Category Archives: Fantasy

Ranger’s Apprentice Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan

Flanagan, John.  Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan. Puffin Books.  2006. ISBN 0142406635

Reader’s Annotation: Will is determined to become a Battleschool apprentice to honor his dead father’s memory despite not having the build for it.  Instead he gets chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice and little does he know the role he will play in the upcoming attack on the kingome.

Plot Summary: Will is a ward of Baron Arald after his mother dies in childbirth and he is deposited on the Baron’s doorstep.  Upon turning 15 each ward can request or is chosen to apprentice to one of the master’s.  Will doesn’t know who his father was but he believes he was a great knight in the army and therefore wants to join the Battleshool to honor his unknown father despite being small and lanky.  Instead he fights himself being picked as the reluctant apprentice to a Ranger, one of the band of cloaked and mysterious figures who are stuff of legends and fears.  Soon he learns they are the protectors of the kingdom and Will may have to play his part of a protector sooner than expected as Morgarath, an exiled lord, gathers forces to overthrow the king.

Critical Evaluation

This book is perfect for the reader looking for adventure with a dollop of fantasy thrown in.  Will is your typical teenage boy who thinks he knows what he is destined for but soon learns there is much out there he doesn’t know.  The great thing about Will’s character is he isn’t overly cocky and while he does have his moments of sulkiness he is not whiny to the point where you want to shake him.  I loved watching him mature and grow under the tutelage of his master, the Ranger Halt.  There are moments that made me laugh out loud and actually have to read the lines to whoever happened to be around me because I thought they were so funny.

This book is perfect for the teen reader especially those reluctant teenage male readers.  The pace moves quickly enough it sucks you into the story, the characters are well written and the relationships and bonds that form between them will draw readers in.  I didn’t notice any cursing, while there hints of some crushes amongst the wards nothing happens romantically/sexually and even though there are fights nothing too graphic takes place.  This is one of those books I would recommend in a heart beat.

About the author

John Flanagan grew up in Australia and began writing Ranger’s Apprentice for his son about ten years ago.  Flash forward to today and the Ranger’s Apprentice series is a bestselling series that appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

There are currently 11 books out in the series and John continues to write them til today.

Genre

Fantasy

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

What trade would you pick and think your talents lean towards?

Reading level

Ages 10 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

I got my husband to start listening to this series via audiobook because I’ve heard it is so popular among teenage boys.  I just had to read it to see if it lived up to the hype.

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Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Cashore, Kristin. Graceling. Harcourt.  2008. ISBN 015206396X

Reader’s Annotation: Can Katsa use her Graceling skill to kill with ease and join Prince Po to help those who live under the tyranny of an evil king?

Plot summary: Gracelings are those born with an extreme skill in some area whether it be something as innocent as singing or more ominous like Katsa’s grace of killing others with her bare hands without breaking a sweat.  She loathes her skill and her life as her tyrannical uncle’s control because he is King of the Middluns and he controls the fate of gracelings.  When Katsa meets Prince Po she realizes that she can take control of her own destiny if she is brave enough to do so.

Critical Evaluation

This is a fun and quick fantasy read with a strong, kick butt female heroine.  We see her blossom from this little girl who is told she’s stupid and cursed because of her graceling into a strong woman who realizes her grace doesn’t have to be a curse.  She can use her skills to help others which is a great message to get across to readers who may not realize they have strengths hidden inside of them that makes them special.

Po is a character readers will adore.  He will catch girls’ hearts with his sexiness, confidence and kindness.  He’s comfortable enough with who he is to not feel threatened by Katsa’s skills and in fact admires her every time she bests him in a fight.

The world Cashore built is amazing and the story is filled with action and adventure.  The only minor issue was that at times the language felt too modern for the setting but otherwise a wonderful book for teens and adults alike.

About the author

On her blog Kristin Cashore talks about how when she grew up she loved to read and to daydream thus planting the seeds for her writing.  She initially did educational writing for the K-6 market and then moved on to writing novels.

Graceling was nominated for the William C. Morris awards. Her second book, Fire, was actually more of a prequel to Graceling and the third book wraps up the series.

Genre

Fantasy

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

If you could be born with any skill and be a natural master of it what would you pick?

Read Katsa’s first experience with her grace.

Reading level

Grade 8 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

It was a fantasy novel that I heard so much about and everyone I’ve spoken to loved it.

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Maas, Sarah J.  Throne of Glass. Bloomsbury USA Children’s.  2012. ISBN 1599906953 (Note: I read an advanced review copy)

Reader’s Annotation: The famous assassin Celaena Sardothien has spent the last year slaving in the salt mines of Endovier but now has the chance to win her freedom. In order to do so she must win a competition against a host of thieves, assassins and warriors from across the kingdom.

Plot Summary: After surviving the salt mines of Endovier for a much longer time than most other slaves Celaena is offered a chance for freedom by the Crown Prince. If she can win a competition against a host of other opponents to become the King’s champion and serves for four years she will be set free.  As she trains with captain of the guard, Chaol, some of her opponents start turning up dead in the most gruesome manners possible.  Can she survive long enough to win her freedom?

