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The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan ARC {3 Stars}

The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan is the first in a prequel series based before The Ranger’s Apprentice books and billed as a good place to start if you haven’t already read that previous series. Ranger’s Apprentice is one of those series that I’ve always meant to try out but never had the right confluence of factors to actually do it, so when this ARC showed up in my mailbox, I decided to give it a shot! What I found was a fun fantasy adventure that harkens back to traditional stories. If you’re looking for a meaty world-building tome, this isn’t that, but if you’re just looking for a fun read on a Sunday afternoon, The Tournament of Gorlan might be perfect for you.

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Tournament at Gorlan from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan ARC {3 Stars}

The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan (Ranger's Apprentice: The Early Years #1)
Published by Philomel on Oct. 6th, 2015
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Page Length: 384 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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When Halt and Crowley discover that the ambitious Morgarath has been infiltrating the Rangers in order to corrupt the Corps, the young Rangers travel north to find Prince Duncan, seeking a royal warrant to stop Morgarath before it is too late. By weakening the Rangers, the most powerful force in support of the King, Morgarath plans to steal the throne.

Yet when Halt and Crowley arrive in Gorlan, they discover just how close Morgarath’s scheme is to success. Morgarath has a plan to discredit the Prince and alienate him from his father. At the same time, the Baron of Gorlan has been conspiring to win the trust and admiration of the Council of Barons to further his plan. If the young Rangers are to prevent the coup from succeeding, they will have to tread a dangerous path, which leads them to a thrilling climax at the annual tournament at Gorlan, where a series of bitter duels must be fought and won.

This origin story brings readers to a time before Will was an apprentice, and lays the groundwork for the epic battles that will culminate with The Ruins of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge—Books 1 and 2 of the Ranger’s Apprentice series.

3 Stars


  • More than anything, The Tournament at Gorlan is a fun adventure. A band of guys set themselves a goal and go journeying around the countryside to attain that goal. I always feel a sense of accomplishment after reading a book where a lot of ground is covered for some reason and found The Tournament at Gorlan satisfying in that way :).
  • I suspect that The Tournament at Gorlan will mostly appeal to fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice series since it stars a beloved character back before he was famous ;-). I can’t say this for sure, but I got the sense that getting this insider’s peek into Halt and Crowley’s early adventures would be a lot of fun for fans.
  • The ending of The Tournament at Gorlan was not what I expected at all and therefore gripped me to the very end. I love making predictions and being completely wrong even when it means I want to punch certain characters in the face, ha.
  • The writing of this book is very well-paced. I read it pretty much in one sitting on a Sunday when I was home alone and never felt that things slowed down to the point that I needed a break. Since the writing is also fairly light, it makes for a perfect light adventure for road trips, etc.


  • I’ve apparently gotten rather picky about female characters in my reads because I painfully noticed how badly The Tournament at Gorlan fails the Bechdel test. For those of you who aren’t aware of that test, it basically is just whether two female characters have a conversation that isn’t about a male character. There are only three women in this book and they have very minor roles even though they easily could have been more involved. I’m really really annoyed by this.
  • In general the plot felt rather predictable despite the twist ending. I’ve read a lot of fantasy adventure and quest storylines, so following the fairly well-established plot of those just bores me.
  • There were times when I really felt like the author was assuming the reader knew more than a new reader would about this world. There is a summary at the beginning to let you know what happened previously (which also annoys me), but there are also just a lot of moments especially early on where world-building is skipped. This made me feel that this isn’t really a great place for a new reader to start in this world.
  • So as you might suspect there is a tournament (at Gorlan!). However, before that tournament starts, there are several pages of info dumping to explain to the reader how these sorts of jousting tournaments work. I kid you not, I counted.


The Tournament at Gorlan is a light and fun fantasy adventure that will be fun for fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice books. I don’t think it’s a good place for new fans to start due to some assumptions in the world-building. I also was quite annoyed at the dearth of female characters and predictability of the plot. However, the writing is light and well-paced, making for a fun afternoon read when you’re in the mood for traditional fantasy.

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Anya


 The Tournament at Gorlan by John Flanagan

© 2015, Anya. All rights reserved.


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