“Will couldn’t help grinning. That was high praise indeed from Halt. Halt saw the expression and immediately added, ‘With more practice – a lot more practice- you might even achieve mediocrity.’ Will wasn’t absolutely sure what mediocrity was, but he sensed it wasn’t good. His grin faded…” (Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan)
One of the best parts of reading children’s literature, especially fantasy, is apprenticeships. A kid gets specially selected for a job, usually a mysterious one, and proceeds to spend the next few years of his/her life being trained. Like they were meant for just one thing in life. Usually, the kid discovers that they are particularly talented in a specific area and they quickly outstrip their peers. Perhaps this says more about me than it does about the appeal of children’s literature, but I just love the whole subgenre: the long hours of training, the curmudgeonly teachers, the minor failings along with the comebacks , and, of course, the outstripping. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone saw one special quality in you as a child? If your life had had a specific purpose and goal (so unlike real life today)?
The Ranger’s Apprentice, as promised by the cover, is a prime example of the apprenticeship subgenre. It’s consistent, evenly paced, properly prosed, and subtly suspenseful. It doesn’t suffer from epic-ness, nor does it succumb to over-attention to details. It is a lovely, well-crafted work that you should read, or put in a child’s hands, at your earliest convenience.
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Ending: Satisfying, but also cliff-hanger-y
Incidental Learning: how to use a bow, how to train a ranger’s pony
Further Reading: Obviously, the apprenticeship sub-genre (which I possibly made up) includes most children’s fantasy – Harry Potter, The Sword in the Stone, The Abhorsen Chronicles, and the Sea of Trolls.