John Flanagan, The Missing Prince (Ranger’s Apprentice – The Royal Ranger, #4), Penguin Random House Australia, September 2020, 294 pp., RRP $18.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760890452
Ranger Will and his apprentice Maddie are on a secret mission to rescue the son of King Philippe of Gallica who is being held hostage by the evil Baron Lassigny in the Chateau des Falaises. While King Philippe is not a close ally of Maddie’s father King Duncan, it is decided that it would be strategically wise to keep King Philippe on side by rescuing his son.
As they must be well disguised to infiltrate the Chateau, Will decides the best way to allay suspicion will be to pose as entertainers. So, while Will polishes up his musical repertoire, Maddie develops awe inspiring knife throwing and juggling skills to enable them to travel across the lands under the guise of a father and daughter entertainment troupe. But the route to the Chateau is long and the journey through Gallica fraught with danger and uncertainty.
The Missing Prince, book four in the Royal Ranger series is a little different to the previous books in this series and, while it has the trademark qualities of John Flanagan’s adventures, in this quest, there is time for gentleness and reflection. The writing style reflects the slow pace of this cautious and dangerous journey providing Flanagan with the opportunity to present our two heroes as more rounded characters than his usual fast paced storyline permits. There are new insights into the lives and personalities of Maddie and Will that are well worth knowing.
Flanagan’s characters rely on their ingenuity to assess complex situations for the success of their missions. Maddie is resilient and resourceful, keen to show she can be a masterful Ranger. Will, her kind and gentle tutor, is focused on the training of his young apprentice understanding her life, and the lives of others, will depend on her strength and ability.
John Flanagan is a great storyteller. He presents only as many clues as are needed at each particular junction. He keeps us guessing — can they survive this time? In book four, some of the tension is created in a physical sense. The final pages are well in sight and the mission is far from over. I found myself asking, “how can this quest possibly be resolved in so little ‘book time’?”
Unlike Flanagan’s previous book in this series, Duel at Araluen, this is a more relaxed read and I enjoyed becoming more connected with apprentice, Maddie and her champion Ranger, Will. And while I always look forward to the next book in any series by John Flanagan, book five in The Royal Ranger series just can’t get published fast enough for my curiosity.
Reviewed by Jennifer Mors