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Literature: Ranger's Apprentice
"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, the 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. Will discovers that being a Ranger is not only as exciting and heroic as being a knight, 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 just 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 didn'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 the icy North to the scorching desert.

Books in the Series:

  • The Ruins of Gorlan
  • The Burning Bridge
  • The Icebound Land
  • The Battle for Skandia
  • The Sorcerer of the North
  • The Siege of Macindaw
  • Eraks Ransom
  • The Kings of Clonmel
  • Halts Peril
  • The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
  • The Lost Stories
  • The Royal Ranger

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.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Keren to Alyss.
  • Action Girl: Evanlyn/Princess Cassandra, particularly in Book Seven. Alyss also knows how to use a knife with ease. Diplomats have to fight too sometimes.
    • Madelyn takes after her mother, becoming the first female apprentice in Corp. history.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Sir Keren is genuinely regretting his actions even before things start going badly for him. You almost feel he can be redeemed with time, right up until his Family Unfriendly Disney Villain Death.
  • 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 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.
  • Artifact Title: Zigzagged. Will is a full fledged member in book five, then book seven goes back to show his actual promotion. Eight continues with Silverleaf!Will until book 12, where title character priviledge shifts to Will's new apprentice.
  • Automaton Horses: Averted. The special Ranger horses may be able to run for incredible amounts of time without rest, 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.
    • A Ranger will almost always put their horse's safety far above their own. For the horses, there is no "almost".
  • Badass Teacher: Almost every mentor in the book, including Mr. Chubb, the cook.
  • The Berserkers: Skandians.
  • Big Eater: Horace.
  • 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 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).
    • Gallic.
    • Nihon-Jan.
  • Black and White Morality: The Rangers (and Araluen) are generally good, while their enemies are usually unambiguously bad. However, this is more the case in earlier books — the first couple were full-on black-and-white, while the later books have some shades of grey.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Cassandra and Horace. Though the crush started to develop even before Horace became Cassandra's bodyguard (but he already saved her a couple of times at this point).
  • 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 Book Seven that took down the Tualaghi warlord. It was Evanlyn/Princess Cassandra with her sling.
  • Bow and Sword, in Accord: Gilan. He's the only Ranger trained in swordsmanship.
  • Brick Joke: In 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 Book Eight.
  • Brought Down to Normal: In Book Four, Will is still suffering the after effects of drug addiction and has lost his Ranger conditioning.
  • Building of Adventure: Castle Macindaw.
  • Cain and Abel: Ferris and Halt.
  • 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 get them.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Evanlyn's/Princess Cassandra's belt and necklace in Book Seven.
  • Chekhov's Skill: In The Burning Bridge, Will and Horace are taught the double 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 Book Four.
  • Chick Magnet: Horace, particularly after book 6. Add that he's one of Araluen's finest warriors and renowned heroes... oh, boy.
    There were quite a few young ladies of the kingdom who felt it [a scar on his cheek] enhanced his appearance, rather than the opposite.
    • Also lampshaded by Halt.
      Halt never ceased to be fascinated by the way women, young or old, big or small, could not resist the temptation to feed Horace.
  • 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.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Will. Most of the Rangers, actually, considering the great majority of them carry little more than a bow, saxe knife and a throwing knife.
  • Crusading Widower: Will becomes this in Book 12 after finding out his wife Alyss died in an inn fire trying to save a child trapped inside. He becomes absolutely obsessed with finding out who set the inn on fire so he can take his revenge.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Series thrives on this trope, practically all important characters are this
  • 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 chooses not to laugh.
  • The Drunken Sailor: The majority of Skandians fit this trope.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first few books were more of a typical fantasy series with supernatural elements, while the later ones quickly developed into an adventure series that basically takes place in a differently-named version of our world.
  • Emotion Bomb: Morgarath and his creatures.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: All but named in The Royal Ranger, when one of Ruhl's sidekicks points out that Jory taunts Will with a flame while he's at a stake, ready to be burnt. "Even the most hardened criminal" wouldn't go that far, considering why exactly Will is being burnt.
  • Everybody is Single: In fact, nobody's even dating.
    • Not so as of Book Seven and Eight, wherein Halt gets married, and Will seems well and truly set to hook up with Alyss.
    • And now, in 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
      • Will is back to being single as of book 12. Gilan and Jenny are on track away from this, though.
  • Evil Overlord: Morgarath.
  • Evil Twin: One of these pops up for Halt in Book Eight, although with a bit of a subversion.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: A fallen one at that.
