|Published||1 November 2004 – 3 October 2011|
|No. of books||12|
|Preceded by||The Battle of Hackham Heath (Ranger's Apprentice: The Early Years)|
|Followed by||The Outcasts (Brotherband)|
A New Beginning (Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger)
Ranger's Apprentice is a series written by Australian author John Flanagan. The first novel in the series, The Ruins of Gorlan, was released in Australia on 1 November 2004. The books were initially released in Australia and New Zealand, though have since been released in 14 other countries. The series follows the adventures of Will, an orphan who is chosen as an apprentice Ranger, skilled trackers, archers and warriors in the service of the King of Araluen. Will strives to keep the Kingdom of Araluen safe from invaders, traitors, and threats. He is joined on his adventures by his mentor Halt and his best friend Horace.
The original series originally consisted of twelve books, with the eleventh book being a collection of short stories and the twelfth being a follow-up novel set 16 years later. A prequel series, Ranger's Apprentice: The Early Years, has released two titles, the first in 2015 and the second in 2016. A spin-off series, Brotherband, which is set in the same universe, though with new characters, started in 2011. The sixth book in the Brotherband series came out in June 2016. In 2018 it was announced that the twelfth book of the Ranger's Apprentice series would be renamed and made the first book in a sequel series, Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger.
The series has sold over three million copies. The series was originally twenty short stories Flanagan wrote for his son to get him interested in reading. Ten years later, Flanagan found the stories again and decided to turn them into a book. BookPeople, a bookstore in Texas, helped promote the book through a five-day camp in 2010. The series is well praised by critics.
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In the first book, The Ruins of Gorlan, orphan Will, and four other characters (Jenny, Alyss, Horace, and George), are Wards of Castle Redmont. At age 15, the orphans are expected to either become chosen as an apprentice of one of the Craftmasters at Redmont Fief or to work in the fields surrounding the castle. Will wants to be a knight, but is denied apprenticeship by the Battlemaster and other various Craftsmasters. Instead, Will is selected by Halt to become one of the mysterious Rangers. Rangers are the intelligence force and the unofficial "spies" of Araluen. They have mastered many skills. After being an apprentice for a few days, Halt, a legendary Ranger, takes Will to get a special Ranger horse. With Tug, his new horse, Will trains in the skills needed to pass his assessment at the annual Rangers' Gathering. However, the Gathering is cut short with rumors of Morgarath, a traitor to the kingdom, becoming active. His underlings, the Kalkara, have been sighted. Will, Halt's former apprentice Gilan, and Halt pursue the Kalkara, two monstrous creatures with a transfixing gaze. After several days of tracking, Gilan travels back to Castle Redmont to fetch help, returning just in time. Both Kalkara are killed successfully.
In the second book, The Burning Bridge, a war with Morgarath is approaching and Will, Gilan, and Horace, Will's friend, are sent to Celtica to ask for reinforcements. However, when they arrive, every town they find is deserted. Only an girl from Araluen named Evanlyn can tell them what has happened. Wargals, mindless minions of Morgarath, have kidnapped and slaughtered some of the villagers and forced the rest to flee. Gilan moves on ahead of Will and Horace to report to the king. Meanwhile, Will, Horace, and Evanlyn encounter Wargals. They follow them to the Fissure, a deep gorge thought to be impassable. The Celtican miners were all captured to complete a bridge across the Fissure, and a tunnel through the cliffs above up to Morgarath's lair. The bridge and tunnel would allow Morgarath's army to assault the King's army from behind. Will, Horace and Evanlyn, who is in truth, the Crown Princess Cassandra, discover this. Horace tells Gilan what happened and they ride back to the main army. They inform the king and his advisers of Morgarath's plan, and the king dispatches an auxiliary force, led by Halt, to stop a force of Skandian warriors that has come up from the coast to outflank the king's army.
