Flanagan himself is even working on the project.  So, with fingers crossed, we hope it’s as good as the book. 

As this is my first chapter book recommendation, bear with me a moment as I review the structure.  See, I’m the kind of person who will do anything HUMANLY possible to avoid spoilers.  I mean, I even hate watching movie trailers and reading book covers.  (Am I the only one out there?  Does it seem like sometimes they give away entirely too much information?)  Not knowing if this applies to you too, I’m trying to set up my recommendation in such a way that you can back away at any time.  I will cue you in as potential spoilers are lurking to give you ample opportunity to turn tail and run.  However, I also respect that some people like to know as much about the book as they can before reading it.  Or, perhaps you are considering it for your child, but would like to know all the details before passing it along to them.  In that case, go forth full throttle.

Headers serve as yield signs for the content discussed, but also as convenience for those skimmers out there.  I get that too!  Sometimes you only want specific information.  So, read it your way: word-for-word; no spoiler sections only; or for specific nitty-gritties. 

The review format is as follows:

  1. Target Audience
  2. Simple Summary
  3. Setting
  4. Main Characters (5 Chosen)
  5. Point of View
  6. *Conflicts*
  7. Themes
  8. *Our Favorites*
  9. About the Author
  10. *Academic Activities*
  11. Websites to Explore
Note: Sections indicated with *asterisks* alert readers to spoilers.

People we think would enjoy this book are here described.
The Ruins of Gorlan is for anyone interested in adventure fantasies filled with humor, action (sometimes intense), loyalty and courage told in vivid detail with moving descriptions and engaging vocabulary.

Young adults likely will relate to Will, the main character, as he is 15 and about to undertake an apprenticeship that will train him in a lifelong occupation.

We think this book would be appropriate to read aloud to learners around the age of 10-12, with independent reading encouraged for Middle School to High School readers.  Reading level ratings from the following platforms follow:

  1. AR: 7.0
  2. Lexile: 920L (Age Range 10-14)
  3. Common Sense Media: 11+

Short and sweet with hopefully just enough information to entice but not enough to spoil.
Will, an orphaned boy, longs to honor his father’s memory by becoming a Battleschool apprentice – the first step in becoming a knight.  But, when Sir Rodney deems him too small for Battleschool, Will feels his dream slipping away.  Devastated, he’s asked to wait for a decision on his future until the morning.  What will his fate be?  A farmer?  Or a ranger?  He’s not sure which would be worse.

A description of the time and place of the storyline.
Set in medieval times, The Ruins of Gorlan welcomes readers into a fantasy world with unknown creatures such as wargals and kalkara, with an absence of magic.  The kingdom is broken into fiefdoms, each ruled by its own baron.  Once fifteen, children receive apprenticeship assignments based on familial ties, skill level, and sometimes bribery.  If not selected, they work on a farm.  Wards, orphans of the fiefdom, are different; they are chosen by their Craftmasters.  Possible jobs within the fiefdom include scribes, diplomats, knights, rangers, cooks, stable hands, blacksmiths, armorers and farmers. 

Details regarding five of the main characters of the book.
  1. Will – 15 years old; orphan of slight build; enjoys climbing; adventurous and slightly mischievous; honest; inquisitive; loyal
  2. Horace – 15 years old; orphan of large muscular build; determined; loyal; quick to react; obedient
  3. Halt – Skilled ranger; patient; humble; observant; difficult to please; innovative problem solver; seeker of justice
  4. Baron Arald – humorous, yet frustrated that no one perceives him as such; trusting and trustworthy; honorable; willing to put his own life on the line; makes informed decisions; perceptive; caring
  5. Tug – horse; loyal companion; outstanding endurance; loyal; humorous; defensive

From what point of view is the book told?  We'll tell you here.
From a third person perspective, this story mainly follows Will but sometimes transitions to Horace.

Where we describe the main conflicts the book discusses.
*Potential Spoiler Alert*
Man v. Man:  Morgarath, once the baron of a fiefdom, previously revolted against the kingdom and experienced defeat.  The Ruins of Gorlan narrate his actions to strike again with kalkara, lethal assassin-like creatures.

Man v. Self:  Will strives to honor his father, to be the person his father would want him to be.  Yet, his father was a great hero and he’s not sure he’ll accomplish this goal as a ranger.

The main ideas of exploration in the book.
Good v. Evil

Get a taste of a few of our favorite things from this book.


The Mrs.: Halt.  Because of the way he teaches Will, his insistency on humility, and his sarcasm.  Yes, he’s indirect and hard-to-please, but you know you’re learning.  He makes you work for it. In the end your accomplishment is intrinsic and his smile...worth more than gold.  

The Mr: Will.  Because Will was fatherless, and to that I can relate.  I’ve always been searching for a father figure, so when Will found a father figure in Halt, I was deeply moved.  Furthermore, I am inspired by Will’s determination in sticking to his trade to further his life.


The Mrs.: “If you feel that’s a good idea, go ahead.” (Halt, p99).

