Will is one of Baron Arald’s wards living in the Castle Redmont. He doesn’t quite fit in with his other wardmates — Horace, Alyss, Jenny and George: he’s the smallest, he’s the least sure of his future, and (probably most importantly) he doesn’t have any idea who his parents are. (The other ones, although they are orphans, have some knowledge of where they came from.) All Will is really good at is climbing, sneaking and pilfering … not exactly things that are conducive to one of the apprenticeships in the village.
So, when the wards turn 15 and are set to be apprenticed out to the various Craftmasters, Will has no idea where he belongs. That is, until a mysterious Ranger — the super-secret guardians of the Kingdom — decides that he wants an apprentice, and that Will is it.
The beginning of the book — the choosing and training of Will with his master Halt — is actually pretty slow. Flanagan’s detailed descriptions kept me involved through the lack of action and slow plot. The story also switches back and forth between Horace (whose training at the battle school was really quite torturous) and Will, which adds interest, if not accelerating the pace. Granted, it’s a first in a series, so a lot of exposition, and story- and world-building, had to be done. Hopefully, the other books won’t be as slow getting going.
There is also the problem that for a middle-grade book, most of the action, decisions, and plot advancements are being done by someone other than Will or Horace, which does nothing to keep a child’s interest in the book. Eventually, though, the action picks up in the final quarter of the book and Will does something major, making it a true middle-grade book after all. The question is, though: what’s going to happen to Will next?
Rated: Mild, for mild swearing