I have been following this series since the first one came out. I was in my local bookstore shortly after the fifth Harry Potter book was released (I'm dating myself here). There was a display out that said "For Harry Potter Lovers." I remember walking around the display and dismissing most of the titles. Then I saw the first book in this series, The Ruins of Gorlan, and picked it up. After glancing over the synopsis, I bought it.
And I have bought every title since.
I love this series. And sometimes is embarrasses me just how much I love these. But I do. I was sad last spring when I went to pick up the tenth book in the series to find a "last book" sticker on the front. I was a little heartbroken, but got over it. So when I saw this one on my recent excursion to the store with Matt, I clutched it to my chest and squealed until he said he would buy it for me.
So why do I love these so much?
First, they are just plain good fantasy stories. Flanagan manages to create a lively world (modeled on Europe), full of drama, suspense, and mystery. There is a huge cast of characters, but every one of them seems lively and true. There is danger, adventure, sword fights, and lots of description of battles and tactics. That part of the book always reaches my nerdy little core.
But what Flanagan does so well is creating a world where good does triumph. These are intended for the MG/YA age group, and they teach lessons without being overly preachy. They have a nice balance of action to moral, and I find that I really like that.
I also think Flanagan does a superb job with the fighting aspects of these. Each of the different groups have their own fighting style and weaponry, and he truly brings that to life. He also manages to have multiple cultures interacting, without belittling any of them. I think this is what makes these so successful. Where one culture or way of life is usually placed above others in fantasy type novels, Flanagan successfully shows how each culture and way of life is equally important.
And the stories themselves? Wonderful. These are great "boy" books for boys who don't like reading. When I was teaching a younger age group, my male students got hooked on the series (this was when there were only 4 or 5 out) because there was less of the icky girl stuff. The action and violence was there, but in a tasteful way.
So, yeah. I love this series. And I cannot wait to share them with my own kids!
As for this title in particular, Flanagan decided to create something to bridge the gap between this series and his new series (the first title comes out in November). Since the series doesn't necessarily go in a linear direction, there are a few time gaps here or there. There are also a number of questiosn left "unanswered." This title, The Lost Stories, was a way for Flanagan to wrap up loose ends as well as answer some fan questions.
There are nine stories in this volume (some of them rather lengthy), and while I love some more than others, they really rounded out the series. There was more information about the founding of the Ranger Corps (the main character, Will, is a Ranger), more development of relationships between characters, and a really touching story about what happens to the Ranger's horses (this was such a sweet story).
What surprised me, though, was the transition to giving a small amount of information about Flanagan's new series. I didn't know much about it, but apparently it will be based off another land in this world of Flanagan's (Will's world, and that of the series, is named Araluen, based on England. The new series is based in the country of Skandia-a lot like the Vikings). This just made me more excited for that series to debut!
It was a great, fast read, and one that helped the first few hours of Saturday's readathon fly by!
Has anyone else read any of this series?