Critical Evaluation

Maas creates the most intriguing cast of characters and story in this story that is a blend of mystery, fantasy and intrigues.  Celaena’s character has so many facets to it despite being just 18 years old.  She is understandably cocky since she is the most famous assassins in her kingdom but she is also remarkably trusting, caring and loyal for someone in such a cold-blooded profession.  Her relationships with both the Crown Prince and the captain of the guard are amusing and fascinating to watch.  Both men are obviously developing softer feelings towards Celaena that neither expected but unlike in most series the path the three will take is not obvious.

For those who enjoy fantasy stories the Fae have left this realm after the King has banned the use of magic but there are signs that they may be entering the world again.  Unfortunately they are not the only ones.  Some of the darker creatures are also making their way into Celaena’s world and she must find a way to stop them.  The culprit of opening the portal to allow these dark creatures in is pretty obvious but the writing and wonderful cast of characters will keep readers enthralled.

I would suggest this book for reader’s who enjoyed books like Maria V. Snyder’s Study series.

About the author

Sarah J. Maas currently resides in Southern California.  Throne of Glass is her debut YA epic fantasy novel and is due out August 7, 2012.

Genre

Fantasy

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

Talk about the sense of morals each character has. Caleana as an assassin, Chaol as a guard, Duke Perrington as a noble.

Reading level

Ages 12 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

Interest in young adult fantasy novels definitely appear to be picking up and the synopsis of the book reminded me of Maria V. Snyder’s Study series which has gotten rave reviews.

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Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Pon, Cindy. Silver Phoenix. Greenwillow Books. 2009. ISBN 0061730211

Reader’s Annotation: When Ai Ling’s father fails to return from a journey to the Emperor’s palace she sets out on a journey to rescue him.  Along the way she meets Chen Yong who is on a quest of his own.  Together with his support and her own growing powers can she battle demons and other creatures she thought only existed in legends?

Plot Summary: Ai Ling has been rejected as a bride by several suitors and is despairing over bringing disgrace to her parents and yet she cannot help but be happy she will not yet be to a husband’s whims and needs.  She is satisfied to live in her childhood home with her parents until one day Ai Ling’s father does not return from a journey to the Emperor’s palace.  She sets out to rescue her father and along the way meets Chen Yong, a half-Xian who is on a journey of his own to find his birth parents.  Both finds out that evil creatures and demons that they thought only existed in legends really do exist and are targeting Ai Ling and those she calls friends.  Can she vanquish the evil that has targeted her and rescue her father?

Critical Evaluation

This book brings fantasy and mythological creatures to life as readers follow Ai Ling along her quest to rescue her father.  Ai Ling combines great spunk, bravery and a dose of naiveness thrown in to make her that much more relatable.  Chen Yong and his brother Li Rong were both wonderful characters.  Chen Yong’s steadiness and strength in face of the difficulties his mixed heritage brings him endears him to the reader and one can’t help but love Li Rong’s never ending cheerfulness and quips.

While the story moves along quickly and the myriad of creatures Ai Ling faces are fascinating it was almost as if there was too much thrown together without enough explanation.  It seems strange that this man who is obsessed with one day reuniting with Ai Ling seems unaware of her presence while his consort is busy throwing one evil creature after another to kill her.  Who is this consort and why does she have so much control over these creatures?  Another question is besides being “protective” what powers does Ai Ling’s jade necklace really possess?  It seems like it can toss people around on a whim, beat people up and yet when she most needs it she decides the necklace would no longer be able to help her.  Why? And then there is the question of Ai Ling’s own powers that even the Immortals claim to have no knowledge of.  Where did these powers come from?

This is a fun book to read especially those looking for a fantasy book that is not Westernized.  It gives an interesting look inside the culture of ancient China and will peak the reader’s curiosity to learn more about the culture.

About the author

Silver Phoenix was Cindy Pon’s debut novel and was followed up with the sequel, Fury of the Phoenix in 2011.  According to her website Cindy makes her home in San Diego, California and is a student of Chinese brush painting and is currently working on a children’s book.

There was some controversy when Silver Phoenix was re-released with a new cover that many considered as “whitewashed”.  Cindy shared her feelings in a blog post stating that while she was disappointed she understood why it was done. The original cover was very different from anything else on the shelves of bookstores and it could potentially put off readers who labeled the book as too much of an Asian fantasy.  She did appreciate that her publisher was trying to reach a wider audience by repackaging the book.

Genre

Fantasy

Curriculum Ties

Diversity of cultures

Book talking idea

Talk about the cultural restrictions of females in this society.

Discuss what it would be like growing up in an adopted family and being of mixed heritage in a culture where this is looked down upon.

Reading level

Grade 9 and up

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

I included this book because I wanted to read a book written about a culture and history that is not US or American centric.  This book also caught my attention due to some controversy over the “white-washing” of the book cover to try and make it more visually appealing to consumers.

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