Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Ranger's Apprentice

Go To
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 (2004)
  • The Burning Bridge (2005)
  • The Icebound Land (2005)
  • Oakleaf Bearers (The Battle for Skandia in the US) (2006)
  • The Sorcerer of the North (2006)
  • The Siege of Macindaw (2007)
  • Erak's Ransom (2007) (takes place in the Time Skip between books four and five)
  • The Kings of Clonmel (2008)
  • Halt's Peril (2009)
  • The Emperor of Nihon-Ja (2010)
  • The Lost Stories (2011)
  • The Royal Ranger (2013)
  • The Tournament at Gorlannote 
  • The Battle of Hackham Heath note 
  • The Royal Ranger 2: The Red Fox Clannote 
  • The Royal Ranger 3: Duel at Araluen
  • The Royal Ranger 4: The Missing Prince

John Flanagan has announced that he plans to end the series there. Considering he said the same thing about the tenth book (and the twelfth!), some fans hold onto hope that there will be more. It also produced a Spin-Off, the Brotherband Chronicles.


Beware, spoilers for Books 1-7 are UNMARKED

This series provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Keren to Alyss.
  • The Ace: Will is said to be one of the most skilled Rangers alive, and Horace is a Master Swordsman on par with the very best.
  • Action Girl: Evanlyn/Princess Cassandra, particularly in Book Seven. Alyss also knows how to use a knife with ease. Diplomats have to fight sometimes too.
    • Madelyn takes after her mother, becoming the first female apprentice in Corp. history.
  • Action Survivor: Malcolm and Alyss are both this trope, as neither is much of a fighter (even in Book 10, Alyss is described and shown as being a mediocre swords-woman at best).
  • Adult Fear: The Storyman would fully embody this trope, and he is even more terrifying for the children.
  • 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 up 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. It should also be noted that while they were presumably identical as boys, it is noted that their differing life experiences have made them appear quite different at first glance.
  • Ambadassador: Cassandra, an Action Girl who's also a very perceptive and skilled diplomat. Just ask Selethen.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted—these arrows are plenty lethal. Individual Rangers do great deals of damage, a small group of rangers are a deadly force onto themselves, and even relatively small groups of archers consistently have major impacts on the outcome of battles.
    • It is somewhat played straight in the first book with the wild boar and Kalkara, but even these are reasonably justified. Wild boars are incredibly difficult to bring down, and the reason boar spears feature a crossbar beneath the head is to prevent boars from just running straight down the spear and goring the wielder. The Kalkara are somewhere between apes and bears, and are established to be remarkably difficult to injure at all throughout the book.
  • Artifact Title: Zigzagged. Will is a full-fledged Ranger in books five and six, then book seven goes back to show his actual promotion. Eight continues with Silverleaf!Will until book 12, where title character-privilege shifts to Will's new apprentice.
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: In general, averted, as the author is pretty good about showing their work. However, played straight in Book 7 when it's mentioned that Halt "always watched an enemy's eyes." As any trained combatant will know, this tells you little to nothing in combat situations. People don't attack with their eyeballs (well, not in this universe, anyway.
    • In Book 10, Alyss says that physical strength plays a large part in combat, and that she could never train to be as good as Horace in combat. While she's not entirely wrong, any Action Girl could tell you that sufficiently trained women are capable of dealing out plenty of havoc. However, in this case the trope is somewhat-justified as she's using it as an excuse to go on an ambassadorial mission to the Hasanu.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Skandian battle tactics generally boil down to this.
  • Automaton Horses: Averted. The special Ranger horses may be able to run for incredible amounts of time without rest (Ranger horses are specifically bred for endurance and intelligence), 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. Horace only half-jokingly suggests that he should give ladle-whacking lessons to Battleschool students.
  • Bad Boss: Every villain in the story (with the arguable exception of Keren) is this trope, while all of the good leaders are reasonable authority figures.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The beginning of Book 12 has an older, bearded Ranger who pulls a Stealth Hi/Bye and grimly interrogates a prisoner before putting him down hard in a fight. Sounds like Halt? Sure, but it's actually Will, who at this point is a Broken Ace.
