Author John Flanagan is a master world-builder. Across his many series – Royal Ranger, The Brotherband Chronicles, and The Rangers Apprentice – he has developed an intricate landscape, seemingly set in medieval times, but completely imagined. The mythical world of this story is based on real history – Celtica is based on Wales, and Gallica is based on France – including language and customs from the chivalric age around the year 1300.
The Missing Prince is Book Four in the series Rangers Apprentice: The Royal Ranger. In this series, our young heroine Maddie has been apprenticed to legendary Ranger, Will. The Ranger’s are a mysterious band of highly-skilled, royally-appointed guardians and protectors. Maddie is of royal descent and will eventually rule her country, but for now, there is an advantage to her learning the ways of the world, disguised as a Ranger’s Apprentice. Will feels the pressure of keeping his apprentice safe, while still allowing her to fulfil her desire to be a useful and successful Ranger.
Will and Maddie are charged with a high-risk mission by King Duncan (Maddie’s father) which entails leaving the familiar surrounds of Celtica. The king of neighbouring Gallica has called for assistance to rescue his son who is being held captive by an evil baron. Though King Duncan has misgivings about using his Rangers as mercenaries he acknowledges that to do nothing would invite strife for his neighbour, and though King Philippe is not an entirely agreeable person, his reign is preferable to the reign of the evil baron.
Will and Maddie set out to rescue the prince disguised as jongleurs, travelling entertainers who traditionally travel between towns and countries. To be believable they must polish up some existing skills and practice some new ones. There is humour and risk associated with these pursuits, as Maddie is an expert knife-thrower and learns juggling, while Will concentrates on being a passable musician.
The rescue is a daring mission and Maddie must have nerves of steel to play her part. There is the danger of discovery – spies will be treated very harshly in the baron’s court. Can they safely extract the prince and return him to his court? Will the mission be successful? There is a resolution of sorts, but this book ends on a cliff-hanger that will leave the reader wanting to read more.
Though the author draws on his interest in history and knowledge of warfare to build the world where this story occurs, it is not a slow stolid history lesson. Rather the history helps us to understand the characters’ motivations and missions, and it doesn’t get in the way of the grand adventure and nail-biting tension.
John Flanagan has said that part of his motivation for writing this series was to create a story his son would be interested in reading and to demonstrate that there is an advantage to being agile, quick and quite short. This theme is current throughout this book and speaks to the diversity of the characters in The Missing Prince.
Recommended for independent readers 9+