    • Cassandra also becomes a Rebellious Princess.
    • Madelyn, daughter of princess regent Cassandra and first female ranger.
  • Fake King: Interestingly inverted. When Halt dresses up as the king of Clonmel, he pretends to be Ferris, but it is Ferris that pretends to be the rightful king - a title which belongs to Halt; which means that Halt pretends to be someone who pretends to be him... Oh, dear.note 
    • Foreshadowed all the way back in book three when Halt issues a challenge to a knight claiming to be Hibernian nobility. When questioned by Horace, Halt passes it off by saying that the knight couldn't prove he lied.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: In Book Six, Sir Keren gets acid thrown in his face, and then falls through a tower window to the flagstones below.
    • The fake prophet from 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 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.
      • Similarly from Book Twelve, Jory Ruhl gets burned to death by the bonfire he set up to kill Will in the same way.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: Yosal, who is reduced to a drooling idiot due to Evanlyn's shot.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • First Girl Wins: Alyss, for Will.
  • 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.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • In the first book, when it's mentioned that Will released two rabbits in the middle of a court session. Specifically, one male and one female. In spring.
    • In the third book, Horace sees a group of girls in short skirts. Halt tells him they're couriers, but they are clearly not. This is even brought up again in book eight.
  • 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.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Most of the rangers, at least the ones mentioned in the books. Will begins to show a bit of this trope, considering he gives a man into slavery in Skandia. Granted, the man nearly disemboweled one of his dogs and is suspected for a large string of murders.
    • More importantly, he knew a extremely dangerous secret and was threatening to sell it to the highest bidder. Alyss's first suggestion was to slit his throat to keep him from talking.
  • Happily Married: Halt and Lady Pauline. And by the eleventh book, Horace and Evanlyn/Princess Cassandra, Will and Alyss.
  • 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.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Will and Horace.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: From Book Twelve, Jory Ruhl ends up burning himself alive in the same bonfire he intended to kill Will in.
  • Hypnotize the Princess: Happens to Alyss in Book Five and Book Six.
  • The Idealist: Horace, for quite a long time, and sometimes to a degree of an Idiot Hero.
  • I Have No Son: Madelyn is disinherited in Royal Ranger.
  • 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.
  • Karmic Death: Fenris.
  • Kick the Dog: Literally. When John Buttle almost kills Shadow, we learn that he is an evil man.
  • Jerk Jock: Horace, as Will thinks of him in the first book. He's really more of a Lovable Jock after his Character Development arc in the same book.
  • Knight Errant: Subverted by the adventures of Halt and Horace in Gallica.
  • Knighting: Horace at the end of Book Four.
  • 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.
  • Legendary in the Sequel: In Book 12, Will is so well-known around Araluen, he is pretty much elevated to a Memetic Badass folk hero.
  • Love Epiphany: Alyss and Will. Followed by Love Confession.
  • Love Letter: At the end of book six, between Alyss and Will.
  • Low Fantasy: With the exception of Black and White Morality.
    • There seems to be some magic, but very little of it is mentioned. Averted by Morgarath and his mind control over the Wargal hordes in the first book.
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Among the Rangers.
  • Magic Realism: The only supernatural elements in the series are Lord Morgarath's armies and the...spirit...thing that Will encounters in "Halt's Peril".
  • Man in a Kilt: A non-Fanservice-y example is General Mac Haddish of the Scotti Army in Book 6. Generally, the male populace of the country of Picta.
  • Meaningful Name: The surname Will is given at his Ranger ceremony is Treaty, in honour of the peace treaty he negotiated with the Skandians, which would be a very important milestone in Araluan history.
  • Medieval European Fantasy: Even though the names have been changed, it's pretty easy to tell which real-life countries the book's countries are based on. See Istanbul Not Constantinople above.
  • Mentor Archetype: Halt. He has some features of Eccentric Mentor and The Chooser of The One.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: subverted. Halt survives the whole series.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Will, Horace, and Alyss are introduced in this way at the beginning of the first volume.
  • Moral Dissonance: In 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.
    • Depending on the book, that is. Sometimes Halt uses honey; other times he claims it's a "perfect way to ruin good coffee".
    • In book 12, Will and Gilan barely even consider the chances of Madelyn becoming a ranger until she takes a liking to coffee.
  • No Arc in Archery: Subverted. The books describe how the Rangers and other archers have to angle their shots upward to account for gravity acting on the arrow. One time Will "misses" an almost-impossible-except-for-a-Ranger longshot because he forgot that the bow he was using would have more drop-off than he was used to.
