Just like a band aid – read it fast and get it over with

The Ranger’s Apprentice Book 2 The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan

I have been accused of being a literature snob. This post might, possibly, maybe re-enforce that accusation and I find this troubling. But not unfair.

I can’t remember exactly why I started reading the Ranger’s Apprentice books. My current theory involves a kid in the summer reading program telling me about one of them just as I was finishing my book. Whatever. I read it and I must have liked it because I actually bought the second one.

So the Rangers Apprentice is packed full of fantasy tropes. The biggest, most obvious one is that Will is an orphan boy who wants to be a knight, but he doesn’t get chosen by the Battleschool. Instead he gets picked up by an elusive, mysterious, cloaked dude called Halt. I like Halt. He’s my favourite. Halt is a Ranger – he ranges  around the kingdom with his super smart pony and a camouflage cloak and a bow to scout and spy and help the helpless, that kind of thing. And guess what? Will’s going to learn all these things too!

Okay, so the stories not exactly a new one but it’s a nice one. This book starts with Will leaving Halt to go with fellow Ranger and former Halt apprentice Gilan and his old rival-turned-best-friend Horace on a routine diplomatic mission. Spoiler alert – it doesn’t go well.

So here’s our nice, if generic story line. And it’s pretty good in a lot of ways. I mean, everyone knows that we don’t read serial fiction for the excitingly original story lines. We read them because they’re predictable and comforting and fun because we get to know what’s going on. Therefore I will not judge the story too much. It does all of those things, and it’s targeted at nine year old boys so it’s full of tropes that many nine year old boys probably really enjoy, like annoying people getting thrown in motes and lighting stuff of fire.

However, my literary snobbishness and also my believe that children are both capable of reading smart material and deserving of it really struggled with the writing of this book. So much so that I had to get a good roll going before I got so caught up in the story that the bad writing became funny instead of annoying. Then I really started to enjoy it.

There was just so much telling and so little showing! All my creative writing teachers would frown on this book.

Each character’s thoughts are described in a strangely omnipotent way, kind of like those scenes from That 70s Show where the camera circles around each character and we hear their thoughts and unfortunately they are almost never thoughts that couldn’t be gotten across with a few lines of description.

Instead of  something like “Halt listened to the birds as they rode. He almost asked Will to identify which bird it was when he remember that Will was miles away with Gilan” we get “Halt realized he missed Will more than he ever imagined he would.” Instead of something like “Evelyn rocked on her heels a few times before turning and sprinting towards Horace” we get “Eyelyn didn’t want to leave Will but she realized that his arguments did make the most sense so she did.” Is it too much to ask that we’re given a little credit for deducing these beloved characters moods and thoughts by their actions instead of because we’re told what their thinking every time things get complicated?

Unfortunately for me, and luckily for John Flanagan I suppose, the last fifty pages were really exciting. So I’m waiting for the next one to come to my library not because I’m that excited to read it but because I need to know that INSERT SPOILER HERE.

Maybe if I was a nine year old boy the writing of this book wouldn’t have bugged me so much but I’m not so I’ll probably continue to have mixed feelings about this book. Having said that, I’d still recommend it to boys who are looking for something with arrows and bad guys dying (in a non-gory, non-problematic way of course).

Last movie I watched: Well, I watched part of Despicable Me, which I love, but I fell asleep this time. The last complete movie I watched was Wall.E. All I have to say is “Ahhhhhhhhhhh”

Last TV episode I watched: Well, Crash Course World History again. Canada got mentioned! Which is always exciting. The last real TV episode was Saving Hope . Michael Shanks is kind of awesome.

2 thoughts on “Just like a band aid – read it fast and get it over with

  1. readallnight says:

    I will aquit you of snobism on this one. Leading the witness or this case the reader is something I also heartily disapprove of. I also just read a book with a repetitive lit flaw (“he said, she said” repeated to infinity) that was hideously distracting, but thankfully the plot and dialogue saved it.

    I can also sympathise with not wanting to read something but needing to finish the tale (how i ended up watching a season of True Blood and read 10 wheel of times).

    Thank you for the warning. I will avoid Ranger’s Apprentice on the grounds of addicting irritation.

    PS. Michael Shanks is “kind of awesome” like propane is “kind of flammable”.


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