Halt succeeds in destroying the Skandian force and he returns to the king with a plan. Halt's troops disguise like Skandians, leading Morgarath to believe that the Skandians are ready to outflank the king. This goads Morgarath into ordering his Wargals to charge into the open plain. However, just as the armies are about to collide, the king's army parts in the middle, and Halt's cavalry charge down the open center at the advancing Wargals. The Wargals, who are afraid only of horses, are demolished by Halt's cavalry, and by the king's horsemen who join in the assault. Seeing his army destroyed, Morgarath offers a flag of truce and prepares to challenge Halt to single combat to avenge his own defeat. Halt nearly accepts Morgarath's challenge, but Horace challenges Morgarath instead. Because he is inexperienced and Morgarath is an accomplished warrior, Horace is outmatched by Morgarath. However, by diving under the hooves of Morgarath's steed, Horace manages to dismount him. Fighting on foot, Horace's sword is broken, but he uses a Ranger tactic, which he learned in Celtica watching Will and Gilan practice it, to stop Morgarath's next attack, and he stabs Morgarath through the heart.
In the third book, The Icebound Land, Will and Cassandra are taken as slaves to Skandia, a frozen, pine forested country north-east across the Stormwhite Sea at the Araluen border. When they reach Hallasholm, the Skandian capital, Will is forced to work outside in the bitter cold of the yard, while Cassandra is taken in to the kitchens. He quickly becomes addicted to warmweed, a drug that gives a person warmth, but also destroys the mind and body. The Skandian who captured Will and Cassandra, Erak, sets up a plot to rid Will of his addiction and escape with Cassandra. The two succeed in escaping, and take refuge in a small log cabin for winter. Following Erak's advice, Cassandra gives Will ever-decreasing amounts of warmweed at ever-increasing intervals. Soon after, Will overcomes his addiction to warmweed. Meanwhile, to rescue Will and Cassandra, Horace and Halt also set off for Skandia by crossing into Gallica and making their way north along the coast. Horace becomes known as "The Oakleaf Knight" as he defeats many Gallican knights in combat, thereby attracting the attention of Deparnieux, a famed Gallican knight. Deparnieux gets tricked by Halt and is killed. Later, Halt "accidentally" left a burning torch on a pile of oily rags, and so sparks a fire that burns Deparnieux's keep.
In the fourth book, Oakleaf Bearers, or as it is known in the United States The Battle for Skandia, while foraging for food, Cassandra is captured by a Temujai warrior. The Temujai are a fierce, nomadic tribe of horse warriors from the east and are masters of the recurve bow. Will tries to rescue her, but fails until Horace and Halt come along. Halt captures one Temujai and realizes the Temujai are back to try and take over the western world again. Twenty years earlier, they almost succeeded until politics and a serving of bad shellfish got in the way. Halt agrees to help Skandia drive off the Temujai since Halt feels if the Temujai defeat the Skandians, they will then attack Teutlandt, Gallica, and at last, Araluen. The Skandians make use of Halt's knowledge of the Temujai tactics, and Will takes charge of a force of archers to use in the upcoming battle against the Temujai.
During the battle, the Skandians surprise the Temujai with their archers, and they use the archers to destroy the Temujai system. The Temujai are forced to withdraw or risk having their previous conquests revolt. The Skandian Oberjarl Ragnak, is killed in the battle, and Erak is elected to succeed him. Cassandra and Erak agree to the Treaty of Hallasholm, in which Erak agrees to stop massed attacks against Araluen resulting in the end of constant Skandian raids against the Araluen coast.
Erak's Ransom takes place in between books 4 and 5, a few months before Will receives his Silver Oakleaf. Skandian Oberjarl Erak Starfollower goes on one last raid to Arrida. However, he gets captured for a ransom while he is attempting to raid Al Shabah, a province in Arrida. Because Erak believes that he was betrayed by Toshak, a rival Skandian, the raiding party goes to Araluen, instead of Skandia, for the ransom money. Princess Cassandra goes to Arrida to negotiate prices with Selethen, the Wakir (leader) of Al Shabah. Will, Gilan, Halt, Horace, and thirty of Erak's men go along for protection. They are also there to deliver the ransom. After the negotiation is over, Selethen reveals that Erak was being held in Mararoc, a fort in the desert, so they travel there. However, Erak is stolen by the Tualaghi, a merciless nomadic tribe of devil worshipers. The rescue party, with the help of the Bedullin tribe, eventually turn the leader of the Tualaghi into a slobbering mess and free Erak. Princess Cassandra reasons that she no longer has to pay the ransom to the Arridi, because the Tualaghi held Erak when the Araluens saw him. Nevertheless, she decides to pay twenty thousand reels of silver each to the Bedullin and the Arridi. At the end of the book, Will is promoted to full Ranger and is awarded a Silver Oakleaf.