    • In Book 3, it looked as if Horace would have a final duel with Deparnieux, echoing Book 2. Instead, Halt duels him (and beats him pretty easily).
  • Bash Brothers: Will and Horace develop into this.
  • Berserk Button: Plenty
    • For Will - don't hurt Tug. Don't try to kill Halt.
    • For Horace - Has surprisingly few, but don't disrespect his friends.
    • For Halt - Old Joe Smoke. Don't play it. Also, don't hurt Will, or Horace, or Abelard. And don't be an idiot. And do NOT insult Lady Pauline. You will be thrown in the moat. Finally, (though this is mostly Played for Laughs) anyone mentioning his seasickness would do well to safeguard their helmet. Halt's vomit can really stain. In fact, just don't mention it at all. Especially since you never know if he might be right behind you...
  • The Berserkers: Skandians.
  • Big Brother Instinct: A fairly mild example, but Horace and Will have this in regards to each other, and Gilan has this in regards to Will.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In the backstory, Halt is this when he leads the cavalry in the Battle of Hackham Heath.
    • Will's father is also this in the backstory, saving Halt's life.
    • Will and Evanlyn are this in Book 2 when they burn the bridge down.
    • Halt and Horace are this in Book 4 to Will and Evanlyn and just barely manage to get their in time, as per the usual for this trope.
      • Subverted with Halt for Will in Book 2 and Halt and Horace for Will and Evanlyn in Book 3
      • Played straight in Book 4 with Halt, Horace, Will, and Evanlyn in regards to the entire Skandian race.
  • Big Eater: Horace. It goes into a Running Gag.
  • Big Fancy Castle: A few of them, Castle Araluen particularly.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Quite a few, actually.
    • Halt's frequently-assumed pseudonym, "Arratay", is pronounced suspiciously close to "arretez". Guess what it means. It means "stop!" Or... Halt.
    • 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).
  • Bitch Slap: Morgarath slaps Erak after he finds out Erak has captured Will and lied to him about it.
  • Black-and-White Morality: The Rangers (and Araluens) are good, while their enemies are unambiguously bad. However, this is more the case in earlier books—the first couple were full-on black-and-white, mindless evil army lead by the dark lord and all, while the later books have shades of grey. It gets a bit strange when Halt shamelessly forges legal documents or when Will sells a troublemaking villager into slavery but the reader is obviously supposed to be okay with their actions.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Cassandra and Horace. Though the crush started to develop even before Horace became Cassandra's bodyguard (he had 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. This is Justified because most Rangers don't have time to study other weapons as well, but he had studied the sword for several years before joining the Corps.
  • 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.
    • In Book 2, Gilan sarcastically tells Will that, if he's confronted with an angry axeman on top of a cliff and his bow is broken, to jump off the cliff. In Book 11, this exact situation occurs, which is lampshaded by Will.
    • In Book 1, Will tries to shoot a longbow without wearing an armguard, and gets hurt. This comes up again when he's teaching Maddie, who makes fun of him for it.
    • A very subtle one in Book 11: One of the items the modern-day archaeologists find is a cracked ladle. Perhaps because it was used to hit people over the head a lot of times?
  • Brought Down to Normal: In Book Four, Will is still suffering the aftereffects of drug addiction and has lost his Ranger conditioning.
  • Building of Adventure: Castle Macindaw.
  • Cain and Abel: Ferris and Halt, with the latter being the Abel-though, thankfully, he survived.
  • Call-Back: In Book 11, Will remembers Gilan's advice about dealing with an angry axeman.
    • Mention is made of the events in Macindaw in Book 9, serving as a Chekhov's Gun (see below).
    • Arald calls back to Cassandra's capture in Book 7 when encouraging Duncan to let her have her own adventures.
  • 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—pretty good ones, at that—but everyone takes him too seriously all the time to get them. Lady Pauline and Lady Sandra get them, but choose not to laugh.