The Mr.: “Hmmm. Not bad.  Can see my own face in it,” he said, then added, without a hint of a smile, “May not be such a good thing.” (Halt, p52)


The Mr.: The Test for Ranger Apprenticeship

He felt a surge of relief as his hands finally closed over the stone window ledge and he heaved himself up and into the room, swinging his legs over the sill and dropping lightly inside. 
The Baron’s office was deserted, of course.  The three-quarter moon streamed light in through the big window. 
And there, on the desk where the Baron had left it, was the single sheet of paper that held the answer to Will’s future.  Nervously, he glanced around the room.  The Baron’s huge, high-backed chair stood like a sentry behind the desk.  The few other pieces of furniture loomed dark and motionless.  On one wall, a portrait of one of the Baron’s ancestors glared down at him, accusingly. 
He shook off these fanciful thoughts and crossed quickly to the desk, his soft boots making no noise on the bare boards of the floor.  The sheet of paper, bright white with the reflected moonlight, was within reach.  Just look at it, read it and go, he told himself.  That was all he had to do.  He stretched out a hand for it. 
His fingers touched it. 
And a hand shot out of nowhere and seized him by the wrist! 
Will shouted aloud in fright.  His heart leaped into his mouth and he found himself looking up into the cold eyes of Halt the Ranger.
 Excerpt from The Rangers Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan.  Chapter 5, page 37.

The Mrs.: Will's First Ride on Tug

“Can I ride him now?” he asked. 
The Ranger stroked his uneven beard thoughtfully before he answered. “If you feel that’s a good idea, go ahead,” he said finally. 
Will hesitated for a moment.  The phrase stirred a vague memory in him.  But then eagerness overcame caution and he put one foot in the stirrup and swung himself nimbly onto the pony’s back.  Tug stood, unmoving. 
“Get up!” Will said, drumming his heels against the pony’s side.
For a moment, nothing happened.  Then Will felt a small tremor of movement go through the pony’s body. 
Suddenly, Tug arched his muscular little back and shot straight into the air, all four feet leaving the ground at the same time.  He twisted violently to one side, came down on his front legs and kicked his rear legs high into the sky.  Will sailed neatly over the pony’s ears, turned a complete somersault in the air and crashed on his back in the dirt.  He picked himself up, rubbing his back. 
Tug stood nearby, ears up, watching him intently. 
“Now, why did you go and do a silly thing like that?” the eyes seemed to say.
 Excerpt from The Rangers Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan.  Chapter 14, page 99.

Discover details about the author.  It's interesting to peer beyond the pages and get a sneak peak into the person there.

Since his Australian childhood, Flanagan longed to write.  According to an interview with Penguin, his childhood playtime consisted mainly of talking to himself (to truly imaginary characters) and imagining a packing crate into a myriad number of story-enhancing props.  When Kids Book Review recently asked Flanagan which character in his books he would be, he responded with the answer: “the writer.”

The Ranger’s Apprentice series started as a short story series meant to inspire his son, Michael, to develop a love of reading.  It worked!  Not only with Michael, but with many other readers across the globe. Book sells outnumber 5 million copies in the United States alone!  From this series, others emerged, including Royal Ranger and Brotherband Chronicles.

A few details that intrigue us about Flanagan: (revealed to Kids Book Review) he is afraid of banshees and his greatest adventure was spontaneously moving to England in pursuit of his wife (whom he successfully married within two weeks).

A simple list of activities that span multiple subject areas for you to undertake with your learner.
*Potential Spoiler Alert*

  1. Art – Draw the mythical creatures based on story details.
  2. Music – Reconstruct the sounds of the stone flutes.
  3. PE – Target practice; fencing
  4. Reading – Study character development and story structure.
  5. Language – Enhance vocabulary. 
  6. Writing – Use moving excerpts as mentor texts to inspire student writing.
  7. Social Studies – Government structures; Geography; Cartography
  8. Science – Weapons; Using the sun to tell time and location; Tracking animals; Observation skills
  9. Culinary – Make turkey pie
  10. Math – Trajectories and wind speed; Calculating distances and time; Force
  11. Social Emotional – Bullying; Perseverance in skill-building

Dig deeper into the Ranger Apprentice world with these websites.

a.       The Choosing Day Quiz determines your school placement. 
                                                               i.      If you take it, let us know what school you’re in! 
                                                             ii.      If you’re in the scribe school, save a seat for the both of us, won’t you?
c.       Archery Training App
d.       Biography

         Ranger’s Apprentice
a.       Summaries of each book in the series
b.       Character summaries
c.       Wallpaper

We sincerely hope you read this book.  If you do, drop by and share your thoughts with us.  We'd love to hear them.  Maybe over a cup of coffee... or a bowl of stew.

At Your Service,
Offering Samplings of Life by a Husband and Wife

Interested in reading more of our thoughts on things?  Then you're looking for our Reviews page.  This is where we share all our thoughts on things and look forward to hearing your thoughts on things too.

Resource List


Popular posts from this blog

JOY for Today: Ash Wednesday 2022

February - An Idea for Every Day Calendar