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Book Cage Fight: Wheel of Time: The Eye of The World v Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan

It’s time for another round of Book Cage Fight now that I’ve finally managed to find my uniform again after it got lost in the wash…

To be honest, this metaphor’s more than a bit worn out so I’m just going to skip it and introduce the two books I’ll be pitting against each other. They’re both long-running fantasy series, one from right here in Australia and the other from the other side of the world in the United States. Ah, who am I kidding. You’ve read the title of the post so let’s not mess about.

The Ranger’s Apprentice series is penned by Australian author John Flanagan with the first book in the series and the one we’re looking at today Ruins of Gorlan being released in November 2004. The series follows the main protagonist, Will, in an approximation of medieval England as he learns the ways of the mysterious Rangers and saves the kingdom of Araluen time and time again. As of the time of writing, the series is now in spinoff territory with a sequel trilogy and separate series well underway.

The challenger is a bona fide fantasy titan of the fantasy genre. Penned by the late Robert Jordan until his passing in 2007 and then continued by Brandon Sanderson, the Wheel of Time series has plenty of fans over the world with 13 tomes in the series that could kill you with one or two hefty strokes. The series follows the main protagonist Rand al’Thor on his journey from a humble sheepherder in the sleepy backwater district of Two Rivers to the final cataclysmic battle against the mystical Dark One using the One Power.

Looking at the two contestants they’re clearly angling at a different section of the fantasy genre audience… this is going to be fun.

Round 1: Plot

The Aussie fighter kicks off with a relatively simple and straightforward plot. Our main character, Will, is an orphan under the care of the Baron Arald along with his fellow ward mates Alyss, Horace, George and Jenny in the medieval kingdom of Araluen. Upon their fifteenth birthday, the wards are presented to the fiefdom’s various trade masters in the hopes that they will be selected for apprenticeships.

At first, it appears that Will has missed the chance at an apprenticeship and instead will be subjected to years of hard work in the farmlands of the fief until the mysterious and shadowy figure known as Halt steps into the picture. He takes Will as his apprentice and Will begins training in the ways of the Ranger Corps. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the exiled lord Morgarath has been amassing his dark armies and biding his time, waiting for the perfect moment to strike…

In Eye of The World, the main character much like Will is of humble beginnings. A farm boy helping his father in the sleepy backwater of Emond’s Field, Rand al’Thor enjoys his peaceful life until his village is attacked by vicious Trollocs. In the wake of the devastation, Rand along with his friends and one of the mysterious Aes Sedai set out for the mystical city of Tar Valon as a sanctuary from the coming Dark Lord.

Both books have similar takes on the hero’s journey plot so this cage fight will have to come down to characters and setting although due to the length of Eye of The World it does take quite a while to get started which may help clinch it for some people.

Round 2: Character

With both books having plots following the hero’s journey archetype, it makes sense that both books have larger casts to accommodate their plot. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is known for its ensemble cast and Eye of The World is nothing if not a trailblazer.

Apart from Rand, there are his fellow Emond Field villagers and travelling companions Matrim Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, Egwene al’Vere and Nynaeve al’Meara that constitute the main characters of this book. There are also various supporting characters like the Aes Sedai Moiraine Damodred, her Warder Al’Lan Mandragoran and the jester-like Gleeman Thom. Yes, those are a lot of names and yes, they’re thrown at you all at the start.

In comparison, the cast for Ruins of Gorlan is not so expansive. The main characters are mainly Will, Halt and Horace with the other characters kept to the side as supporting characters. This makes it easier to connect with the characters on a deeper level while still being able to appreciate the other characters in the book without them taking away from the main focus.

In the end, this round will come down to which you prefer; a large cast of characters all given (relatively) equal time in the spotlight or a smaller cast of main characters which you’re given more time to enjoy.

Round 3: Setting

The setting for both books is quintessentially fantasy. I’m talking kings, knights, castles, maidens and all the wonderful medieval trappings that come along with the fantasy genre. Now, these two books do have a point of differentiation between themselves and its use of magic. Each book has its own way of handling magic – Ruins of Gorlan foregoes any magic wielders yet does have some fantastical elements in the introduction of the Wargals.

On the other hand, Eye of the World leans heavily into magic and the magic has pervaded the entire world contained within the book. Everyone can either harness the magical forces that govern the book’s universe or fear it for all the pain and suffering it has wrought throughout the history of this world.

Yet again, the winner of this round will come down to personal preference and whether you prefer magic in the background or front and centre in your fantasy content.

Seeing as this round is so tight, I am quite interested to see which book you believe has conquered their rival and arose victorious from the field of battle. To that end, I’ve placed a poll below, choose your victor and let me know why you chose them down below!

Which book won this round?

  • Rangers Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan

  • Wheel of Time: Eye of The World


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