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"You know the old saying: 'One Riot, One Ranger'."
—Commandant Crowley, Erak's Ransom.

In a medieval Europe much like ours but with all of the names changed, young orphan Will becomes apprenticed to the elite Ranger corps of England Araluen after being rejected by the knights' Battleschool due to his small stature. Rangers, their work shrouded in secrecy and camouflaging cloaks, resemble nothing so much as a cross between Robin Hood and the CIA, and Will discovers that being a Ranger is not only as exciting and heroic as being a soldier, it is also something he excels at.

Then he learns the Big Bad is about to invade his country, has sent killer animal monsters after his beloved mentor Halt, and would like to kill every single Ranger (and Ranger apprentice) while he's at it. Things go downhill for Will from there.

Rather than being about battles between good and evil, most of the books have the protagonists use not just martial prowess, but also stealth, cunning, and sometimes diplomacy to defeat their enemies. The author says he began writing the series to demonstrate to his then small young son that you don't have to be big and strong to be heroic. Later books have a fair amount of mystery mixed in with the action, and the settings for the adventures range from icy North to the scorching desert.

Books in the Series:

  • Ruins Of Gorlan
  • Burning Bridge
  • Icebound Land
  • Battle For Skandia
  • Sorcerer Of The North
  • Siege Of Macindaw
  • Eraks Ransom
  • Kings Of Clonmel
  • Halts Peril
  • Emperor Of Nihon Ja

There are an eleventh and twelfth book in the making. John Flanagan has announced that he plans to end the series there. Considering he said the same thing about the tenth book before, some fans hold onto hope that there will be more.

