The Ranger's Apprentice

Another children's series introduced to me by my sister Nicole.

Set in a mythical, feudal land populated by humans (with a few fantastical creatures), this series follows an orphan Will as he is apprenticed to a Ranger... a mysterious, somewhat frightening type of person. Also keep in touch with his fellow orphans and friends as they are apprenticed to Diplomats, Cooks, Battlemasters (knights), and come in contact with varied folk in many ranks & places in society (barons, peasants, lords, merchants, inn-keepers, etc.).

At first I found the series' cultures to be too-obviously-based on real European countries and cultures (ie Gallica= France; Picta= Scotland...), but then I remembered that that might NOT be obvious to many of its intended readers, and would actually provide opportunities to let children experience them for themselves, as well as to poke fun or comment on them in a subtle way. Great in conjunction with study of European geography, history & culture.

The books get better as the series goes on, with narrative being less stilted and dialogue less forced. There is violence, war, death, and battle strategy, but this is far from gory or graphic, and advances the story's morals & plots rather than detracting from them. The attitude towards youth is very positive, with the children & teens in these books being pushed to excel in various areas, and being valued equally for their (very) different strengths.

Wonderful for both boys and girls. Appropriate for 9+, (7 as a read-aloud or for ambitious readers) with the only caution being the violence. Despite the simple writing style, the plots are complex enough and the characters developed enough to engage teens and adults.

3 1/2 stars