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Saturday, January 06, 2018

The pleasures of a re-read...The Ranger’s Apprentice

Today the temperature in Melbourne soared into the 40s. I was spending the day with Mum, who was sleeping most of it. Both of us were in the  kitchen, the only part of the house with a cooling option.

I spent some time on Twitter and more on reading. It wasn’t much of a day for working, even my research. And I’m still learning things about my new iPad - including downloading from iBooks. It kept asking me for my fingerprint. I gave it. It said, “Done!” with a tick. And then didn’t give me my book. It didn’t take the money, but it didn’t download either. I’ll ask my friend Bart when
I see him Tuesday. Meanwhile I went to my phone, which just asked me for my password, and downloaded two early Ranger’s Apprentice volumes, The Ruins Of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge. I had forgotten how enjoyable the first book was. I rem mbered it as the slowest book of the series, there to set up  the universe. I guess when you go back after having read the others, it’s different.

I love this universe. It was written to show you can be a hero even if you’re not big and muscled. The author said it was for his son’s benefit. Will, the hero, wants badly to go to Battleschool and become a knight, but is just too small. What he is good at is climbing and being unnoticed. That makes him a perfect candidate for the job of Ranger. The author says his Rangers have no connection with the ones in Tolkien. They are, in f#ct, inspired by the Texas Rangers!

Thing is, these novels are not just adventure - they’re funny! Often hilarious. That’s something a lot of fantasy just doesn’t do, unless it’s deliberately funny like Terry Pratchett. But this isn’t Terry Pratchett, although if I had to compare, it might be the YA Tiffany Aching stories, which are funny, but also show a young witch growing up and learning about life.

Will and his mentor Halt ride tough little ponies that are a lot like the ones ridden by the Mongol warriors. That’s because they are. We eventually learn that Halt stole some for breeding by the Rangers from this world’s equivalent of the Mongols.

It’s sort of medieval Earth, but some things are different. For example, the food. There’s turkey and coffee. Halt is a coffee addict. And women seem to have more rights and play a vital role in this society. Lady Pauline, for example, is the head of the diplomatic service. In fact, most diplomats in this place are women, because they’re more...diplomatic...than men, who tend to want to solve things with their fists. All the female characters in these books are strong - and interesting. They don’t have to physically kick ass to be strong. And I’m pleased to say that these books appeal both to boys and girls.

The equivalent of the Vikings come from Skandia. At the start they are invading other countries in their wolfships, but later, in the spinoff Brotherband series, they decide it’s actually more profitable to   defend these countries from pirates and such. Meanwhile, there is a novel in which Will and Halt go to help out the Skandians, whose idea of battle is to rush off yelling, “Charge!” That, as I recall, is the one in which we find out about where those Ranger ponies come from.

I love what he does with names. It may be a coincidence that the Vikings come from a country mentioned in Prince Valiant, but Araluen, the England equivalent, is the name of a town in New South Wales, with an indigenous name meaning “place of the water lilies”. I don’t think that’s a  coincidence.

I’m thinking it might be fun to reread the lot and post about it. What do you think?


Sharon Himsl said...

Hi Sue. Happy New Year! You have such an advantage being around all those books. Not sure I'd get much done (other than reading) working in a library. Always good when a book appeals to both boys and girls. Wish there were more. I keep thinking mine appeals mainly to girls, but I've had a number of adult male readers who related, which surprised me.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Happy New Year, Sharon! Yes, it’s wonderful to have all those books around, but believe me, you wouldn’t have time to sit around reading. Not while you were at work. It’s a job that’s about people. You take the books home to read and th n you have something to recommend to library users.

Sigh! I’m missing it already.