The Royal Ranger Will Treaty tries to cope with the death of Alyss, who died in a fire set in an inn by a gang leader (Jory Ruhl), when she went back inside the burning building to save a young child. Will's friends begin to notice that his once cheerful personality has grown grim and uninviting. After numerous attempts to "snap him out of it", Gilan, the new Ranger Commandant calls on Halt, Pauline, Cassandra, and Horace to discuss how to deal with Will. Halt suggests that Will take on an apprentice to take his mind off his quest for revenge.
Meanwhile, Princess Madelyn, the daughter of Horace and Cassandra, is upset with her restrained royal life. Against the will of her parents, Maddie sneaks out at night to use her sling to hunt small animals. One night, Cassandra and Horace confront Maddie and ground her to her room for a period of two weeks. Halt suggests that Maddie be the one taken on by Will, which would make Maddie the first female Ranger's apprentice in Ranger history. At the beginning of her apprenticeship, Will gives Maddie a letter from her parents, in which says she has been disinherited as a princess of Araluen. This is a desperate last resort by her parents to get her under control. Will proceeds to train Maddie, and as he focuses on her, his quest for revenge is slowly forgotten. When Gilan suggests Will take Maddie on a mission, Will accepts without reluctance.
Gilan assigns Will and Maddie to investigate the death of Liam, a Ranger in Trelleth Fief, a northwestern fief. Will and Maddie soon discover a plot by an illicit slave ring who kidnap children. The criminals first send a storyteller to villages which frightens the children with a story about the "Stealer in the Night". The storyteller seeks out a child who is likely being abused at home and also takes children who aren't quiet about speaking about the Stealer. Will learns that the Stealer in the Night — the leader of the slave ring — is actually Jory Ruhl, but he manages to set aside his revenge to save the children Ruhl has kidnapped. Will and Maddie go to the slavers' camp, where Will distracts the criminals, while Maddie frees the slaves. Unfortunately, while Maddie is successful in freeing the children, Will is captured, and he is to be burned at the stake. Maddie saves Will but is injured in the process. Will manages to kill Ruhl and treat Maddie's wounds, albeit with severe cramps from when he was tied to the stake.
Six months later, Maddie is awarded her Bronze Oakleaf, and Cassandra offers her reinstatement as a princess. However, Maddie declines, saying she wishes to complete her apprenticeship instead. Cassandra is stunned, and the book concludes as Horace explains to her that Rangers have always been different. When Cassandra asks what she should do, Horace replies, "Say yes."
After receiving his Silver Oakleaf and being given Seacliff Fief to take care of, Will takes on his first mission as a full-fledged Ranger throughout the books of The Sorcerer in the North and The Siege of Macindaw. A few weeks after arriving in the fief, Will is sent north to Castle Macindaw to investigate claims of sorcery, disguised as a traveling minstrel. The lord of Castle Macindaw, Syron, was struck down. Many believe a sorcerer to be the cause of the illness since Syron's ancestor was also murdered by a sorcerer which is Malkallam, an old sorcerer who poisoned Syron's ancestor. Alyss, also in disguise as Lady Gwendolyn, is sent up to help Will, but is captured by the rogue knight Keren, responsible for poisoning Syron and Orman. Will manages to escape with Orman and his assistant Xander, and enlists the help of the sorcerer who is in fact a gifted healer called Malcolm. Horace is also sent up north by Halt to provide back-up.
To rescue the castle, Alyss, Horace and Will devise a plan. They receive the help of the Skandians that Will had given supplies to and use them to assault the castle. Horace explains that to successfully capture a castle, a three-to-one ratio is needed. With only about 25 Skandians and 35 soldiers in the castle this would seem impossible. Will heard a rumour of a Scotti invasion so he captures General MacHaddish, who tells him the plan. Malcolm sets up some conjurations that draw the attention of the soldiers in the castle to one side, while Will and Horace infiltrate the castle using a strange upside-down cart. Soon the Skandians also enter the castle. Will quickly climbs up to the tower where Alyss is being held. However, Keren hypnotised Alyss into believing Will is the enemy, and orders her to kill him. As she holds a sword above her head to kill him, Will tells Alyss that he loves her, and the hypnosis is broken. As Keren attacks Will, she throws acid into Keren's face and Keren stumbles backwards in agony and falls out the window (which Alyss had weakened with the same acid) while the Skandians, led by Horace, take control of the castle.
