Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Paean to Flanagan

I have to admit I was late to the Ranger's Apprentice party.

After seeing this 2005 title appear at book fairs, I thought "Meh. More medieval fantasy. " Students opined that it was really good, and the incomparable Mr. Buxton decided it was a great title, so I started buying the books.

Fast forward to February of 2010. Our district had implemented the new Destiny system and determined that it saved so much that my library got an extra $5,000 to spend. This was nearly the entire budget at the time, which had been cut in 2003 from $12,000 per annum. It is a little challenging to spend that much money in a short time period, so I made sure I had FOUR copies of each of the first six Ranger's Apprentice books and purchased four copies of the newest  Erak's Ransom (Jaunary 2010).

My daughter was in 8th grade, and was working in the library with her friend Caleb, who was a big fan. It was a chilly February day, the kind we get in Ohio where I am convinced that the sun has hurtled away from the earth and we will never see light again. The office called; the UPS man had arrived with a LOT of boxes; could he bring them directly to the library?

Well, we opened up every one of those boxes right there at the circulation desk. It was nearing the end of the period, so paper was everywhere, and the students were digging manically through the boxes. Caleb had Nell hold onto one of the Erak's Ransom copies while he went to get his friends out of class so they could check out the others. I didn't have the records downloaded or books stamped, but we have circulation cards, so a lot of those books left with students, still cold from being in the delivery truck.

I have gotten an Amazon gift card that I keep for titles that students must have immediately. Last Tuesday, I arrived home to find The Caldera in my mailbox. I knew that I would be spending the next several days driving to Cincinnati, cooking turkey, and doing holiday things, so I walked it right over to one of my runner's houses. Eli was a little shocked, I think, but glad to have it, and promised to bike it over to another classmate when he finished it. Gabe got it Wednesday afternoon, so I hope both he and his high school brother got to read it.

Why are these books so good? Why do they engender such a devoted following? I don't know, but I was glad that the library delivered a copy for me to read at the end of a busy Monday.

34495980Flanagan, John. The Caldera (Brotherband Chronicles #7)
November 21st 2017 by Philomel Books
Public Library copy

Stig's errant father, Olaf, has returned to Hallashom ten years after abandoning his family to live in shame. He isn't repentant, but would like to hire the crew of the Heron to retrieve the emperor of Byzantos who was kidnapped by the pirate Myrgos while under Olaf's care. Since Constantus is just ten, and they are always up for adventure, Hal and Thorn agree. Olaf is a liability, so they sneak out of town on an unspecified mission and plan on stocking up more along the way. The crew, after all, needs its coffee! Along the way, the run across Maddoc and sail with his ships for a while, since pirates are always around, deal with toll takers, and eventually come across Myrgos. Constantus is being held on an island similar to Thira (Santorini) that is wild and treacherous, but the group mount a rescue, and find Constantus. Myrgos is dealt with brutally but fairly, and the group is able to return the emperor to his somewhat surprised mother, the regent Justinia. Stig is able to both make peace with the man his father is and exact some appropriate revenge. A short story about Maddie, Will's apprentice, is included at the end.
Strengths: This is perfect, from the wrestling competitions at the beginning, through the "potatoes and sweet potatoes, baked onions, green beans cooked with small chunks of bacon, and crusty loaves of fresh bread (page 123)", Kloof's near capture by Myrgos, storms and pirate fights, and Stig's sad and touching realization that his father will never be the man he wants him to be. Even Constantus amused me, with his demanding arrogance, and I wonder if they Heron crew will have to deal with his in the future.
Weaknesses: There's no concrete mention of a third Ranger's Apprentice: The Early Years yet.
What I really think: I always enjoy the time I spend reading these books. Do yourself a favor and pick up The Ruins of Gorlan if you have never read it.


  1. There will not be a third Early Years book. Flanagan is concentrating on Brotherband and is working on a new book about Maddie.

  2. I've meant for years to read some of these and you've convinced to start on these after the new year. Well, after a major New Year's resolution to confront one of my greatest fears. (you'll see the post about it in January)