Tropes used in Ranger's Apprentice include:
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Keren to Alyss.
  • Action Girl: Evanlyn / Princess Cassandra, particularly in the Book Seven. Alyss also knows how to use a knife with ease. Diplomats have to fight too sometimes.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: the Picta and the Temujai, among others.
    • Although as of Halt's Peril it is implied that only the Picta warriors are really bad guys, and it is a major Kick the Dog moment when an innocent couple of Picta farmers are mercilessly slaughtered by the current Big Bad.
    • The Tualaghi in the Book Seven. They're nomads, like the allied Bedullin, but instead of traveling from oasis to oasis like the Bedullin, the Tualaghi travel from town to town, use most of their supplies and then just leave, leaving the townspeople with barely enough to scrape by.
  • Always Identical Twins: Halt and Ferris. Of course, the latter is the Evil Twin.
  • Annoying Arrows: averted - these arrows are plenty lethal. Played straight in the first book against the wild boar though.
  • The Archers: Rangers.
  • Artifact Title: sort of. There's a time skip in between the Book Four and Book Five, in which Will completes his training and becomes a full-fledged Ranger, complete with silver oakleaf medallion. However, Book Seven jumps back to shortly before Book Five, showing Will's last adventure as an Apprentice.
  • Automaton Horses: Averted. Ranger horses may be able to run for incredible amounts of time without rest (Justified in-universe), but it's pointed out as early as book one that even they need periods of recovery. In addition, Will's horse Tug isn't afraid to get into the fight if he sees his master in trouble, which is also shown as early as book one.
  • Badass Teacher: almost every mentor in the book, including Mr. Chubb, the cook.
  • The Berserkers: Skandians.
  • Big Fancy Castle: a few of them.
  • Bilingual Bonus: quite a few, actually.
    • Halt's frequently-assumed pseudonym, Arratay, is pronounced suspiciously close to arretez.
    • In the Lost Stories (a collection of short stories mostly focused on the events after the Book Ten), two Genovesans named Mordini and Serafino are sent to assassinate Cassandra. Their names are Italian for Devil and Seraph (a class of angel.)
  • Book Dumb: Horace, at times.
  • Boom! Headshot!: well, more like Thwack Headshot, since this is set long before the invention of modern firearms. And surprisingly enough, it's not a Ranger that makes the epic headshot in the Book Seven that took down the Tualaghi warlord. It was Evanlyn/Princess Cassandra with her sling.
  • Brick Joke: in the Book Three, Halt tells Horace the girls in short skirts they see in Gallica are couriers, reasoning that he's letting the boy keep his innocence a while longer. Horace calls him on it in the Book Eight.
  • Brought Down to Normal: in the Book Four, Will is still suffering the after effects of drug addiction and has lost his Ranger conditioning.
  • Building of Adventure: the Macindaw castle.
  • Cain and Abel: Halt and Ferris.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: a hopelessly complicated, mutual example with Will and Alyss at the end of Book Six.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: inverted by Baron Arald. He keeps telling jokes, and pretty good ones at that, but everyone takes him too seriously all the time to enjoy them.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Evanlyn's / Princess Cassandra's belt and necklace in the Book Seven.
  • Chekhov's Skill: in The Burning Bridge, Will and Horace are taught the two knife defense. Near the end, Horace uses the skill to win a duel against Morgarath.
  • Chekhov's Army: the Temujai, used as a throwaway name early in the first book come back in painful force in the Book Four.
  • Coming of Age Story: for Will. It does not stop the series from being for children, though, as there is no Audience Shift.
  • Cool Old Guy: Malcolm and, in later volumes, Halt.
  • Cult Colony: the camp of the Outcasts.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Baron Arald suffers from this on occasion, since his jokes often go over the heads of those he tells his jokes to. Played straight in the fact that he does this in the presence of Lady Pauline, who actually does get the jokes but choses not to laugh.
  • The Drunken Sailor: the majority of Skandians fit this trope.
  • Emotion Bomb: Morgarath and his creatures.
  • Everybody Is Single: in fact, nobody's even dating.
    • Not so as of the Book Seven and Eight, wherein Halt gets married, and Will seems well and truly set to hook up with Alyss.
    • And now, in the Book Ten, it seems Horace and Evanlyn are getting married.
    • In The Lost Stories, we see not only Horace and Cassandra/Evanlyn's wedding, but also Will and Alyss's
  • Evil Overlord: Morgarath.
  • Evil Twin: one of these pops up for Halt in the Book Eight, although with a bit of a subversion.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: a fallen one at that.
  • Fake King: interestingly subverted. When Halt dresses up as the king of Clonmel, he pretends to be Ferris, but it is Ferris that pretends to be rightful king - and that title belongs to Halt, which means that Halt pretends to be someone who pretends to be him... Oh, dear.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: in the Book Six, Sir Keren gets acid thrown in his face, and then falls through a tower window to the flagstones below. And here I was thinking these books were for kids.
    • Then you must not have been paying attention to the thousands of people who have died throughout the series.
    • The fake prophet from the Book Eight and Nine, Tennyson, gets hit with a box full of grenades, falls off a cliff and gets crushed/impaled by falling rocks.
    • The Kalkara in the Book One. The first gets stabbed by two lances, then gets thrown onto a bonfire and is instantly incinerated. The second gets shot with a flaming arrow, and burns alive.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Gang of Bullies: the group standing behind the transformation of Horace's character.
