Book Review: John Flanagan’s The Royal Ranger

Posted December 10, 2013 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 Royal Ranger

The Royal Ranger


John Flanagan

action & adventure, fantasy in Hardcover edition on November 5, 2013 and has 464 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon., Barnes & NobleKobo.

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, Slaves of Socorro, Scorpion Mountain, The Tournament at Gorlan, The Ghostfaces, "The Beast From Another Time", The Caldera

Twelfth in the Ranger’s Apprentice fantasy series for children. I suspect it’s an introduction for either a continuation of this series or a new one altogether featuring the new apprentice.

My Take

This particular story had a more childlike and detached feel to it than the others. It’s nothing I can put my finger on, but it won’t be my favorite, although that’s partly the fault of one of the deaths in this story. The new apprentice’s feelings about the Stealer don’t ring true either. It felt tacked on.

It starts with a prologue-ish feel and moves into a reminder of Will’s early start in the Rangers as he takes on his new apprentice. It’s teen rebellion and angst that kicks this off, and I like Flanagan’s use of the everyday duties of a Ranger to help his new apprentice understand what’s important in life, what’s important to the least of the people of Araluen. It’s everything a boy would be expected to learn: how “to command, make decisions, judge a situation and come up with the right answer at the right time”. The training required in using a bow, throwing a knife, and bonding with a Ranger-trained horse, Bumper.

The latest incarnation of Tug is here as well — with his cheeky personality! — along with a short visit by Will with the original Tug in his retirement as Bellerophon.

Parts of this don’t ring quite true; I can’t believe the apprentice would be this obtuse at the start. And too easily cowed. Hmmm, nor does this apprentice drink coffee…doesn’t bode well.

The Story

I’m using the book description as I can’t figure out how to not give the secrets away.

After a senseless tragedy destroys his life, Will is obsessed with punishing those responsible — even if it means leaving the Ranger Corps. His worried friends must find a way to stop him taking such a dark path.

It is Halt who suggests the solution: Will must take an apprentice. The candidate Halt has in mind surprises everyone — and it’s a request Will cannot refuse.

Training a rebellious, unwilling apprentice is hard enough. But when a routine mission uncovers a shocking web of crime, Will must decide where his priorities lie: finishing his quest for revenge or saving innocent lives?

The Characters

Will Treaty has been a Ranger for some years, and his early reputation has only increased. He’s still riding Tug, albeit a younger incarnation of the original. Sable is Will’s current dog.

Ranger Halt and Lady Pauline are wed, retired, and living at Castle Redmont. Crowley died three years ago with a smile on his face, and Gilan is the new Corps Commandant. Jenny still runs her restaurant, the Heaped Platter, in Redmont. Young Bob runs the Ranger stable that trains their horses and cares for those who have retired. Liam is a Ranger over in Trelleth; Acorn is his horse.

King Duncan is still alive, but Princess Cassandra is running the kingdom with her husband’s, Sir Horace Altman‘s, support. Princess Madelyn is their young daughter; Rose-Jean is her maid. Sundancer is Maddie’s beautiful Arridan gelding that she won’t get to keep. Gordon and Len are the easygoing guards.

Lucy is the daughter of Mistress Buttersby, Wensley’s seamstress, and works at Jenny’s restaurant; Gordon is a bit of a rogue; and, Martin are young people at Castle Redmont.

Arnold Clum and his wife, Aggie, of Split Oak farm have a problem and help the new ranger apprentice as well.

Up Trelleth way
The unhelpful Wendell Gatt found the body. Peter Williscroft, Carrie Clover, and Maurice Spoker are on a list. Tim Stoker, Rob, Julia, and others should have been. Rob Danvers is the tavern and innkeeper in Danvers Crossing. The children in Danvers Crossing include Clem and Simon. In Esseldon, David, Eve, and Joscelyn are some of the children. Jerome is their innkeeper, Emma is the chef, and Ted is the kitchen hand. In Willow Vale, Fernald Creasy runs the Tubby Duck and gets the hard treatment. Violet is the child stolen.

Jory Ruhl is the leader of the gang responsible for Alyss.

Members of the child-stealing ring
The Storyman, a.k.a., Victor; the Stealer in the Night; Harold; Benito; Donald and Thomas hold down the camp; Anselmo; and, Anders are a mix of thieves and sailors.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a lovely mysterious greenish blue mist in the woods under an embossed and riveted blackish grey arch which features the series name. The figures are garbed in Ranger cloaks: the apprentice kneeling and about to sling a stone while the grizzled elder is preparing to let off an arrow. If it’s what I suspect, it’s also a metaphor for one’s “retirement” and another’s emergence as the next focus.

The title sums it up, for it’s The Royal Ranger who is the focus here.