John Flanagan, Duel at Arulen (The Royal Ranger #3), Random House Australia, December 2018, 336 pp., RRP $18.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780143785927
Maddie will have to use all her Ranger skills if her parents are to be brought to safety. Her mother, Princess Cassandra and grandfather King Duncan are being held captive in the south tower of Castle Araluen. Traitor and commander of the rebellious Red Fox Clan, Lord Dimon wants to overthrow the Royal family to ensure his place as future king.
Meanwhile Maddie’s father, Sir Horace and his righthand man, Ranger Commandant Gilan, are trapped in an ancient fort surrounded by the members of the Red Fox Clan who are intent on keeping them captive, at least until Lord Dimon can take charge of Castle Araluen. With only a very small contingent of his men at his side, Sir Horace urgently needs an escape plan.
This is another great quest by John Flanagan that will keep readers engrossed in the adventures from start to finish. Flanagan’s characters are continually faced with situations that challenge their moral ethos as well as testing relationships. Maddie is resilient and resourceful and, while her parents have wisely enabled the opportunity for her to develop her skills as a Ranger, there are certain responsibilities Maddie must fulfil as a princess. There must be a balance.
John Flanagan is a great storyteller and an expert at keeping the reader in suspense throughout the journey of his characters. There are clues – not necessarily easily or readily noticed – but it is always a dash to the next chapter to find out what will happen next.
In Duel at Araluen, Flanagan cleverly weaves the two distinct but related stories, juxtaposing them in alternate chapters. It’s a little like a news bulletin – the reader is engrossed in the situation at Castle Arulean, then the next chapter provides an update on the dilemma facing Horace – gaining pace until the story comes to a masterful conclusion.
Of all Flanagan’s books I have read, Ranger’s Apprentice: The Royal Ranger Book Three – Duel at Araluen is indeed my favourite. I felt engaged, curious and in tantalizing suspense right to the very end. Of course, I have developed a familiarity with the characters – Maddie and her quest to become a Ranger; the problems of an aging King Duncan; and the complexities of the numerous clans that populate this landscape. I admire those with good intent and scowl (inwardly) at those whose morality is questionable.
And, once again, I will be looking forward to the next book in the The Ranger’s Apprentice: The Royal Ranger series by John Flanagan.
Reviewed by Jennifer Mors