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A New Beginning: Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
A New Beginning: Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Promising spin-off series start with the first girl Ranger!

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Weapons, tracking, and survival training are outlined meticulously here. As the main characters pass through small villages readers see how early agrarian societies worked together with mills, farms, bakeries, inns, and taverns. You also learn why the tannery and blacksmith are both on the outskirts of town.

Positive Messages

Dealing with grief and learning from mistakes are the two big ones. Also, Rangers value hard work, dedication, and a whole lot of training. And kids learn the hard way to be wary of adults who tell them to keep secrets from trusted adults.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Much is made of Maddie's transformation in the first half of this book. She's a princess who flouts her parents' rules and slowly becomes a disciplined Ranger's apprentice. Her skills improve through hard work and her attitude changes. She notices others in need and acts on their behalf. When she slips up and drinks with some village kids, she pays the price and vows never again. Her mentor, Will, is grieving the loss of his wife through a relentless search for her killer. As he begins training Maddie, his focus shifts and he begins to heal. Maddie is the first girl recruit for the Rangers, and though there's surprise at first, all welcome the change.

Violence

A serious injury from a javelin to the hip with much blood loss, a man burned in a pyre with details of the grunting and gagging sounds he makes, enemies shot with longbows and a powerful slingshot, with a mix of injuries and deaths. A man falls to his death, another falls on his own knife and dies. A ship is set on fire. Kids are manipulated by adults, and then some are kidnaped and held prisoner. Talk of the kidnapped kids being from homes where they are beaten and treated badly. Talk of a kidnaped boy burned on the leg by a hot iron. The story of a death while rescuing someone from a fire and another story of a Ranger falling off his horse and breaking his neck.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Maddie, 15, drinks way too much with the local kids and wakes up with a terrible hangover and a whole lot of regret, especially when Will makes her do an intense training workout hungover. Plenty of scenes in bars with mostly ale drinking. Will drinks watered-down ale. The bad guys get drunk off of brandy.  

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that John Flanagan's A New Beginning is the start to a Ranger's Apprentice spin-off series called The Royal Ranger. On older book covers, it will say Ranger's Apprentice, Book 12, but the rest of this series continues as The Royal Ranger, Books 2 and 3. It helps to read the main Ranger's Apprentice series first, or even the prequel series, The Early Years. Then you'll know what the Rangers are all about and why it's such a big deal that Princess Maddie joins them, not just as their first girl recruit (hooray!) but also a recruit who is not used to a life of discipline and hard work. The first half of the book is mostly about Maddie's training -- with a few missteps, including a night of drinking she pays a steep price for. For the second half, Ranger Will and Maddie are on a dangerous mission.  There's a serious injury from a javelin to the hip with much blood loss, a man burned in a pyre with details of the grunting and gagging sounds he makes, enemies shot with longbows and a powerful slingshot, with a mix of injuries and deaths. Kids are manipulated by adults, and then some are kidnapped and held prisoner. There's also talk of the kidnapped kids being from homes where they are beaten and treated badly.

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What's the story?

In A NEW BEGINNING: THE ROYAL RANGER, BOOK 1, 15-year-old Princess Maddie sneaks out of the castle one too many times to hunt. Her mother, Cassandra, catches her one night and grounds her, knowing it won't do anything to change her attitude. Ranger Holt and Pauline are summoned to the castle by Gilan shortly after. Gilan is concerned about their Ranger friend Will Treaty whose wife died in a fire. All he does is obsess with finding the man responsible and he refuses to take any Ranger work. They decide that he needs an apprentice, and even though Maddie would be the first girl in the Rangers, as his goddaughter and someone he cares about, she's the perfect candidate. Maddie's thrilled at first to leave the castle. She thinks of her assignment as more of a holiday and brings her lady's maid and a trunk of dresses. When Will sends both back to the castle without her and shows a letter from her parents revoking her title until further notice, she suddenly realizes what she's in for.

Is it any good?

This Ranger's Apprentice spin-off will thrill fans with a spirited girl Ranger-in-training and a nail-biting finish. The first half of A New Beginning is mostly about Maddie training and adjusting to life as a Ranger. She sheds her princessy attitude and sense of entitlement and begins to focus wholeheartedly on all the skills Rangers need. Author John Flanagan always provides lots of detail on weapons and training in his books. He also spends ample time with Maddie and her new horse, and this part of the story trots along at a slow and steady pace.

And then Will and Maddie get their first assignment. Now the story builds, with the investigation of a dead Ranger that leads to missing children in small villages and a ring of thieves. When the investigation turns into a rescue mission, the arrows really start to fly and it's a nail-biter until the end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Storyman and the Stealer in A New Beginning. How do they convince kids not to talk to adults about the stories they heard? How did this help them get away with the kidnappings? Should you ever trust an adult who tells you to keep secrets from your parents or a trusted caregiver? 

  • How do Will's friends help him deal with the loss of his wife? How does Maddie?

  • Will you read more in this spin-off series? How many Ranger's Apprentice books have you read? What do you like about them?

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