Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan
Okay, so... In my humble opinion, Ranger's Apprentice should be on everyone's reading list!
As there are over twelve books in the series (if you include the prequel and the sequels) I figured I'll do an overall review (no spoilers!).
Ranger's Apprentice has great themes, including: Loyalty, Personal Identity, Triumph of Good Over Evil, Courage, Comradeship, Friendship, Perseverance, as well as the Underdog and Bully to Friend scenarios. I've always loved a certain section in The Emperor of Nihon-Ja (book#10) where two certain people put aside their differences and become friends :)
The books have realistic view points: 'If you don't practice how do you expect to get good at anything?' and 'you need to keep practicing even if you're the best of the best otherwise you won't be the best of the best anymore'. Also: 'not all girls/women are as strong as men/boys (lets face it) but girls/women are good at other equally important things', (I love this one, it is very realistic and well portrayed in a way that doesn't point fingers at the opposite sex.) And finally, 'Not all ugly looking/monsters are bad, don't judge a book by its cover'. The list could go on, but there's one last point I'd like to make.
The books aren't full of magic. That's what I love about these books. Sure there are monsters in a few of the books but I wouldn’t say the they're full of magical beings, just humans who work to get good at what they do. Yes there seems to be mind control in the first few books but not over humans, it's the way a certain species communicates with each other and someone figures out how to communicate with these creatures. One of the books is titled The Sorcerer in the North (book #5) and its actually one of my favourite books. I know I said no spoilers but.... well.... there's no magic in the books. There. For parents who are picky about magic and unnatural powers, I highly recommend these books. In books #8 and #9 the main characters face a problem with a false god, but it is clearly false and defeated in the end (no spoilers!).
I give these books 150/100% (yes, I can do that!) and recommend for ages 11-12 years and over. HAPPY READING!