Will returns to his fief (Seacliff) with his first mission as a full Ranger a success. At his log cabin he receives a letter from Alyss stating that Will told her in a dream that he loved her, and that Horace has told her that although it seems like a dream, it might not be. At the end of her letter she writes "I love you, Will." Will leaves his log cabin again with Tug to deliver his own reply to Alyss.
In The Kings of Clonmel, Will, Halt and Horace are sent to Clonmel to prevent a cult called the Outsiders from taking power. The cult offers to protect a village from bandits that are actually part of the Outsiders in exchange for gold. When the village has been stripped of its possessions, the cult runs off to the next village. In this fashion, they have taken over five of the six kingdoms of Hibernia. Halt, Will and Horace are sent to Clonmel, the last kingdom, to try to prevent the cult from expanding into Araluen. Halt tries to persuade his twin brother, King Ferris of Clonmel, to use his troops to drive the cult out. In the end, the cult loses power in Clonmel, but the leader, Tennyson, runs away to try to reach the other five kingdoms of Hibernia, which he controls. During the confusion when Tennyson escapes, King Ferris is killed by a Genovesan assassin, and Halt's nephew Sean becomes king. Will, Halt and Horace leave Clonmel to chase the false prophet, Tennyson.
In Halt's Peril, after reaching a smuggler's port and managing to get information on Tennyson's whereabouts, the trio hires a ship to take them to Picta, where a smuggler had taken him. The chase is on as the three pursue him through a drowned forest, and finally, at an encounter with Tennyson's hired assassins, Halt is shot with a poisoned arrow and is incapacitated.
Due to Picta's geographical location being near Macindaw, Will does a tiring one-day one-night ride to reach Malcolm, the man that is the best healer in all of Araluen, if not the world. After bringing the healer back, Will learns that Halt was poisoned with a toxin that has another toxin extremely similar to it, and they both have antidotes, but the wrong one will kill him. Will then captures the assassin that fired the arrow, and forces him into telling which type of toxin he used by poisoning the assassin with his own poison, and Malcolm cures Halt. Later that night, the assassin tries to escape, but Will manages to kill him before he does.
The group, on the move again, manage to find that Tennyson is up to his old tricks again and is trying to swindle the money out of more countrymen. Using Halt's similarity to King Ferris, whom Tennyson murdered, they manage to discredit Tennyson in front of the farmers. They proceed to use their reputation as Rangers and drive the men off. Will manages to kill Tennyson by dropping the entire batch of Malcolm's self-made smoke bombs, causing a cave-in that kills Tennyson and his followers in the debris, giving Halt, Horace, and Will a heroes' welcome when they return to Araluen.
The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
The Emperor of Nihon-Ja begins with Horace and George in Nihon-Ja, speaking with their Emperor, Shigeru. Meanwhile, Will, Halt, Selethen, and Alyss are watching a Toscan general demonstrate his military tactics while at a treaty signing between the Toscans and the Arridi, both allies of Araluen. During a ride in which the Emperor of Nihon-Ja accompanies Horace and George back to the city in which they could sail back home, they are told by the Emperor's Cousin, Shukin, that there has been a coup against the Emperor. Furthermore, a Senshi (a skilled Nihon-Jan swordsman) ambush nearly succeeds in killing the Emperor, but Horace intervenes and decides to help the seemingly ill-fated Emperor find a legendary, impenetrable fortress known as Ran-Koshi while George goes to the nearest city and sends word to the famous Ranger duo. Back in Toscana, the Crown Princess of Araluen, Cassandra, appears and enlists the help of the two Rangers, Alyss, and Selethen to go after Horace, using Gundar Hardstriker's ship (from books 5 and 6). En route to Ran-Koshi, Horace's party befriends the local woodworkers known as the Kikori. For Halt's party, they encounter a pirate ship but make short work of it. After paying a Kikori village for their hospitality, people from that village catch up and tell the Emperor that a Senshi scouting party destroyed their village. From then on, Kikori of various villages came to join Horace's group on the trek to Ran-Koshi. Halt's group hits Nihon-Ja and they arrive at an inn, making a rendezvous with an ally of the Emperor. Horace, on the other hand, allows Shukin and a few Senshi delay Arisaka's enormous Senshi party of around five-hundred while they buy more time by crossing a