The Guise of Magic

Aislin Freedman, Junior

What makes a book fantasy? Is it the magical creatures, or the sorcerers and witches with magical powers, or the imaginary world that only exists in ink on paper. I always thought that it was a combination of many factors, all focusing on an element of unexplainable things that happen, yet are facts to the people of the story as much as the sky is blue and snow is white. The thing about magic is that there isn’t really a way to explain what defines it against something normal, yet almost anyone can tell the difference between making fire with a lighter in your fireplace at home, and a witch conjuring up fire in your hand, free of wood or flint and stone, just sparked into existence by nothing other than magic itself. And yet, a book doesn’t have to have magic to be classified as fantasy. Rangers Apprentice by John Flanagan has been one of my favorite book series since I was little. Somehow it manages to capture the essence of magic, without magic even existing in the world Flanagan created. The words on the page constantly deny the existence of magic in the world, however all that does is add to the sparkly veil of wonder that is a true fantasy book. 

The true magic of Rangers Apprentice is that anything and everything that you can remember happening from the series is completely possible with enough training and dedication. The accuracy of the rapid shots fired from the bow of a ranger isn’t because the weapons are enchanted, or because rangers are born with some special power in them. No, the magic of the ranger’s accuracy, precision, and speed, comes from the hours and hours of strenuous practice the rangers put in. As the famous ranger saying goes “an ordinary archer practices until he gets it right, a ranger practices until he never gets it wrong.”

Taking place in a fantasy world vaguely based off of medieval earth, an orphan named Will lives in the redmont fief in the kingdom of Araluen. When he is denied apprenticeship by all of the craftmasters, he is secretly tested before being offered an apprenticeship to the famous ranger Halt, who is as famous for his exploits as he is infamous for his mysterious behavior. All but the nobles believe rangers to be creatures of magic and mist, cloaked in shadows and deceit. However Halt will teach Will the truth of the rangers- that their knack for moving without being seen is just agility and brain, topped with a camouflage cloak. He learns to move with the wind to stay in the shadows, and how to understand the tactics armies use, and how to thwart them. 

However deep in the mountains of rain and night, a villain awaits. He is aided by creatures that are probably the most magical thing in the entire universe. Creatures that are childlike in nature, but easily manipulated and controlled by a master. 

Overall this series is fun for all ages, and one can never be too old for a good adventure. Will is a lovable protagonist, and even more so is his stout pony Tug. Ranger’s apprentice tells a simple story of adventure and trickery, friendship and romance, and is probably one of the most wholesome, and emotionally healing books I have ever read. In short, Rangers Apprentice is an amazing comfort book. Each book is short, only about 300 pages, but you will not want to miss a second of it. 

So if you need a new fantasy book, but need a short break from the emotionally torturing sadness that is The Song of Achilles and Infernal Devices, try picking up Rangers Apprentice Ruins of Gorlan next time you come across it. I promise, for all those fantasy lovers out there, it will be well worth it. 

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