Hello, I’m a unicorn. The Ranger’s Apprentice is one of my all time favorite book series, so you can imagine my excitement when I found out that there was a twelfth that came out recently. I got even more excited when I found out that there was going to be a girl Ranger, because that was the one thing I wished was introduced in the earlier books. I’ll do my best not to spoil this or the previous eleven books (especially since my sister is still reading them at the time of this post), but here is what I liked and didn’t like about the “last book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series.” I put this in quotes because the author said that the tenth book was going to be the last, then the Lost Stories came out and that was supposed to be the last, so I wouldn’t be shocked by a thirteenth book.
So, here’s the basic, spoiler free-ish plot: After the tragic death of someone very close to a Ranger named Will Treaty, he becomes obsessed with finding the person’s killer, even shirking his other duties as an elite spy for the kingdom of Araluen. In order to bring him out of his funk, his friends have him take on the princess of Araluen, Maddie, as an apprentice.
The Good: This book takes place fifteen years after the last, and it shows. Will, who was an unerring optimist in the other books, has become a lot more like his teacher, Halt. In the other books, Halt was the 2012 Master Splinter. He constantly trolled and teased his adopted son, but Will didn’t quite know what to make of him at first because Halt is the epitome of a deadpan snarker. In the first book, he literally only smiled once, and if it sounds like I’m going on a tangent, it’s because I am. Halt is my favorite character in the series and one of my all time favorite book characters. I could go on all day about how awesome he is, but it’s better just to see for yourself. Back to the matter at hand: Will, being more stoic and brooding, now has the tables turned , and he relishes in it, especially at the expense of his spoiled apprentice. The dialogue and banter between the characters is as funny as in the previous books and the chemistry really makes you feel like these people have known each other forever. For longtime fans, it feels like you’re greeting old friends as well. Even the brand new character feels familiar. I really like Maddie as an apprentice for Will. She’s not some Mary Sue who is perfect at everything Will throws at her. She’s spoiled, she makes mistakes, breaks the rules, gets scared, and talks back like every other teenager on earth, but her flaws don’t make her insufferable. She’s a fun character and I hope this isn’t the last I see of her.
The Parts That I Didn’t Like as Much: I hesitate to say that anything is bad in this, but there are a few parts I feel could have been improved. First of all, not enough Halt! I know this is nit-picky and just a meaningless gripe on my part, but Halt is my favorite character and since authors must obey their readership I DEMAND MORE HALT! Okay, enough joking and on to the more serious grievances. Out of all the books this one left the most loose ends after the climax. In the story, the villain kidnaps children who are from an abusive home to be sold as slaves. After the children are rescued by Will and Maddie, it cuts to a few months after the battle with the villain and the reader never finds out what happened to them. Were they sent back to their abusive parents? Did they become wards of the state? Were they later trained as Rangers? We never find out and that can be really distracting. The story, in general, is a lot smaller in scale than every other book. Usually the threat that the main characters need to thwart is a risk to the entire kingdom, or at least a fief. This is a group of heinous people, sure, and it gets personal later on, but the stakes are a lot less high. Also, while I didn’t mind brooding Will, some people might find the change in him pretty jarring, especially with the happy and satisfying ending of book eleven.
Overall, this is a must read for any Rangers fan and, while this is supposed to be the end, I think this book would make a great beginning to Maddie and Will’s adventures. Was this a satisfying ending to the series? Yes and no. It was satisfying in that it brings the books full circle, but Lost Stories did this even better. Like I said, I think that Royal Ranger makes a better beginning for Maddie’s adventures, and I want to see more of the darker world that was established in this book. I would be disappointed if this was the end, not because the book was bad, but because the book had some interesting ideas that I feel could be taken even further in later stories. For what it is though, this book is great, and I really hope John Flanagan decides to write more in the series. So what are you waiting for? Read it now.