bridge and destroying it. In this encounter, Horace drops his sword into a ravine. Halt's group learns of Horace's whereabouts and Horace's group hits Ran-Koshi. Horace's group settles in while Halt's group sails around and enters the plot of land nearest to Ran-Koshi. Halt's group is apprehended by a Kikori scouting patrol, but when presented to Horace, he recognises them and gives them a warm welcome. They set up a large wooden wall to stop Arisaka's army, and in the first day, they manage a victory with about two losses. Horace gets a new sword, which was Shuikin's dying present. The girls, (Cassandra and Alyss) set out across an enormous lake in a canoe to recruit a gigantic tribe of warriors allied with the Emperor: the Hassanu. Will, noting how the Kikori work together excellently, copies the Toscan general at the beginning of the book and forms the same fighting position as he does. They launch an attack against the second Senshi scouting party, and in this encounter, Will manages to intercept a flying arrow and Horace kills the enemy in single combat. Alyss and Cassandra manage to make it to the other side of the giant lake and establish contact with the Hassanu, but they find out that they are not willing to cross a forest en route to Ran-Koshi due to a "malevolent spirit." Alyss and Cassandra set out to kill the malevolent spirit. Arisaka's main party arrives near Ran-Koshi, but due to heavy snows, wait for spring to begin their assault. Alyss and the Princess discover that the "spirit" was actually a giant snow tiger, and after a fierce battle, kill it. Spring arrives, and Halt's group attacks Arisaka using their two shield walls. The battle seems evened out until Arisaka's reinforcements arrive. Then, as Will and co. are regrouping, Alyss and Cassandra arrive with the Hassanu. Before a bloody battle can start, the Emperor calls a truce in which they manage to convince everyone, including Arisaka's army, that the Emperor is truly a good man and Arisaka was a power-hungry fool. Arisaka is enraged by this and kills the man nearest to him. Will directly confronts him and kills him with a well-placed throwing knife. On the way back to Araluen, they discuss their nicknames given to them by the Nihon-Jan, with Horace's being Kurokuma (black bear, because he is an eating prowess), Selethen's being Taka (hawk or nose or fighting capability), Alyss's being Tsuru (crane or obvious), Cassandra's being Kitsune (fox, because she's speedy), Halt's being Halto, and Will's being Chocho (Butterfly, because his mind is as nimble as one). On the return trip to Araluen, Horace and Cassandra announce that they are engaged. The book ends with Will making a very, very poor attempt at proposing to Alyss and Alyss marching off in mock indignation.
Note: The Nihon-Jan language is basically Japanese using Romaji. They are also explained in the book.
The Lost Stories
The Lost Stories consists of 10 different short stories. It contains a foreword set in July 1896 in Redman County (formerly Redmont Fief) situated in The Republic of Aralan States (formerly the medieval Kingdom of Araluen) where Professor Giles MacFarlane has set up a digging expedition to uncover any important pieces of history. They had unearthed a granite plaque, carved with the likeness of a tusked boar, signifying that the area was once Castle Redmont. In the third season of digging, they had not found anything as important as that first one. The professor was losing hope until one of the young volunteers named Audrey rushed up to him and informed him of a cabin they had found outside the village limits. They discovered a secret compartment in the floor containing an ancient wood and brass chest. The chest contained The Lost Stories of Araluen, which picked up the stories of the Rangers after their return from Nihon-Ja. The main part of The Lost Stories is the text of the Lost Stories (9 short stories), though there is a blurb from The Outcasts.
- His parents deceased, Will grows up as an orphan in the Ward of Castle Redmont along with Alyss, Horace, George and Jenny. After being turned away from Battleschool by Sir Rodney for his small stature, he is taken on as an apprentice by the Ranger Halt. Will is intelligent, inquisitive and athletic, with a natural aptitude for climbing and stealth. He has curly brown hair that hangs unkempt around his face and deep brown eyes, sometimes mistaken for black.
- A longtime friend of Will and Horace, she is tall and slender with fair skin, light eyes, and long blonde hair. She has a diplomatic nature and carries herself with poise and grace. She displays sharp wit and cunning and, despite her feminine and gentle nature, holds herself well among her sometimes rough and impulsively passionate friends.