  • Characterization Marches On: In Book 4, Duncan's mother is mentioned by Cassandra as having "a face like a robber's dog, and a temperament to match." The second prequel, however, has a short POV sequence from the Queen Mother's point of view, which seems to portray her as a kind and gentle woman. Of course, it's possible that this is justified-either she became nastier later in life, or Cassandra just disliked her for some reason, or perhaps she really is that nasty and just doesn't realize it herself-POV sequences aren't always honest, after all.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Evanlyn's/Princess Cassandra's new belt and necklace in Book Seven.
    • Also, Horace points out Macindaw in Book 9, and Will later rides there to recruit Malcolm.
  • 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.
  • Complexity Addiction: Morgarath would be a much better Chessmaster if he didn't suffer from this.
  • Continuity Snarl: In Book 6, Will and Horace take Castle Macindaw with twenty-seven Skandians. In Book 10, Halt mentions that they took it with "thirty men." Twenty-seven Skandians, plus Will and Horace-he could be rounding up, right? But then Horace corrects him to thirty-three. Are they counting Malcolm, Trobar, and Xander?
  • Contrived Coincidence: Hoo, boy. In the prequel series, Halt and Crowley just happen to waylay one of Morgarath's messengers, who is conveniently carrying a letter from Morgarath to one of his supporters, laying out all of his plans in detail. In the best traditions of this trope, it's not even coded at all.
  • Cool Old Guy: Malcolm and, in later volumes, Halt.
  • Covered in Scars: Deconstructed, as many expert warriors note that someone who has a face full of scars is more likely someone who doesn't know when to duck than a truly badass fighter.
  • 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 and quiver, saxe knife, and throwing knife. This is contrasted with the chivalry of the knights. Horace grows into this a little as he matures, though he still prefers to win fights honourably if he can.
  • Crusading Widower: Will becomes this in Book 12 after finding out his wife 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.
  • Darker and Edgier: Book 9, in which Halt is mortally wounded by a poisoned arrow. He gets better, but his recovery is Played for Drama, and it looked as if the author would be invoking Anyone Can Die.
  • 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 couple 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.
  • Enemy Scan: Horace and Selethen have one of these moments, which also doubles as an Establishing Character Moment for the latter.
    "As Horace passed Selethen, the two warriors eyed each other and like recognized like. Selethen saw the broad shoulders, the tapered hips, and the the easy balanced stride. A long straight sword hung at the Araulen's belt. This one I understand, thought Selethen. He would make a dangerous enemy. At the same time, Horace was taking in the slim build, the athletic movement, and the long curved sword that hung at Selethen's side. This one would be a bit of a handful, he thought.
    They were both right."
  • 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.
  • Evil Overlord: Morgarath.
  • Evil Twin: One of these pops up for Halt in Book Eight, although with a bit of a subversion.
  • Fake King: Interestingly inverted. When Halt dresses up as the king of Clonmel, he pretends to be Ferris, but Ferris himself is pretending to be the rightful king—a title which belongs to Halt; which means that Halt pretends to be someone who pretends to be himnote .
    • 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 Books 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 is 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: Yusal, who is reduced to a drooling idiot due to Evanlyn's shot.
  • Final Solution: The Temujai, who are Absolute Xenophobes and murder everyone on captured territories or anyone taken prisoner.
  • 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. 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.
    • Erak after Book 4.
    • Shigeru has this in spades, to the point where he becomes a Parental Substitute to Horace and direct comparisons are drawn between him and Duncan.
  • G-Rated Drug: Warmweed. Seriously. It's very bad for you. Specifically, it 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 and the slaves there tend not to have much in the way of keeping warm, it is very easy to get addicted to. Once it happens, you gradually lose your sense of who you were, forget those closest to you, focus only on the drug, 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.
    • Horace, after some Character Development by way of three Jerk Jocks, is Will's best friend by the end of Book One.
  • Heroic Wannabe: Will, at the beginning of his education.
