The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan

A best-selling series for young teens set in a Medieval-esque, pseudo European world that combines adventure, heroism, villains, danger, and a touch of love.

The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan. Philomel Books.

  • The Ruins of Gorlan
  • The Burning Bridge
  • The Icebound Land
  • The Battle for Skandia
  • The Sorcerer of the North
  • The Siege of Macindaw
  • Erak’s Ransom
  • Kings of Clonmel
  • Halt’s Peril
  • Emperor of Nihon-Ja
  • The Lost Stories
  • The Royal Ranger

Reading Level: Ages 12-15

Recommended For: Ages 12-15

Note: As of this writing, this review covers only the first 6 books in the series. We cannot speak to the content of the second half of the series, and, as always, we encourage our readers to read with discretion!

What is The Ranger’s Apprentice Series?

Will, Horace, Alyss, Jenny, and George are anxiously awaiting their destinies: as 15-year-old Wards of Castle Redmont, soon they will be apprenticed to a Craft. Horace, tall and muscular, is a sure fit for Battle School and future knighthood. Alyss, Jenny, and George are similarly easy to pinhole: diplomat, chef, lawyer. But small, wiry, misfit Will?

Will might not be a fit for Battle School (much to his chagrin), but he is a perfect fit for a craft he hadn’t even considered: a Ranger. And Ranger Halt is ready to take on a new apprentice, young Will in particular.

Will’s apprenticeship to the ranger is no surprise, given the title of the series. But the manner in which he is chosen is a nice twist, and the story picks up from there. Readers are in for adventure after adventure. Naturally, Will displays tremendous aptitude for his new vocation, and naturally he is a hero. And naturally, being a ranger involves deadly bowman’s skills a la Robin Hood, supreme woodcraft skills and an enigmatic personality a la Aragorn/Strider, and clever camouflaged capes. Flanagan keeps the story from being overly predictable, though, and he allows other characters to shine as heroes in their own right.

As of the ending of book 6 (The Siege of Macindaw), Will has saved his own master, Halt, become an official Ranger, survived captivity amongst the enemy, gotten addicted to the drug warmweed (through a sinister plot by the enemy), detoxed and recovered from his drug addict stupor thanks to his friends, rescued damsels in distress, and fallen in love. Not to be outdone, his buddy Horace has fought innumerable duels, faced the nation’s most formidable foe alone, and risen to the rank of full Knight.

Is the Ranger’s Apprentice Series Worth Reading?

Although the writing doesn’t sparkle, the thematic concepts merit thought, and young teens could do far worse than mull over what makes a hero. True, they will race through these books without much analysis, but in the end, young readers will remember the following (all of which would make good discussion starters!):

  • Everyone needs a friend like Horace–Will and Horace’s firm friendship is forged despite previous animosity and continues to weather challenges (such as interest in the same girl).
  • A mentor like Halt that continues to counsel his young protege after “graduation” is worth seeking out.
  • Willingness to sacrifice oneself for the good of friends, community, and country speaks volumes about one’s character.
  • Enemies can become friends, particularly when you view each person as a person, not merely as an “enemy” or “ally.”
  • Creative thinking gets you just as far as brute strength; teamwork that lets each person contribute in line with their strengths is dynamite.
  • And perhaps the most important? Self control is essential for maturity. Throughout the series, the mark of maturity is often seen through a person’s willingness to remain silent in the face of a taunt, to refuse to rise to the bait, to think before speaking or acting.

Your library may have this series shelved as “YA” (young adult), but it is far tamer than most books shelves in the YA section. A touch of romance (the occasional kiss, Will’s obvious budding romantic interest or delight in a certain female’s company), very occasional profanity/vulgarity (~5 instances/book), and lots of danger mixed with good doses of humor make this series engaging and just edgy enough for young teens.

Of particular note: the “sorcerer” in the title of one of the books is not an actual sorcerer. In fact, his tricks are exposed as just that: tricks. The drug addiction takes place in book 3; this is a great way to discuss the effects of drugs with your young teens, and the drug addiction is handled well.

The Ruins of Gorlan is a terrific start to the series, and it can be read as a one-stop book, ending neatly. Books 2 and 3, however, both end on cliffhangers that aren’t resolved until book 4, so if your young reader is hooked, you might as well check out all three at once from your library. Book 5 leads directly into book 6 as well.

