My 12 year old brother is addicted to these books, and I've really wanted to see what they're all about. When a friend loaned me a copy of Ruins of Gorlon the opportunity was too good to pass up. I'm glad I did. While the age group was really too young for my normal entertainment series it's a really good teacher. Flanagan breads two writing truisms and I'm really glad to see it work out. Both are pretty technical, so it might get boring. Both of these things are excellent teaching tools and really great for the young boys that are Flanagan's primary audience.
The first was how he handled women. Yes, I am a feminist. No, I don't hate men. I'm also aware how woman and fantasy go together. Women characters either are wenches or butt-kickers. One is obnoxious and the other is unrealistic. Flanagan brings in a middle ground approach that I just love. Women aren't part of battle school or ranger apprenticeships, but they are important diplomats and lawyers with valued voices in his society. It's both realistic and liberating.
Flanagan's head hopping tickled my writer funny bone. All hopeful writers (including yours truly) have it pounded into their heads about how head hopping is bad. In Ruins Flanagan uses head hopping to show how his different characters react to different situations. My favorite was how he used it to show that some bullies are hurting themselves and other are just mean. It's a great teaching tool since most kids reading Ruins don't have the critical thinking skills to be able to decipher the actions of his characters, let alone the actions of kids who bully them in real life.