  • Hesitation Equals Dishonesty: Will learns that this is a common view when he prepares to travel undercover as a bard.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Will and Horace.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics:
    • The favored approach of the Temujai — understandably, since they're basically Mongols.
    • Under Halt's direction, the Skandians turn the tables on them, though, using their superior knowledge of the terrain to launch night raids on the Temujai supply trains and disappear into the darkness before the Temujai can effectively retaliate.
  • 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.
  • Horns of Barbarism: The Skandians habitually wear horned helmets, which results in a Reality Ensues moment when one of the main characters uses the horns on a Skandian's helmet to grab the helm and smash it back down on his opponent's head.
  • Hypnotize the Princess: Happens to Alyss in Book Five and Book Six.
  • The Exile: Happens to Halt. He invokes it on purpose so he can go and search for Will, who was captured by the Skandians. It's later revealed in Book 8 that he exiled himself from home after his brother tried to kill him one too many times.
  • 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. Unusually for this trope, it's always intended to be temporary.
  • 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 wooden ladle is referred to as an unofficial staff of office for both Master Chubb and his apprentice, Jenny. Partly justified in that they are good-sized ladles, and also solid, making them decent impromptu clubs. Lady Sandra also implies that she might use one on Arald if he has a foot in mouth moment.
  • 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: The 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: Ferris.
  • 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, literally after Book Four.
  • 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, though other characters view it as nothing more than large-scale mesmerism, while the barrow-wight Will met is dismissed as Just a Dream.
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Among the Rangers.
  • Magic Realism: The only supernatural elements in the series are Lord Morgarath's armies and the barrow-wight that Will catches a glimpse of while waking up in Halt's Peril (and the latter he dismisses as his nightmares).
  • Man in a Kilt: A non-Fanservice-y example is General MacHaddish of the Scotti Army in Book 6. Generally, the male populace of the country of Picta.
  • Mauve Shirt: Shukin gets just enough time to be likable before his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Meaningful Name: In-universe, the surname Will is given at his Ranger ceremony is Treaty, in honor of the peace treaty he negotiated with the Skandians, which would be a very important milestone in Araluan history.
  • The Medic: Malcolm fills this trope perfectly.
  • 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 (though "Halt's Peril" is well-named).
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Will, Horace, and Alyss are introduced in this way at the beginning of the first volume.
  • Mundane Utility: In Book 8, it's revealed that Halt uses his Improbable Aiming Skills to catch fish. Horace, having spent the last several years learning the "gentlemanly" way of fishing, is mildly horrified.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Will, Gilan, and, to a lesser extent, Horace are all huge fans of coffee. Halt also loves coffee (with honey, no less), but doesn't show it much, being The Stoic.
    • 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.
  • Noiseless Walker: the Rangers.
  • Not Hyperbole: Throughout the first several books, many characters comment that Halt's hair looks as if he cuts it with his saxe knife. Then in Book Eight he needs to cut his hair as part of a disguise... and pulls out his saxe.
  • Odd Friendship: Horace and Will; Horace started out as a bully and Jerk Jock before taking a few levels in humility and kindness.
  • 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. Indeed, the wound is stated to still occasionally trouble her even years later.
  • Papa Wolf: Don't mess with Will when Halt's around. Don't mess with Horace when Halt's around. Probably not a good idea to mess with Gilan when Halt's around either, but we haven't seen any evidence of it.
  • Parental Substitute: Halt for Will, and Shigeru for Horace.
  • Path of Inspiration: The Outsiders in Book Eight.
  • Pet the Dog: Literally—Will's acquaintance with Shadow begins when he heals her injuries.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Horace and Alyss have absolutely no romantic feelings for each other, and after Book 4, Will and Cassandra show no romantic feelings for one another either (though Alyss is Wrong Genre Savvy and takes a while to understand this).
  • 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.
  • Prank Punishment: One of Halt's favorite teaching methods is to let the over-eager Will try a task on his own before telling him the correct way to do it. Most notably, he allows Will to mount a "ranger's horse" before telling him how.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Erak and his crew, as is the vogue for most Skandians.
