The Missing Prince by John Flanagan
Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger, bk. 4. Random House
Australia, 2020. 295pp. ISBN: 9781760890452.
(Ages 10+) Highly recommended. In The Missing Prince John Flanagan has written another very satisfying and thrilling adventure which ends on a knife edge. This is the fourth in The Royal Ranger series in which Rangers, Will and Maddie, are sent on a recovery mission by King Duncan of Araluen. The two have to travel into the Gallic kingdom and find King Philippe's son Giles, who is being held against his will by power hungry Baron Lassigny in Chateau des Falaises. Rangers are trained to have superior skills and 'use their brains first to avoid fighting' and these two are no exception. Will is the older mentor and teenage Maddie is second in line to the Araluen throne. They disguise themselves as father and daughter entertainers. Will is a jongleur, or minstrel, and Maddie becomes deft at knife throwing and juggling. On their journey they successfully keep their real identity secret and humorously thwart ham-fisted attempts to follow them and rob them by a bunch of thieves called the Black Vultures. Things turn very serious and nail-biting once they arrive at the Baron's Chateau and come under his scrutiny. Maddie must do the tricky work of locating Giles in the Chateau and then they must try and rescue him.
Flanagan writes for young people but never talks down to his audience. Hence this book can even be enjoyed by adults who want an adventure set in imaginary medieval-like times. He uses interesting descriptions and we learn about castles, weaponry and fighting tactics. Flanagan conjures up very likeable characters. Maddie is a welcome brave and determined female character who can't sing for peanuts. Will is a little more complex with a simmering dislike of bullies and arrogance that he only just keeps under control. Some of their foe suffer quite brutal wounds but they all deserve it! It is possible to read this book without having read the three prior to it, however they are definitely worth reading to see the growth of Maddie in her role as Royal Ranger. The Missing Prince continues in volume 5.