- As a child, Horace had a tendency to pick on Will. He is accepted as an apprentice in Battleschool and shows an uncanny aptitude with the sword. As they age, the spats of their youth fade away and Horace and Will become great friends. He is a straightforward young man both in thought and attitude, favoring honor and displaying the strong ethics brought on by Battleschool training. He has an unparalleled appetite, pointed out on numerous occasions by his friends and much appreciated by Jenny.
- Cassandra, often known by the pseudonym Evanlyn when she wants her identity to remain secret, is the princess of Araluen and daughter of King Duncan. She is short in comparison to the Alyss and has honey-colored hair and large green eyes. She quickly befriends Will and Horace, though develops a rivalry with Alyss. She is a natural leader, with an authoritative and often stubborn nature. She is dignified and quick-thinking and never one to shy away from an adventure. She is fiercely loyal to her friends and places great stock in trust and the value of her companions.
- The object of many legends in the Kingdom, Halt prefers to keep to himself. These legends have preceded him and have been exaggerated, as is often so, such that many who meet him are surprised by his short and deceptively unassuming nature. While he is often viewed as standoffish and even dangerous, he enjoys the company of his cheerful and eager apprentice. Halt lives in a cottage at the edge of the fief, cutting his own dark hair with his knife and never seen out of his mottled green Ranger's cloak. His dark beard is flecked with grey. He is sharp and perceptive, maintaining an air of constant vigilance and seriousness.
- Gilan is Halt's previous apprentice and now a qualified Ranger. Gilan is the son of a well known knight in the kingdom. He was groomed for battle school and trained as a swordsman, though instead chose to become a Ranger. Accordingly, unlike most Rangers, he is an expert swordsman in addition to the bow. He has exceptional skills in stealth. He is very charismatic and known to tease his companions with good-natured humor.
- Crowley is the commandant of the Ranger Corps and bears many of the same characteristics as Halt. However he does display openly a sense of humor and fondness for his rangers. He is a master strategist.
- One of the children who lived at the Ward in Redmont Fief, she is a full-figured, pretty-faced blonde with a bubbly personality and a love for cooking. She becomes an apprentice to the chef Master Chubb and later starts her own restaurant.
- Tug is Will's horse. He is shaggy grey and only slightly larger than a pony, though had been bred for incredible strength, stamina, and intelligence. He is trained to respond to an endless list of commands from his master and the bond between rider and horse is clear in the way that Tug never leaves Will's side.
Publishing history and origins
John Flanagan stated that he first wrote the series as short stories for his son to get him interested in reading. This continued for about 20 weeks. Ten years later, John Flanagan found the stories again and decided to turn them into the first book, The Ruins of Gorlan. However, he never knew that the one book would be able to turn into so many volumes. In 2010 Flanagan was unsure how many volumes in the series he would release, saying "I haven't set a limit. If I have an idea that will progress the characters, I'll write it. But I don't want to find myself jumping up and down on the same spot, as it were."
The inspiration for the series comes from many sources, including family, friends, and European times. Rangers are based on two groups of people, the Texas Rangers and the US Army Rangers of World War II. Although the US Rangers were based on British Commandos, Flanagan felt it would be better to use Rangers because of the medieval setting of the book. The mythical world of the story is based on England, Europe, and Scandinavia because Flanagan was inspired by "English and European culture and history". Besides this, John Flanagan is also interested in military subjects, which helped him write the battle scenes. Celtica's mining culture is like Wales while Gallica takes its name and language from medieval France in its chivalric age around the year 1300.
Some of the books' characters were based on Flanagan's family and friends. Will was based on Flanagan's son Michael; both are agile, quick and quite short. John Flanagan also made Will small in size because he wanted to show his son that there's an advantage to being small. The exchanges between Halt and Will are taken from conversations between Flanagan and his son as a teenager. Horace was inspired by Michael's best friend Jeremey. In the original story however, Flanagan made Horace a villain at first, but then in the first book, Morgarath became the real villain and Horace was "rehabilitated" as a main character. Skandians were taken from Norse culture and Vikings, which Flanagan found interesting as a child. The gods and deities of the Skandians were taken from Norse mythology and Greek mythology. The god Loka mentioned a few times is based on Loki, the god of deceit. The Vallas, the trio of gods, are based on the Moirai.
