Now that Carrie Mouse is out, I'm going to finish up my Ranger's Apprentice series review. And now that Duel at Araluen fiiiiiiiiiiinally has a US release date that isn't until the end of May even though it just came out in Australia. I can't wait for the next book. Like, there was such a cliffhanger at the end of Red Fox Clan and I need the next book!
The books I'm reviewing today are basically the spinoff series. (Brotherband is more of a companion series with crossovers with Ranger's Apprentice.) There's The Early Years about when Halt and Crowley kick Morgarath out of Araluen, and Royal Ranger which is about the next generation. If you haven't read the series up to book 11 and don't want to know who Will and Horace marry, don't read any further, because the premise of Royal Ranger depends largely on the heritage of the new next generation character...and unfortunately on what happens to a certain main character's wife. It's pretty important to the plot. But first, The Early Years.
This story picks up right after The Hibernian—the story from The Lost Stories where Halt and Crowley met. The king is at Gorlan under Morgarath's "protection" which we all know means he's a prisoner, Prince Duncan is supposedly raiding Araluen villages, and the Ranger Corp is scattered, the real Rangers replaced with severely incompetent untrained followers of Morgarath.
Halt and Crowley have to round up all the good Rangers, find out what's really going on with Duncan and save Araluen. And be hilarious while they're at it. Seriously, Crowley's first decision as Ranger Commandant is absolutely the best. Because Halt hates music and doesn't understand poetic license, so Crowley has to make an executive decision on song lyrics. I was laughing so hard.
It's one of those books that you're like, "This is all backstory, I know what's going to happen," but you get to the end and you really enjoyed it anyway. Because the characters are awesome and you want to know how they take care of Morgarath and how Duncan becomes king and everything. And seeing Halt meet Pauline. It's so awesome. And yet it takes him 20 years to propose! *shrugs* It's because he's afraid of her. I loved this book.
They may have gotten Morgarath to retreat out of Araluen and the Ranger Corp may be reestablished, albeit small, but the battle that took the life of Will's father hasn't taken place yet, so there's more.
Morgarath is learning to control the Wargals, and he's planning to attack Araluen. Duncan's wife is pregnant with Cassandra and we know since Cassandra's mother isn't in the picture for the main series, chances are she'll die. And you know that this is the time when Halt meets Will's parents and sees them both die, so he has to take baby Will to Redmont. It doesn't rehash that battle since Halt already told all about it in The Lost Stories, so I guess that's good. But we do get to see Halt asking Pauline what to do with Will, his tiny pie thief son. ;) We also get to see twelve-year-old Gilan in this book. :) I love baby Gilan. And there was Crowley's total ignorance about infants. It was a good book. I want more early years, but from what I can tell, there probably won't be.
Originally it was just The Royal Ranger, but then John Flanagan decided he had more stories to tell about Maddie.
It's been about fifteen years since the last story in The Lost Stories. Will's all depressed and in serious danger of getting himself kicked out of the Ranger Corp because of Alyss's death. He's ignoring his commandant and bent on revenge. And also not cleaning his cabin or making his bed. All through the book, he reminded me of Last Jedi Luke. Only unlike Luke, we get old Will back at the end of the book and it's okay again, whereas Luke died. I'm still not over that.
Then there's Maddie, Horace and Cassandra's teenage daughter who sneaks out of the castle at night to go hunting. She's spoiled and not a very obedient girl. And Cassandra's at the end of her rope with Maddie. Horace, well, Maddie has him wrapped around her little finger. Halt and Gilan are at the end of their rope with Will. So they have an intervention. They need Will to train Maddie as a Ranger to get her under control.
In a way, it's similar to The Ruins of Gorlan in that it goes back to the roots of Ranger training, but yet it's very different. A lot of people hate it because of Alyss, but I really liked it. I like Maddie, and I like, well, how Will is at the end. And I like the promise of more Ranger's Apprentice. One thing I really like about Maddie is how much of both her parents you can see in her while she's still her own person. I consider it good writing.
And by the way, Will Treaty, you can't get onto Henry Wheeler for the bad fake name of Henry Carrier and then go change your name to William Accord. XD Gotta love Will.
And here we come to the most recent (in the US) release that leaves you on a cliffhanger. I wouldn't say it's the best book in the series, and there's not a whole lot of Will and Halt, but I did enjoy it. Maddie's assessment at the beginning was good, and I love Gilan and Will needling Halt about his haircut.
Maddie has to go home to visit her parents for a month—because everyone's scared of Cassandra, so no matter what, Maddie is visiting her mother. Halt and Will are going to check out something with the Red Fox Clan, and Horace and Gilan are going off somewhere else to deal with other Red Fox Clan rumors. And Maddie has to stay home with her mother as everyone else is dealing with this group who thinks Araluen shouldn't have female heirs and wants to usurp the throne.
Most of the book isn't especially exciting, but it's very important setup. And, well, Maddie is bored with palace life, so she's exploring. Trying to find something interesting to do. And she does. She really does. Horace and Gilan have a storyline in this book. I enjoyed their storyline, but I didn't feel like it got as deep into it as it could have. I do have high hopes for Duel at Araluen though. Can't wait. It'll be especially interesting as it will feature the Heron brotherband. They showed up briefly in Red Fox Clan, but they'll be a bigger factor in the next book.
And then hopefully even more Royal Ranger books!
I just wish I didn't have to wait until the end of May!