All in all, two thumbs up for this fun adventure series. Both boys and girls will enjoy these! It might be just the thing your young teen needs after a day spent poring over difficult concepts in school.

Have your teens discovered the Ranger’s Apprentice Series? What do they think? Let us know in the comments!

Affiliate links below; your purchase through this link earns us a commission at no cost to you! We have linked to book one for your convenience. To find the other books, click on the link and then find them on amazon once you click through.

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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  1. Julie Zilkie on August 16, 2019 at 9:09 am

    Our kids have LOVED these! My son says they were action packed, good character development, engaging. Through all twelve books, he continued to be interested in the story line!

  2. Julie Zilkie on August 16, 2019 at 9:10 am

    I should add he read these when he was 13. And he reread them two other times. My two other sons have also read them, too! Starting at about age 13.

    • Betsy Farquhar on November 26, 2019 at 9:15 am

      My kids have reread them, too! Starting about ages 12-13–it’s a good age to first dip into the series.

  3. Linda Adkins on November 26, 2019 at 9:13 am

    My 15 year old grandson has read and re-read this series, even after I, a retired librarian, begged him to read other books. Then he talked ME into reading it. Wow! These are so good and are such an encouragement to young people! Fast and rewarding reading! The books have familiar themes that remind me of Lord of the Rings, although much less is as stake.
    But that’s okay; perhaps some readers will move onto LOTR after this series.

    • Betsy Farquhar on November 26, 2019 at 9:16 am

      They are lots of fun, aren’t they?! I think we adults forget what it’s like to be learning big stuff in school all day, and sometimes lighter books like this are a good fit when Tolkien’s work is too demanding during the school year.

  4. Geoffrey on April 25, 2021 at 8:57 pm

    My 10 year old (but advanced reader) son has devoured the Ranger’s Apprentice series this year. Multiple re-readings. Thanks for putting us onto this series, Betsy!

    Have you had the chance to take a look at the related Royal Ranger series, Betsy? Wondering if it’s something you recommend/still appropriate for pre-teens?

  5. Melanie on June 30, 2021 at 10:46 am

    The Plugged In reviews for this series mentions many instances of using the Lord’s name in vain – increasing after the first book. Did you find that to be true? For example, the comments for Book 1 state: “The words d–n, h— and the Lord’s name taken in vain each appear a time or two.” There was more but I’m not sharing due to specific spoilers.

    Book 2 state: “Several dozen uses of swear words like d–n, h— and the Lord’s name in vain appear. There are also single uses of mild words such as darn and where the devil. The book includes a number of fight scenes, though most describe the warriors’ movements rather than the injurious results.” There was more but I’m not sharing due to specific spoilers.

    Book 3 state: “The Lord’s name is taken in vain a few dozen times, and words such as d–n and h— appear, too. Evanlyn mutters an “unladylike swearword” and Deparnieux “curses violently.” While Will works as a slave, he sees one boy brutally lashing at another with a rope, causing immense blood letting and bruising. Deparnieux keeps people in cages along the roadside for months at a time, allowing them to waste away. Birds tear at their flesh and pluck out their eyes.”

    Is this exaggerated or not as bad as it sounds?

    • Betsy Farquhar on June 30, 2021 at 1:59 pm

      The series does have more language per book as it progresses. I’d rather have someone “cursing violently” than actually reading all their swear words. But these are definitely teen books and will require more discernment from readers than books directed at the middle grades.

      As I mentioned in my review above, there is “lots of danger.” The specific instance you mention from book 3 serves to illustrate how dire Will’s situation is (don’t worry–he’s rescued! There are, after all, lots more books 😉 ). The violence doesn’t seem gratuitous, but what you might expect from warriors heading off to battle, defending kingdoms (and damsels in distress), and the like. Frankly, one of the things that makes this series so appealing to young teens IS the danger, but it’s very much in keeping with the Medieval-esque world Flanagan has created, and it allows the heroism to be all the more heroic.

      • Elaine on July 15, 2021 at 8:45 am

        The uses of d–n seemed to have dropped after the first few books, and maybe even h–l. I also noticed later on when mentioning the Lord’s name in vain, it’s often lowercased in the later books. I’m not sure that’s better? It’s not a constant presence, it’s sprinkled here and there. I LOVE these books, as an adult, and my teens enjoyed it when they read them, but I think I loved them even more than they did! Full of adventure and great, memorable characters! I LOVE HALT!

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