Rights to sell Ranger's Apprentice have gone to 16 countries including North America (where Oakleaf Bearers is better known as The Battle for Skandia), the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark and Sweden. In Australia, the seventh book, Erak's Ransom, reached number two on Australian children's charts. The series has been on The New York Times Best Seller list for 77 weeks as of 13 December 2013. By 2010, over 2 million copies had been sold.
John Flanagan states in an interview that the main theme is, "the eventual triumph of good over evil." He feels that although it does not always happen in real life, it should. Another theme especially prominent throughout Oakleaf Bearers is "the primacy of personal relationships over loyalties to one's country or duty." This is shown when Erak's friendship helps Will and Evanlyn escape which allows the Araluens and Skandians to drive away the Temujai. Other themes include courage, loyalty, and that a person can do anything if they tried hard enough. One review noted that "themes of loyalty, bravery, endurance and friendship leave young readers in safe hands as they learn to navigate dangerous waters on their own."
In 2010, BookPeople, which also created Camp Half-Blood from Percy Jackson & the Olympians, created a Ranger's Apprentice Corps Training Camp based on the books. A total of 75 kids from the ages of 9–12 were chosen from 1,300 entries. A letter was sent to the kids from the voice of Will, actually written by John Flanagan, which stated they would learn "all the skills I was taught by Halt [Will's Ranger mentor] in the woods around Castle Redmont", including "archery, tracking, and the art of concealment and unseen movement." The 75 campers were divided into 12 fiefdoms where they were taught the skills and at the end, every kid received a T-shirt, a silver oak leaf pin, and a gold-embossed Ranger's Apprentice bookmark. This was the first literary camp that has sold out and has a waiting list besides Camp Half-Blood.
Ranger's Apprentice has been well received by many reviewers. One part many reviewers praised was the vivid details during battles. Another review also praised the imagery and stated, "vivid imagery and detail make the medieval-like elements believable" A review for The Ruins of Gorlan stated, "filled with rich detail and plenty of edge-of-your-seat thrills" again praising the details.
Another aspect commonly praised is the fact that Will, the main protagonist still asks for the help of others. A review for The Icebound Land stated the same thing writing, "Though talented and intelligent, [Will] makes mistakes and he often needs help from those around him – making him a very realistic and appealing protagonist."
One reviewer from Booklist noted that although in The Burning Bridge the point of view constantly shifted, it is not confusing and also stated, "Will's vivid world will entice fantasy readers who are drawn by the lure of high adventure carried out by believable, down-to-earth heroes." In another review by School Library Journal, the review was on Oakleaf Bearers and praised the book on the high tensions raised and recommended it to people who enjoy action and adventure.
However, not all reviews were completely positive. One reviewer thought that the Wargals sounded and were too alike to Urgals in the Inheritance Cycle. The same reviewer also felt that the story was not very original stating, "from the very beginning, it was a story I'd heard before." At the end the reviewer stated, "The books aren't horrible. They're just nothing new."
In a review for The Ruins of Gorlan, the reviewer stated "the pace is a good balance between character development and action, and the rivalry between Horace and Will is developed in a satisfactory way." It also praised how the writing is very descriptive without being dry or slow.
The Ranger's Apprentice series has won numerous awards. The series was one of the honour books for the Koala Winners in 2009. The seventh book, Erak's Ransom, was chosen as the Books of the Year for Older Children and the International Success Award. The first and fourth books won the Aurealis Awards while the third book was highly commended. Then, the first, second and fifth book each earned the Children's Book Council of Australia Notable Book. The first book was also the Longlisted for the Ottakar's Book Prize for 2006–2007 and the first book also was nominated for the Grand Canyon Reader Award in 2008.
As of 7 January 2008, Warner Bros. Pictures has optioned the film rights for The Ruins of Gorlan and is in talks with Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis to adapt and direct the film. When John Flanagan first heard the news he said:
It's just so overwhelming to see that the Ranger's series is set to head off in yet another exciting direction. When I think how this all started as a series of twenty short stories written for my son Michael, it sets my head spinning to think there's the distinct possibility that it will now be translated into movies and seen by millions of people around the world.
John Flanagan stated in a Facebook Q&A that the funds for the film have been acquired and auditions would be held in the summer of 2015, in either Ireland or England. In March 2016 it was announced production would start late that year.
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