Book Review: John Flanagan’s The Tournament at Gorlan

Posted April 2, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Middle-Grade readers

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: John Flanagan’s The Tournament at Gorlan

The Tournament at Gorlan


John Flanagan

fantasy that was published by Philomel Books on October 6, 2015 and has 364 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include The Sorcerer in the North, The Siege of Macindaw, Erak's Ransom, The Kings of Clonmel, Halt's Peril, The Emperor of Nihon-Ja, The Lost Stories, The Outcasts, Invaders, The Hunters, The Royal Ranger, Slaves of Socorro, Scorpion Mountain, The Ghostfaces, "The Beast From Another Time", The Caldera

First in the Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years series, a prequel series for the Ranger’s Apprentice revolves around Halt and Crowley.

The Lost Stories: “The Hibernian”, 0.25, actually comes directly before The Tournament at Gorlan. I do have a chronological listing of the Ranger Apprentice books on my website.

My Take

I love the Ranger’s Apprentice series and to get a peek in at what led to the reformation of the Rangers, Halt’s inclusion, and the saving of the kingdom was a treat. It’s also the story in which Halt meets Pauline.

Hmm, it’s too bad forgery is not one of Halt’s many skills.

It’s a fun ride through the countryside, camping out, fighting off the bad guys, forming up with the good guys, and performing a variety of derring-do rescues. Arguments about poetry, observations about the difference between court and camp manners, the proper additives for coffee, and an assessment of leadership qualities liven things up even more — Berwick, Lewin, and Jurgen have good reason for making their choice, and it doesn’t take toooo long before Samdash realizes they were right. The negative side is the pettiness, greed, and cruelty of the enemy.

It’s a sneaky trick the boys and Bob pull on Halt, although I can see how it would pound the lesson in. There are other sneaky tricks in The Tournament at Gorlan and most of them are downright nasty.

I do love Flanagan’s Ranger Apprentice series, and now this prequel series. His primary characters — Halt and Crowley — are honorable men, with a sense of humor, *grin*. The story itself promotes loyalty, honesty, protecting the weak and what’s right. You really can’t go wrong encouraging your kids to read it. Did I mention…it’s also well-written?

It’s an adventurous story to read and will please those of us who have been suffering withdrawal from a lack of Ranger’s Apprentice stories, lol.

The Story

When Halt and Crowley discover that the ambitious Morgarath has been gutting the Rangers to destroy the Corps, the young Rangers are traveling north to find Prince Duncan and plotting to take Morgarath down.

Meeting a terrifying deadline followed by a fight to the death is all that may save the kingdom.

The Characters

Halt is a fugitive from his brother and the kingdom of Clonmel who became friends with Crowley, a recently commissioned Ranger determined to reform the Corps that Morgarath is stripping. Declan is Halt’s horse who will need replacing. Cropper is Crowley’s horse.

The Ranger Corps is…
…an elite special forces unit working as the eyes and ears of the kingdom who answer only to the King. Pritchard is one of the first Rangers driven out by Morgarath, is highly respected by other Rangers, and the one who trained Halt and Crowley among others.

There are only twelve of the original Rangers left, including: Leander of Dacton Fief; Berrigan of Weslon Fief is the gitarra player; Egon at Seacliff Fief needs a kick in the pants, well, his guts anyway; the humorless Norris of Holsworth Fief is a good fisherman; Samdash joined up with Berwick, Lewin, and Jurgen; Farrel of Redmont Fief; and, Truscott of Eisel Fief.

Bob Saddler is the master horse breeder of the Ranger horses. The Bobbities are his twins: Little Bob and Roberta. Robina is his wife. Abelard is one of the horses Bob has trained for Rangers.

Commandant Stilson is its new, inept leader who has turned the Corps into a social club. Nicholl is the former commandant.

Araluen is the…

…kingdom with its base at Castle Araluen. It along with Castle Gorlan and Redmont are the three great castles of the kingdom. Prince Duncan is the heir to the kingdom. Billy Creek is a soldier.

Redmont is…
…held by the young Baron Arald. He’s the current champion of the Tournament. And not a friend of Morgarath’s. Barnaby is his battlehorse. Lady Sandra is his wife. Pauline DuLacy, a senior Courier, leads the Diplomatic Service. Sir Rodney is the battle master. Martin is the baron’s secretary. Chubb is his excellent chef. Farrel isn’t sure he can pull away from all that lovely food, lol.

Keramon Fief is…
…ruled by Lord Carrol. Milly is the waitress at the inn in Woolsey where Sherrin is its innkeeper. Yorik is the grateful headman of Lendsy, another village. Maeve is his wife. Merrick is one of those who didn’t survive the attack while Jemmy Mendell may wish he hadn’t.

Castle Gorlan is…
…held by Baron Morgarath, the champion knight of the kingdom who is quite popular among a number of other barons. Warlock is his battlehorse. King Oswald is being “protected” there. Captain Teezal is another of his prized killers and torturers. Barons Peller, Meagher, and Cordell are potential allies. Captain Tiller is leading a band of “Duncan’s” men.

The Tournament is…
…the most prestigious event in the kingdom. Baron Naylor will be the grand marshal. Sir Wallace of Belconnen is a young knight eager to make his reputation who shouldn’t have survived Morgarath’s anger. Sir David of Holder and Sir Morris of Norgate are supposed to be Morgarath’s allies.

Castle Wildriver is…
…held by Sir Eammon, an ally of Morgarath’s who is holding Duncan prisoner.

Dacton Fief is…
…now under the “protection” of the idiot Ranger Littlefoot. Baron Reemer is another jerk. Sam Crofter is a young boy in Dacton whose grandmother knows what’s what.

Weslon Fief finds…
Isaac, a farmworker at the Jolly Frog who wants Berrigan to continue playing. Willet is the new idiot Ranger. I love what Halt stripped from him!

Seacliff Fief is…
…where Jervis is the barkeep in the tavern. He’s been trying to help Egon whom the baron is quite happy to keep drunk.

Haller’s Rill is…
…only the latest village “Prince Duncan” is terrorizing.

Picta is the land of the Scotti, enemies who have signed a treaty. Wargals are semihuman creatures, terrifying soldiers who fled to the Mountains of Rain and Night three hundred years ago.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a range of royal blues (how appropriate!) with a blast of red and yellow, as Morgorath’s battle lance shatters on the armored Arald of Redmont’s shield. The author’s name in yellow is the only really visible text; the title and series name is in a silvery gray that is near impossible to read.

The title is the penultimate moment, for it’s The Tournament at Gorlan on which everything hangs.