Review: The Royal Ranger - John Flanagan
The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan
Series: Ranger's Apprentice #12
Genre: YA, adventure
Published on November 5, 2013
Published by Philomel
Read From: 11.18.13 - 11.22.13
Will Treaty has come a long way from the small boy with dreams of knighthood. Life had other plans for him, and as an apprentice Ranger under Halt, he grew into a legend - the finest Ranger the kingdom has ever known.
Yet Will is facing a tragic battle that has left him grim and alone. To add to his problems, the time has come to take on an apprentice of his own, and it's the last person he ever would have expected.
Fighting his personal demons, Will has to win the trust and respect of his difficult new companion - a task that at times seems almost impossible.
Cover Blurb: Yes or No? For some reason, it isn't my favorite Ranger's Apprentice cover. The character impersonators don't bother me, because their faces are covered, but it just isn't my favorite. I'm not entirely sure why; it just isn't.
Characters: Maddie, Will's apprentice and pretty much the protagonist of this novel, wasn't as bad as I was expecting her to be. I never did become a fan of her, but I didn't really dislike her, either - not like I thought I would. She starts off rather bratty and willful and arrogant, and definitely didn't seem to have the makings of a Ranger. But as the book went on, she got a little better, and I started to feel okay towards her. Again, I never did become a fan, but at least she didn't have the Attitude and at least she does seem to learn a lesson. As for the other characters . . . . I wasn't happy to see my beloved cast from the previous books again. Does that surprise you? Well, here's why I wasn't happy: I hate seeing characters I've known since they were kids grow up to be over protective, nit-picky parents, which is exactly what Evelyn/Cassandra and Horace turn into in The Royal Ranger. It's like they both had a personality re-write. Will has grown a beard (ugh) and is all emotionally broken because Alyss is dead. Halt is ancient and retired, and while I came to be okay with him and Pauline marrying (in general, I never saw Halt as the marrying type), I didn't really like seeing him in the role of a married man in this. Gilan is about the only one who hasn't changed, thank goodness, so I latched onto him like a limpet as these grown-up, nit-picky, and depressing versions of my favorite characters strolled around in the story. That said, I also got used to it. That doesn't mean I was happy about it, but I did become resigned and eventually was able to enjoy the book despite the transformation the characters took. The villain, Ruhl, wasn't very threatening. While thugs are definitely no fun to meet in real life, they tend to be my least favorite sort of villain in novels because they're so . . . well, so thuggish. I like calculating, cool-tempered, plain evil villains, thank you very much, and Ruhl didn't fit the bill.
The Romance: There isn't any!
Plot: When Alyss dies in a fire, Will Treaty is emotionally destroyed. He's cast aside his usual Ranger duties in order to track down the man responsible for Alyss's death. Will's friends are concerned that if he isn't turned from his quest for revenge, it will destroy him. Princess Maddie is proving to be difficult for her parents Crown Princess Cassandra and Sir Horace. Bored stiff with princessly duties, Maddie has taken to sneaking off on her own into the woods to go hunting, despite her parents' warning that it's dangerous for a girl on her own - especially the heiress to the throne. But Maddie is willful and her parents are at their wits' end. In an attempt to hopefully teach Maddie a lesson in discipline and maturity, they send her to Will to train as a Ranger. Maybe Maddie will prove to be the distraction Will needs. So for a good half of this book, nothing happens. Maddie is treated to a cold dose of reality when she discovers that her being a princess does not entitle her to any special treatment as a Ranger's apprentice, and we Readers sit through her training sessions, which suspiciously begins to feel like The Ruins of Gorlan - only dull. In Book #1, a Ranger's training was new to us Readers. But by Book #12, we're well aware of what Ranger's undergo to become Rangers, and we really don't feel like reading about it again - especially with a girl who we don't especially like. We know about archery and fitness training and saxe knives, and we know what happens when a person tries to ride a Ranger pony without the password (yes, that's played out again, but isn't as funny as when it happened to Will). Maddie experiences a moment of absolute idiocy when she gets drunk on wine with a bunch of teens from the village, and I don't know if that was supposed to be a "cleverly" disguised underage-drinking message or just a way to get Maddie to like coffee. Either way, it didn't serve much of a purpose, other than to make Maddie more pathetic than she initially comes across. This book could have very easily been parred down by several hundred pages. The Ranger training was unnecessary.
Believability: As always, I do applaud the Author's attention to battle tactics, skirmishes, and the like. I have always appreciated how he has his female characters play realistic roles in battles. While this is a made-up world, some of the Author's terms do lessen the medieval feel. The one that probably irked me the most was "restaurant," which doesn't really fit into a medieval setting. He finally transitions to "eating house," which worked so much better.
Writing Style: Third person, past tense. There are too many little technical details; it's easy to glaze over during these moments. The Author does a lot of over-describing, when it isn't needed. His fetish for mentioning every single time someone drinks coffee continues, and yes, it still drives me up a wall - and it isn't because I'm not a coffee-drinker. If they were drinking tea and it was mentioned this much, it would drive me up a wall. Once again, though, once the Author started writing skirmish scenes, the overall style improved.
Conclusion: This is when I started to genuinely like The Royal Ranger. Maddie finally proved her usefulness, Will finally gets to actively pursue his quest for revenge (because, quite frankly, I supported his quest), and the plot picks up considerably. Ruhl will never be a favorite villain - not even close, - but I did really enjoy the hunt and the showdown. It was fast-paced, it was intense, and it had me fearful for certain characters' lives. The Author has always seemed to display a distaste for killing off main characters, but in The Royal Ranger, I had to wonder if maybe he would . . . . I wasn't very excited when I found out about a 12th Ranger's Apprentice book. This series, while a favorite, had carried on for too long the way it was, in my opinion. And when I found out that Will's apprentice would be a "difficult female," I was prepared for a really horrid story. So I was pleasantly surprised when I didn't end up hating Maddie (still not a fan, though; I tolerate her), and the book went from being okay to enjoyable with the ending. I am curious if maybe Maddie will make an appearance in The Brotherband Chronicles.
Recommended Audience: Girl-and-boy read, twelve-and-up. Great for fans of the series (unless you only liked Books 1-4), and like-minded books.
Others in the Ranger's Apprentice Series:
1)The Ruins of Gorlan
2)The Burning Bridge
3)The Icebound Land
4)The Battle for Skandia
5)The Sorcerer of the North
6)The Siege of Macindaw
8)The Kings of Clonmel
10)The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
11)The Lost Stories
12)The Royal Ranger