Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Ruins of Gorlan

John Flanagan's first fantasy/action book in his Ranger's Apprentice series begins the story of Will, a castle ward - which is an orphan taken in by the Baron, given food, shelter, and the opportunity to better their station in life on Choosing Day. Choosing Day is the event that happens in every castle ward’s life where they get the opportunity to make their wishes for their future careers known and hopefully be selected by the Craftmaster of their liking (for example, the Battleschool Craftmaster is an army recruiter of sorts, there’s a Diplomat field, Horsemaster, and many others).

Will, having grown up with no information known of his parents (and no last name), knows only that his father was a brave warrior who died in battle. Because of this, he wishes with all his heart to be accepted in the Battleschool.

But when Choosing Day is over, he’s been rejected by the Battleschool because of his small size and strangely offered a spot by the Rangers, who have always been considered odd and suspicious to the villagers with their nerve-wracking ways of appearing, seemingly, out of thin air.

Soon, though, Will realizes there is more to the Rangers than the ordinary inhabitant of the kingdom understands – and in the battle that is brewing for the near future, his newfound training may just make his father proud yet.

As a first in a series, this novel is excellent at introducing us to cast of characters that are interesting and easy to invest in. We follow more than just Will in his first months of apprenticeship. It is entertaining reading to tag along with Will in his training with the mysterious, likable (if grumpy) Halt. There is good character development offered up here by John Flanagan and a great amount of action, not to mention creative and original supernatural creatures that threaten the safety of the kingdom.

Was I jumping up and down as I read The Ruins of Gorlan? No. But it was a fast paced, appealing read that left me very intrigued about the next novel, The Burning Bridge. Will, Horace, Halt and the other castle ward’s make for engaging characters and I have a feeling the following novels might give way more easily to increased action and maybe even romantic subplots. I believe Ranger’s Apprentice is a book that would be as enjoyed by males as females.

I felt it was strong opening to a possibly even better series, but as I said – I’m not shouting about it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Guardian

Joyce Sweeney's new novel centers on Hunter, a teenage boy who has been in foster care his whole life. Now that his faster dad has died, he and his foster sisters are under their unstable foster mother's guardianship.

His only shred of hope is when he sees long-haired, motorcycle driving man that he is convinced is the same man that came to him when he was four and told him he was his guardian angel.

When things start changing for the better and his prayers begin to be answered, Hunter is sure that finally someone cares about him.

But is his guardian angel really what Hunter hopes he is?

I thought this was a fantastic novel!!! Joyce Sweeney so perfectly weaves Hunter's story so that he is real to the reader. I cared immensely about everything happening to him. All of his foster sisters and even his foster mother were starkly contrasted and made to be three-dimensional - honest and raw in their portrayal. Hunter's voice was spot on, and Sweeney's writing style was poetic - yet managed to never be long-winded, but instead suspenseful and gripping. My thoughts and reactions mirrored Hunter's. I felt like I was alongside him at every triumph, every fall.

I was hooked. From the moment I opened it, I could hardly put it down. She does the unexpected - she surprises you, yet satisfies you. She haunts and disturbs you, yet inspires you. I cannot rave enough.

All I can say is make sure to buy it or check it out from your library - because it is worth every second of your time.