A Plumfield Kids Book Review by Greta Masarik, age 13
I love John Flanagan’s previous books, The Ranger’s Apprentice Series, and its companion series, The Early Years, and The Brotherband Chronicles. For the most part, I found these books to be fun and interesting. The amount of research he put into these books makes them feel realistic, from the English long-bow to the Viking dragon ship. I feel differently about The Royal Ranger books, however. They are not even close to as good as most of Flanagan’s other books.
Sadly, I will have to spoil some of The Ranger’s Apprentice Series and The Brotherband Chronicles in this review. They are all set in the same world, and the timeline and characters overlap.
The Royal Ranger takes place about twenty years after book 11 of The Ranger’s Apprentice, The Lost Stories. The main character is 15-year-old Princess Madelyn (Maddie). She is the daughter of Princess Cassandra and Sir Horace. At this point, King Duncan seems to be dying and has surrendered most of his responsibilities to Cassandra. Madelyn is her mother all over again, which, naturally, drives Cassandra crazy. Madelyn strongly dislikes the constraints of castle life while loving some of the comforts. Because she is in line for the throne, Madelyn is spoiled and used to getting her way.
I felt like Flanagan was getting tired when he wrote the Royal Ranger books and some of the later Ranger’s Apprentice and Brotherband books. Not only are they uneven, but they are also inaccurate.
I also don’t like Maddie. I think that Maddie is just too perfect. For all but the first half of A New Beginning, she is just about perfect at every skill. This is one reason I do not love Will Treaty from The Ranger’s Apprentice as much as I love Hal from Brotherband. Will always was the best at everything–or at least it feels that way–while Hal is known for forgetting small but important details. I also think that Maddie, the heir to Araluen’s throne, and a ranger, doesn’t make any sense. Moreover, there are good reasons why there aren’t any female rangers.
Book One: A New Beginning
In this book, we discover that Alice (Will Treaty’s wife) died eighteen months before the story opens. She was killed in a fire that a group of bandits started. We also find out that the main character of The Ranger’s Apprentice, Will Treaty, has hunted down most of the bandits in that gang and turned them in, which is not because he is supposed to; it’s just revenge. That is definitely not the Will we know, and that is the point. I think this is a poor way to set up a story.
Then we make a transition to Castle Araluen. We meet Maddie right at the beginning of the chapter, and we soon find out that she is defiant and doing something she shouldn’t. Then, in the next chapter, we pick up yet another storyline. The Ranger Corp Commandant, Gilan, has summoned Halt (Will’s former mentor) and his wife, Pauline. The former commandant, Crowley, has died, and Gilan has taken his place. Gilan, Halt, Pauline, Cassandra, and Horace meet to discuss Will and his search for revenge. They finally agree that Will needs an apprentice, and it has to be someone he loves. They decide, with some deliberation, that Maddie is a good choice. She is the first female ranger, which, as I said above, makes no sense.
One thing happens in this book that you might want to know. In chapter 23, Maddie becomes popular among the village teenagers. Three of them invite Maddie to a party. It is when Will visits his former mentor, Halt, and Halt’s wife, Pauline. The three teens have stolen food and wine, and Maddie thinks this is the case but isn’t quite sure. They have a great time at the party, and all three get drunk. Why Flanagan had to include this, I am not sure.
At the beginning of Maddie’s training, she is defiant, rude, and spoiled. Soon what everyone hoped happened, both for Will and Maddie. Maddie and Will are soon sent on Maddie’s first mission. There was a ranger who was found dead. It soon becomes clear he was murdered. As Maddie and Will run their investigation, they find it more complicated than they had expected.
Books two and Three: The Red Fox Clan and Duel at Araluen
The Red Fox Clan is the first half of one story, and its sequel, Duel at Araluen, tells the other half. These are my favorite books in the Royal Ranger series. I think this story could be told in one slightly longer book, but overall, they were the most interesting of the five.
In this story, we have what I object to in most main characters: Maddie is the only one who can get everyone out of a dire situation. I like when other characters support the main character. The plot of this story is that there is a group of malcontents called the Red Fox Clan. They strongly disagree with the female line of succession. They are led by Maddie’s closest–though very distant–male relation. We don’t know his name until the end, but to be completely honest, I had no trouble figuring out who he was, though clearly, it was supposed to be a surprise.
These two books are my least favorite of the five, especially Escape from Falaise. There is no question that these two books could have been one. After Duel at Araluen, my favorite, I had high expectations for these two. I was very disappointed.
In this two-parter, Maddie and Will are on a mission to rescue the prince of a different kingdom, Gallica. Posing as entertainers, they make their way to where the prince is held.
Naturally, the prince’s captor thwarts them in their rescue attempt. The process is made more complicated by the unstable political environment of Gallica. All the nobility are constantly betraying one another and struggling for the throne, making it hard to trust anyone. And, as always, they realize their mission is more complicated than they suspected.
I found this to be a very predictable story. The name of book five, Escape from Falaise, made it clear to me exactly what was about to happen.