Author: John Flanagan
Series: Ranger's Apprentice: The Early Years (Book 1)
Publication: Philomel Books (October 6, 2015)
Description: When Halt and Crowley discover that the ambitious Morgarath has been infiltrating the Rangers in order to corrupt the Corps, the young Rangers travel north to find Prince Duncan, seeking a royal warrant to stop Morgarath before it is too late. By weakening the Rangers, the most powerful force in support of the King, Morgarath plans to steal the throne.
Yet when Halt and Crowley arrive in Gorlan, they discover just how close Morgarath’s scheme is to success. Morgarath has a plan to discredit the Prince and alienate him from his father. At the same time, the Baron of Gorlan has been conspiring to win the trust and admiration of the Council of Barons to further his plan. If the young Rangers are to prevent the coup from succeeding, they will have to tread a dangerous path, which leads them to a thrilling climax at the annual tournament at Gorlan, where a series of bitter duels must be fought and won.
This origin story brings readers to a time before Will was an apprentice, and lays the groundwork for the epic battles that will culminate with The Ruins of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge—Books 1 and 2 of the Ranger’s Apprentice series.
My Thoughts: The prequel to the Ranger's Apprentice series stars Halt and Crowley. We get to see them as young men meeting during a turbulent time in Araluen's history. Margarath is scheming to take the throne from King Oswald. He has managed to convince the king that his son Duncan tried to poison him. He has offered the king "shelter" at Castle Gorlan. The shelter quickly turns to imprisonment. Morgarath also has hired a man with a gang to impersonate Duncan and to make the people think that Duncan has turned to banditry.
Morgarath also needs to discredit the Rangers who are loyal to the king. He has instituted a campaign to remove the loyal Rangers from their positions and install his toadies instead. Crowley has been kicked out of his position when he encounters Halt who has come from Hibernia to join the Rangers. The two band together and overcome an attack by Morgarath's men. They decide to try to find the other discredited Rangers and retake the kingdom in the name of the King.
But first they have to find the other Rangers and convince them to join in Halt and Crowley's mad plan. The byplay and teasing between Halt and Crowley serve to leaven the rather grim events of this story. Middle graders will enjoy all the fights that the Rangers engage in. The story is action packed.
Older readers may have some questions about the wisdom of a villain who sends a letter to an accomplice that outlines his plans so completely. Sheer arrogance doesn't seem like a strong enough cause to me.
I liked seeing Crowley and Halt as young men. And I really liked seeing how gobsmacked Halt was when he first met Pauline. I think this book would work well as an entry point to the series for new readers. Readers who have already read the rest of the series will enjoy meeting some of their favorite characters as young people.
"So, how do you plan to get across?" Crowley asked Halt.I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.
The Hibernian looked sidelong at him. "I thought I was surrounding the castle while you went in?"
Crowley shook his head gravely. "Now that I see it, I've decided to change our job assignments. You go in and I'll keep watch."