Review: The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

From the worldwide bestselling author of the Ranger’s Apprentice series, comes this impressionable first installment in an all new prequel series by John Flanagan. The Tournament at Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years Book 1) begins where Flanagan’s short story The Hibernian left off. The fate of Araluen rests in the hands of twelve Rangers. Ah, fellas with bows and arrows. This is definitely my cup of tea. If it’s yours too, continue reading.

An evil Baron, Morgarath, has concocted a plan to take over the throne which entails him having the current king, King Oswald, disinherit his own son and name him as the new heir to the throne. If his plan succeeds, he will announce this great news at a prestigious jousting tournament held at Gorlan every year. With a king trapped in his own castle and the prince trapped in another, will twelve Rangers be enough to stop Morgarath?

This book is told in third person, omnipresent, and set in a fictitious country called Araluen. It primarily follows Halt and Crowley as they try to recruit the other former Rangers so that they can have a strong enough force to stop Baron Morgarath. The road they take to recruit the Rangers takes up a good chunk of the story, but I enjoyed following the Rangers on their journey and finding a few surprises along the way.

“He’d begun to feel complacent, assuming that every former Ranger they approached would be willing to join them.” Almost all of the Rangers are all too eager to join Halt and Crowley. Morgarath has gone ahead and replaced them with his own handpicked Rangers, who are merely Rangers because Morgarath said so. The “real” Rangers don’t like Morgarath at all and they can’t wait to “nock the arrow” and put one in his heart.

Even with Rangers taking down enemies with their arrows, the book is fit for children to read. An arrow might unceremoniously pierce a soldier’s arm, but Flanagan keeps the detailing to a minimum, omitting the gory bits. Readers can have a few laughs as Crowley always tries to get on Halt’s nerves. This doesn’t mean that Halt doesn’t have his moments though – when he gets the upper hand on Crowley, you can bet that he will take full advantage.

Flanagan is focused more on bringing Crowley, Halt, and the other Rangers to the tournament rather than putting them in a lot of dire situations. For the fantasy fan who is looking for something more in the way of wizards and spells, they won’t find it year. The tournament that’s going to be held is the main focus, an imprisoned king and prince, and Halt and Crowley’s Ranger recruiting endeavors make little way for such things.

With an evil mastermind who knows how to use both his tongue and his sword, who wouldn’t want to read this book? It’s rather ironic to see that one of Flanagan’s lead protagonists isn’t as good with words as the big bad baron. Opposites attack, I guess. If you don’t mind a lack of magic, put yourself in the mind of a Ranger and join a dozen of them as they set out to save the day.

Free paperback received from Penguin Random House SA.

 Kindle Edition:

Publisher: RHCP Digital
Date Published: October 8, 2015
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 386
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