Ranger’s Apprentice

Yesterday, I planned a quick run to Target after meeting some friends for lunch. I knew it would be close to baby’s naptime, but it would be a quick in-and-out and then she could fall asleep on the way home.After forgetting my list, scraping through a tired baby breakdown, losing my wallet, finding my wallet back at the restaurant, and finally getting everything in the car and home, I was in serious need of a comfort book. So I picked up The Burning Bridge, book 2 of John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series, and all was right with the world.

I discovered Ranger’s Apprentice last year. I wasn’t so sure about it by the end of the first chapter; but the second chapter had me hooked, and, by the third book, the series had made its way onto my Harry Potter shelf. There are twelve books in the series, and I loved every one of them (with the possible exception of some of the short stories in #11).

As with so many of my favorite books, the characters are what sold it for me. There are so many characters that you get to know throughout the book, and each one has his or her distinct voice and personality. With twelve books, there’s plenty of room for characters to grow stagnant, but Flanagan keeps them growing and changing with each new obstacle. Their relationships morph, both deepening and fading with the passing of time. The dialogue can be a little cheesy at times, but the way it builds up the characters more than makes up for the slight eye-roll it inspires from time to time.

Twelve books may seem like a long series, but the books are a quick and compelling read. I think I checked the last five out from the library at once because I was finishing them in a day or two and couldn’t stand to wait. Add them to your summer reading list!

Tuesdays at the Castle

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I recently read Tuesdays at the Castle and Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George, and, man, why didn’t I find these earlier?! A sentient castle that chooses its kings, thrilling political intrigue, and four resourceful and witty siblings reminiscent of the Pevensie kids—if you’re looking for a great MG fantasy, this is your stop.

Here’s the Goodreads blurb for Tuesdays at the Castle:
Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie’s favorite days. That’s because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it’s up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle’s never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.

The best thing about these books is the limitations that are set and stuck to. The castle can’t talk; it can only make things appear and disappear, making its will known in very roundabout ways. There are wizards, but magic is more of a science than, well, magic. There’s no magical solution to solve everybody’s problems. The kids are brave and smart and resourceful, but they’re also kids. There are things that scare them, and they have to figure out how to deal with fear instead of simply not being afraid, which I think happens way too often in MG fantasy.

I love all the characters, but I think Pogue is my favorite. He’s just not what you expect when you first meet him, and I’m excited to see what happens with him.

The only thing I can complain about is that the third book isn’t out! I was so sad when I hit the end of Wednesdays in the Tower and realized I would have to wait to find out what happens next!