The concept of the books is a somewhat standard trope for the ~medieval-fantasy-adventure genre. Our main character is Will, a young boy orphaned after a great battle and taken in by the local Lord. Over the years, he makes plenty of friends and enemies. Not knowing for sure who his parents were, he's created his own fantasy idea of what his father did in the great war of the past and the type of soldier and martyr he was. Will's big dream is to become a great soldier in the manner of his father.
As the book begins, the time has come for Will, and his friends, to be apprenticed to a trade. Even though Will hopes to become a knight but he's not a "physical presence" and so is passed over. He's unsure what, if any trade, he might be suited for and is ready to accept inevitable disappointment when he suddenly finds himself apprenticed into the shady trade of Ranger. His new master Halt seems aloof and harsh. Throughout the kingdom, there is a lot of respect for rangers, but also a huge feeling of suspicion, distrust and fear.
The book serves as a good jumping off point for the series. While there are a lot of stereotypical plot points and characterizations, the book surprisingly works to present us with vivid characters who grow and evolve. The book is centered primarily on Will and his training and development, but we also see interactions with other apprentices and rangers in the kingdom that help flesh out the world.
This is the first book in the series and so it serves largely as a vehicle for character development and plot setup, there is an ominous adventure brewing in the background. Towards the end of the book, these background events come to the forefront and present our characters with a tense adventure. The setup throughout the novel has given us the information that makes this adventure more suspenseful and climactic. As might be expected, the adventure leads to confrontations in which Will must stretch himself to be more than an apprentice and prove to himself and others that he has the potential to become a great apprentice.
This is definitely a book geared towards a younger audience but I still found it to be a lot of fun. It's well written and well constructed. The content is adventurous enough to keep readers engaged while not being so intense as to turn off or frighten younger readers. I acknowledge that the overall adventure of this particular book is somewhat thin, but I can set that aside as I acknowledge that this book has a lot of setup for what looks to be a rather engaging series. Even with all of the setup work going on in this book, it still has a significant enough "stand alone" adventure to make this book a fun and fulfilling read. I look forward to continuing on through the series to see what else Will and his friends encounter.
3.5 out of 5 stars
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