  • 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 a Flesh Wound: Horace receives minor injuries multiple times, and is mostly able to shrug them off and continue fighting. Examples are during the storm of Macindaw, the final fight in Erak's ransom and others.
    • Subverted cruelly in Halt's Peril where Halt's minor wound turns nearly deadly due to poison.
    • Also subverted in Royal Ranger: Madelyn is completely incapacitated by a javelin in her thigh, even though it misses anything important.
  • Only One: Halt and his apprentices are perhaps the only Rangers to have ever accomplished anything in the history of Araluen.
    • We just don't know about the other stuff because they keep it secret.
    • The Lost Stories also gives a hint why: King Duncan's father practically destroyed the Ranger Corps due to Morgarath's shenaniangs. Most Rangers are hardly more experienced than Will, without his advantage of being personally trained by Halt. Heck, he, Crowley, and a few other Rangers re-founded the Ranger Corps!
  • Parental Substitute: Halt for Will.
  • Path of Inspiration: The Outsiders in Book Eight.
  • Pet the Dog: Again, literally - Will's acquaintance with Shadow begins when he heals her injuries.
  • Poison Is Evil: The only instances of poison being used is by the antagonistic and ruthless Genovesan assassins.
  • 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 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 Book Eight, see Fake King, above.
  • Royal Brat: Madelyn is sent to be a ranger partially because she needs life experience, and partially because she's a minor example of this trope, as noted by several characters. She grows out of it about halfway through the book.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Cassandra, and how. Madelyn takes it a step further by becoming the first female ranger though she isn't a royal when it happens
  • 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 all have human-level intelligence. Will's horse, Tug, in particular, has mastered the art of "saying something with a look".
    • One of the short stories reveals that it's all in their heads, somehow.
    • Zig-zagged in the twelfth book. The newest Ranger Apprentice, Maddie, immediately bonds with her Ranger horse, Bumper. Bumper "comments" on Maddie's shock that such a barrel-shaped little pony could go so fast. She asks Will about whether the Ranger horses can "talk" or not, and Will dismisses the notion as ridiculous...while silently marveling at the fact that Maddie can already understand her horse.
  • 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.
    • They make a game of it during their annual gathering, trying to catch each other sneaking up to the campgrounds.
  • Shorter Means Smarter.
  • Shrouded in Myth: The Rangers, of course.
    • The foreword of 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.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Evanlyn for books two till four.
  • Story Arc: The series' arcs usually last for about two books.
  • Student and Master Team: Will and Halt, but also Alyss and Lady Pauline.
    • Naturally, Will takes over for master when he gets an apprentice.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Alyss in Book 12. Liam too.
  • 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.
  • Team Chef: While all Rangers learn how to cook satisfying meals while in the field, Will in particular has a certain knack for it.
    Halt: Just because we spend long days travelling doesn't mean we have to survive on hardtack and water. A good meal does wonders for group morale.
  • 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 Apprentice: Duh.
  • The Hero's Journey
  • 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.
    • It wasn't so much asking nicely as it was "You need the slaves to fight for you if you're going to have any chance of defending against the massive Temujai army. They're not going to fight for you unless you give them what they want: their freedom."
    • And slavery wasn't totally abolished. Later on Will gives Buttle to Skandians as slave.
  • Time Skip: A pretty long one between the events of Book 10 and Book 12. For example, Cassandra and Horace now have a 15-year-old daughter named Madelyn. Other notable events include Crowley dying in his sleep of old age, Gilan becoming the new Ranger Corps Commandant, Halt retiring from the Ranger Corps, and the most shocking thing, Alyss dying in an inn fire, trying to save a child trapped inside.
  • 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.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Kikori in Book 10.
  • Trial by Combat: Happens a few times over the course of the series, usually fought by Horace.
  • Two Girls and a Guy: Alyss, Cassandra and Will.
  • Two Girls Toa Team: Alyss and Cassandra in Book 10.
  • 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 previously weed-addicted peasants with a few weeks of training. Every last one of their efforts in Book Four are neatly countered before they can be used to any advantage, thanks to the power of Rangers, Luck, and Rangers.
  • 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 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."
  • Worthy Opponent: A few of these, most notably Erak the Proud Warrior Race Guy who later becomes a close ally of the protagonists, and Selethen, who ends up the Graceful Loser.

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alternative title(s): Rangers Apprentice
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