Ruins of Gorlan
Fans of the first Harry Potter book will love it for its relatively short length, action-packed adventure, special hero Will (whose mysterious identity is revealed by the end of this book), and general kids-growing-up-and-saving-the-world flavor. As compared to Harry Potter, this is simpler, with less humor and somewhat less character development. That's not to say there is none of either. In fact, the character of Halt the Ranger is nicely detailed with some wry witticisms, and Will's own emotional world is just evident enough to keep the reader engaged with his struggles. Side character Horace's story is flatter, and his transformation from bully to victim of bullying is a bit pat. Still, it's a good read, and I'd definitely recommend this to middle school readers looking for easier fantasy or a stepping stone to the longer Harry Potter books.
Much as I have waaaaay too many other things to read, I think I'm going to buy the sequel on Kindle for bedtime reading. So that's a pretty good endorsement! I hardly ever have or take the time to read further books in a series beyond the first these days, what with the demands of work in general and the fantasy class in specific. Students tend to get annoyed when I assign sequels, and I don't really blame them.