Book Review: Duel at Araluen by John Flanagan

July 22, 2019 Book Reviews 2

Book Review: Duel at Araluen by John Flanagan

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Duel at Araluen by John Flanagan
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Middle Grade
Published by Philomel Books on May 28, 2019
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Scorpion Mountain, The Tournament at Gorlan, The Ghostfaces, "The Beast From Another Time", The Caldera, The Red Fox Clan

Third in The Royal Ranger series (and fourteenth in the overall Ranger’s Apprentice series) for middle-grade readers and revolving around Princess Madelyn who is apprenticing as Maddie, a Ranger. The Skandians from the Brotherband Chronicles also appear.

My Take

Duel at Araluen continues on from where The Red Fox Clan, 2, left off.

I did enjoy the conclusion of the events that started in book 2. I do wish, however, that Flanagan had made the action more exciting. It was rather ho-hum. I don’t know if it was because the action was so spread out or if the fewer pages prevented Flanagan from digging in. I know I would have liked more of a sense of the suffering Horace, Cassandra, and Maddie were going through. Worries about each other, difficulties in penetrating their siege forces, a lack of food, the fear…

Nor did we get much interaction with the characters with Flanagan barely touching on any of the minor characters in any group. And this includes barely touching on the brotherbands!

Instead it was all just too easy and uninformative.

It’s always such a shock for one’s parents when they discover just how good you are. Maddie shocks the Skandians as well with her skills. It helps that Flanagan uses third-person global subjective point-of-view, as it allows us to peek in on everyone and hear their thoughts, their plans, and “participate” in their scenes without requiring Maddie’s presence.

I also appreciate Maddie’s practicality. She takes pride in her skills but is humble enough to know when to step back. A good point to discuss with your kids, lol.

Flanagan is always good for the moral lessons, including why a Ranger should not accept free gifts and why Cassandra is so beloved — just the opposite of Vikor Trask. Oy. There’s a touch on bullying here, making this a trifecta of discussion points.

I do enjoy the tactics and strategy that each group — Cassandra in the tower at the castle, Horace and Gilan at the hill fort, Dimon who has taken the castle, and Maddie with the Skandians — plan out and employ, making it personal, albeit too easy.

And everyone learns that Maddie is an apprentice Ranger.

The Story

With her family trapped in two separate camps, Maddie has her work cut out for her. Neither her father nor her mother will escape the Red Fox Clan sieges without her help.

Even Maddie will need help, and lucky for her, the Heron brotherband and their friends are eager to leap into the fray.

But will they be able to help her father break out…? Will they reach Castle Araluen before the traitor kills her mother?

The Characters

Princess Madelyn is also Ranger’s apprentice Maddie in her fourth year. Bumper is her psychic, practical-joke-loving Ranger horse. Ingrid is Princess Madelyn’s maid, although she really takes to the tasks of quartermaster while they’re under siege.

Princess Cassandra, a.k.a., Evanlyn, is her father’s heir, the ailing King Duncan “Bandylegs”. Sir Horace is Cassandra’s husband, the commander of the army with expertise as a strategist and tactician, and the paramount knight of the realm. Stamper is Sir Horace’s battlehorse.

Sergeant Merlon is in charge of the palace guards who include Proctor as a cook, the archers — the senior Thomas, the young Dermott, and SimonJeremy, and Jerrod. Maikeru, a Nihon-Jan master swordsman and Cassandra’s instructor, held Dimon and his men at bay in The Red Fox Clan. He didn’t survive. Uldred is the head librarian who helped Maddie. Timothy is one of Cassandra’s senior retainers in charge of the dining room.

Castle Araluen is the primary seat of government while Castle Redmont is home for the retired Halt and his Lady Pauline and near Will Treaty’s home. Baron Hexel is in charge in the northwest.

The hill fort near Harnel Village is…
…where Horace, Gilan, and his men are trapped. Sergeant Nilson is one of Horace’s men.

The Rangers is…
…an elite special forces unit with Ranger Gilan as the commandant, having taken over from Halt. Blaze is Gilan’s Ranger horse. Other Rangers include the barely there Will Treaty (Ranger’s Apprentice) who is mentoring Maddie. Sable is Will’s border shepherd.

The Skandians are…
…allies of Duncan and Cassandra (with their own spin-off series, the Brotherband Chronicles) and led by Oberjarl Erak.

Hal Mikkelson, young but an experienced shipwright, is the skirl of the Heron and his crew includes his best friend and first mate, Stig; Ingvar, who is a huge and strong warrior with bad eyesight; Thorn; Edvin who is their healer and cook; Jesper is a bit too jokey; Lydia normally watches Ingvar’s back but she stayed in Skandia this trip; Stefan; and, the twins, Ulf and Wulf.

Wolfbiter, the assigned duty ship, is damaged and captained by Jern. Sten Engleson is his first mate with Lars and Blorst Knucklewhite among the eighteen crewmen.

The Red Fox Clan is…
…a subversive organization that wants to rollback Cassandra’s grandfather’s decree that the oldest child, regardless of sex, inherits the throne. Sir Dimon, a distant relative of Cassandra’s, infiltrated and rose to become their leader even as he acted as the commander of the Palace Guard. Ronald is an engineer.

The Sonderland mercenaries are…
…notorious and allied with the Red Fox Clan. Their leader is a cowardly clueless fighter, Vikor Trask. Ruka Bel is a young officer and good tactician.

The Cover and Title

The cover is the end with Maddie in her Ranger’s cloak and leather pants and shirt, concentrating on her target, bow ready and arrow cocked. The long-haired Princess Cassandra, her mother, is in the background, whirling in the two-storied room with its arched windows on both floors, her katana in hand, in a duel for her life. The double series information is at the very top. The overall series is in an embossed and antiqued silver, fading into the roof while the information for this particular series is much tinier beneath it in an embossed copper that doesn’t fade quite as badly. The title is an embossed hammered silver just above Maddie’s knees with an info blurb in white below the title. The author’s name is in a hammered gold below that.

The title is the final Duel at Araluen between Cassandra and Dimon.

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