  • Genre Shift: The series begins in classic fantasy style - young orphaned hero has to fight against an evil sorcerer controlling an army of monsters. However, in later books there's not a shred of the fantastic to be seen, indeed one story deals with a plot about an old man using primitive science to fake magic. Strangely, it works.
  • Gentle Giant: Trobar, and, to a slighter degree, Horace.
  • The Good King: Duncan.
  • G-Rated Drug: warmweed. Seriously. It's very bad for you.
    • For those who don't get it. Warmweed is a marijuana-like substance that fills your body with the sensation of warmth. Since it's only known to grow in Skandia, where it's Winter pretty much all year round, it is very easy to get addicted to. Once it happens, you gradually lose sense of who you were, forget those closest to you, etc., until you become an Empty Shell.
  • Happily Married: Halt and lady Pauline.
  • Heel Face Turn: Erak, and with him most of the Skandians.
  • Heroic Wannabe: Will, at the beginning of his education.
  • Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: Will learns that this is a common view when he prepares to his travel as a bard.
  • Hypnotize the Princess: happens to Alyss in the Book Five and Book Six.
  • The Idealist: Horace, for quite a long time, and sometimes to a degree of an Idiot Hero.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: all the Rangers more or less, but especially will.
    • Possibly justified due to Ranger archery training, which could be considered a form of Charles Atlas Superpower. One of the many mantras of the Ranger Corps is "An archer practices until he gets it right. A Ranger practices until he never gets it wrong."
  • Improbable Weapon: the common kitchen wooden ladle is referred to as an unofficial staff of office for both Master Chubb and his apprentice, Jenny.
  • Improvised Weapon: Jenny takes down three robbers with a roasting pan, a rolling pin, several knives and a leg of lamb.
  • In the Hood: ("And then he drew back into the bushes and pulled his hood over his eyes, blending in so as to be invisible..." Every other damn chapter.)
  • Instant Waking Skills: the Rangers do this, but it is highly stressed that they aren't at full 'alertness' yet.
  • Invisibility Cloak: masking cloaks of the Rangers.
  • Istanbul Not Constantinople: Araluen = England, Gallica = France, Celtica = Wales, Hibernia = Ireland, Picta = Scotland, Teutlandt = Germany, Arrida = North Africa (likely Tripoli), Skandia = Scandinavia, = Nihon-Ja = Japan, Iberion = Spain, Toscana = Rome/Italy, the unnamed Temujai country, referred to as the Eastern Steppes = Mongolia (Genghis Khan's name was Temujin), Indus (briefly mentioned in Book Ten) probably = India, etc. A map appears in later books that is reminiscent of a early map of the Old World. These all really could really be seen just as Fantasy Counterpart Cultures.
  • Kick the Dog: literally. When John Buttle almost kills Shadow, we learn that he is an evil man.
  • Knight Errant: subverted by the adventures of Halt and Horace in Gallica.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Horace.
  • Lady and Knight: Horace and Cassandra.
  • Left Justified Fantasy Map: very much resembling medieval Europe, including Hordes From the East.
  • Love Epiphany: Alyss and Will. Followed by Love Confession.
  • Low Fantasy: with the exception of Black and White Morality.
  • Master Apprentice Chain: among the Rangers.
  • Medieval European Fantasy.
  • Mentor Archetype: Halt. He has some features of Eccentric Mentor and The Chooser of the One.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Will, Horace, and Alyss are introduced in this way at the beginning of the first volume.
  • Mismatched Eyes: on a dog no less.
  • Moral Dissonance: in the Book One, Halt tells Will "If you had lied [about stealing some cakes from the castle kitchens], you never would have become my apprentice." This despite Halt doing several worse things over the course of the series, such as having forged copies of several world leaders' personal seals, including that of his own king. What makes lying about stealing the cakes so bad? If Will had lied he would have been doing so to avoid taking responsibility for his actions, making him no better than a petty thief. Halt, meanwhile, had performed his deeds to better serve his country. Deceit isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can be if you're doing it for selfish reasons.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Will, Gilan, and to a lesser extent, Horace are all huge fans of coffee. Halt also loves coffee, but doesn't show it much, being The Stoic. With honey, no less.
  • No Ontological Inertia.
  • Odd Friendship: Horace and Will.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: the series actually uses this phrase to describe the kingdom's group of elite archers, spies, and tacticians. It's not exactly wrong, considering this happens several times during the series.
  • Only One: Halt and his apprentices are perhaps the only Rangers to have ever accomplished anything in the history of Araluen.
    • Debatably, the other Rangers may be just as accomplished, but their actions aren't exactly common knowledge, with a few exceptions. Though, it does seem that the main characters are always the ones to fix the most remarkable matters.
      • Considering the Rangers are basically ye olde secret agents, their accomplishments would mostly be under the radar anyway.
    • To be fair, it's not that other rangers are the only ones, it's just that Halt and Crowley are considered the best and those who Halt trains are going to be pretty damn good. Not to mention that Gilan has the advantage of being the son of Araluen's battlemaster and has been training since birth. Will on the other hand for the most part at the beginning got really lucky and eventually grew into his role because of his history placing him in positions where he is given important duties, not to mention that his accomplishments are watched by the whole kingdom. Other ranger's mentioned are shown to be good rangers, but better in a way than Will just because their actions aren't noticed.
  • Parental Substitute: Halt for Will.
  • Path of Inspiration: The Outsiders in the Book Eight.
  • Pet the Dog: again, literally - Will's acquaintance with Shadow begins when he heals her injuries.
  • The Power of Love: saved Alyss from being hypnotized by Keren and giving off all the group's secrets.
  • Power Trio: Halt, Will, and Horace form one of these in the later books. As of the Book Eight, this becomes official in-story.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Erak and his crew, as is the vogue for most Skandians.
  • Puppet King: Ferris.
  • Red Herring: the entire plot to The Burning Bridge.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Cassandra and Alyss.
  • Rescue Romance: Alyss and Will.
  • Rightful King Returns: subverted in the Book Eight, see relevant entry.
  • Running Gag: a minor one where everyone (except Alyss) calls Will's mandola (a stringed instrument similar to a lute) a lute.
  • Sapient Steed / Bond Creatures: Ranger horses can't speak (because they're horses), but it has been shown several times that they have human-level intelligence. Will's horse, Tug, in particular, has mastered the art of "saying something with a look".
    • Nope. This trope has aparently been grafted into cannon in the new book of short stories, where all ranger horses are clearly shown to be Deadpan Snarkers (although they just as clearly can only speak to their rider)
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: this is the entire point of the Rangers, though the author does try to make them as realistic as possible.
  • See the Invisible: one Ranger can usually see through the other's camouflage.
  • Shorter Means Smarter.
  • Shrouded in Myth: the Rangers, of course.
    • The foreword of the Book Eleven, The Lost Stories, does this literally, telling about a group of late-19th-century historians searching for clues about the existence of the fabled Ranger Corps.
  • Story Arc: (The series' arcs mostly last for about two books.)
  • Student and Master Team: Will and Halt, but also Alyss and lady Pauline.
  • Supporting Leader: Halt. Suspiciously similar to Aragorn, including being the rightful king of Clonmel.
  • Teach Me How to Fight: Cassandra asks Will to teach her how to shoot.
  • Tell Me About My Father: the conversation between Will and Halt near the beginning of the first volume. Surprisingly, it does not develop into an important plot element.
  • The Theme Park Version: a distinct feature of the series is the idealism. The Middle Ages setting apparently has gender equality, no racism, and slavery can be abolished by asking nicely. To be fair, it's clearly intended to be a fun kids' adventure series, not the next A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • To Be a Master: every one of the young characters in his own profession: Will as a ranger, Horace as a knight, Alyss as a diplomat - and Cassandra as a ruler.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Cassandra and Alyss.
  • Two Girls and a Guy: Alyss, Cassandra and Will.
  • Turn in Your Badge: happens to Halt after his refusal to fulfill his order.
  • Unbroken Vigil: Will and Horace at Halt's side, while Halt is talking in his sleep.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: arguably, between Will and Cassandra in the second volume.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Alyss and Will.
  • Villain Decay: the Mongols Temujai go from "Holy Shit, an army of soldiers where Halt came from!!" when hinted in the first book to mooks on horseback, after they are shot down by the platoon by previous weed-addicted peasants with a few weeks of training. Every last one of their efforts in the Book Four are neatly countered before they can be used to any advantage, thanks to the power of Rangers, Luck, and Rangers.
    • To be fair, they were expecting the vikings Skandians to Zerg Rush them. They didn't expect to have to actually use strategy. Furthermore, they only lost because their General had decided that they'd lost too many men to go through with their original plan.
    • Also, it wasn't so much training they'd gone through as "Okay, when Will says "shoot" shoot!" And they only learned four positions.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Will and Horace still argue a bit after becoming friends. Particularly Horace, who loves the fact that he can suddenly make winning points in the argument. Of course, they are a much more mild example than most.
  • We Have Reserves: this is basically how the Temujai fight in a nutshell.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Will lives for Halt's approval. Of course, as lampshaded near the end of Erak's Ransom, this sort of thing happens to nearly everyone who works with Halt.
    • It is mentioned in later books that both Will and Halt see their relationship as essentially that of father and son.
    • In the Book Seven, it's shown that Will would literally rather die of thirst, having gotten hopelessly lost in the desert, than disappoint Halt.

 "[Will] wondered briefly if the map Selethen had given him had been false and remembered that thought occurring to him during the preceding day. But he dismissed it almost immediately. Selethen was an honorable man, he thought. No, the map was accurate. The mistake had been his and now he would never know what it had been. Halt would be disappointed, he thought--and perhaps that was the worst aspect of this situation. For five years, he had tried his best for the grizzled, unsmiling Ranger who had become like a father to him. All he ever sought was Halt's approval, no matter what anyone else in the world might think. A nod of appreciation or one of Halt's rare smiles was the greatest accolade he could imagine. Now, at this final hurdle, he had let his mentor down and he didn't know how or why it had happened. He didn't want to die knowing that Halt would be disappointed with him. He could bear the dying, he thought, but not the disappointment."