  • Puppet King: Tennyson puts Ferris and the other Hibernian kings under his thumb.
  • Reality Ensues: Some complain about the Ranger's Improbable Aiming Skills...but there's a reason they practice pretty much ''every single day'' for five years before they even graduate, and then continue practicing afterwards.
    • Going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge is a heck of a lot harder when you don't know where your target is. Also, if you have a duty, your boss is not going to let you put that aside and pursue your personal vendetta.
    • As Teach Me How To Fight notes below, wanting to help others defend their country is great. But you're not going to pick up archery skills just by wanting to, as Will himself discovered earlier in the book.
    • Once you get used to a certain kind of weapon, you have to remember not to rely solely on muscle memory when using a new one, as Will discovers in Book 5.
    • The downside of falling in love with an Action Hero/Action Girl is that you'll have to constantly worry about them being in danger. It's worth it, though.
  • Red Herring: The entire plot of The Burning Bridge.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Cassandra and Alyss.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Lady Sandra, Arald's wife, never appeared or was even mentioned before Book 7. A downplayed example since there's not much reason for her to have appeared previously-and it's possible that she and Arald may have married in between Books 4 and 7.
  • Rescue Romance: Alyss and Will in Book 6, and gender-inverted by Cassandra and Horace in Book 10.
  • 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.
    • Also, Horace's status as a Big Eater, to the point where it becomes an Affectionate Nickname amongst the Nihon-Jan.
    • Crowley's complete inability/desire to keep the Ranger graduation serious, instead mumbling and bumbling and throwing pieces of paper around.
    "What's wrong? Did I miss something? Oh, of course! You'll need your silver...geegaws, won't you? Well, might as well hand 'em over."
    • Every single time an apprentice is given a horse, they immediately try and mount it without waiting for the passphrase, then get bucked off. Every. Single. Time.
  • 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, such as when it's shown that even the best can't track at night, after rainfall, etc.
  • 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.
  • Shipper on Deck: Arald has always been one for Halt and Pauline, while both of them ship Will/Alyss. It's also implied that Duncan is this for Horace/Cassandra, and Alyss joins him in this after she gets over her jealousy. Meanwhile, Horace is also an avid shipper of Will/Alyss.
  • Ship Tease: Some between Horace and Jenny in Book 1, though they end up with different people and remain Just Friends.
  • Shorter Means Smarter: Played straight with the Rangers, averted with Horace, Morgarath, and Duncan.
  • Shown Their Work: Most of the author's explanations on archery, culture and battle tactics is generally correct, if occasionally somewhat simplistic.
    • It's chillingly accurate portrayal of what it's like to virtually die of dehydration, and just how easily it can happen to anyone who doesn't know the desert.
  • 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.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Expect this to occur whenever multiple Rangers get together. Or with their horses. Or Halt and Horace. Or Will and Horace. Or Halt and Arald. get the point.
  • 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.
    • Although, unlike Aragorn, he doesn't take the throne, even when it seems logical to do so.
  • Talented, but Trained: Sir Rodney notes in Book 1 that Horace is very much this, starting out with lots of natural skill but still no match for an experienced swordsman like himself. However, lots of training from different mentors and practicing for years makes him into a Master Swordsman of the highest caliber.
    • Will, Halt, and Gilan all count as well, as do presumably the other Rangers.
  • Teach Me How To Fight: Cassandra asks Will to teach her how to shoot. He tells her that he could-if they had several months.
  • 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.
  • Team Dad : Halt, to an incredible degree.
  • 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 books trace how Will and Horace go from being a social outcast and Jerk Jock, respectively, to being a well-respected Ranger and Prince Consort of the Kingdom. Alyss and Evanlyn also go through this to a lesser degree. Book 12 is all about Maddie doing this.
  • The Theme Park Version: A distinct feature of the series is the idealism, although this is somewhat tempered by realism. More like very idealistic on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism.
    • The reason slavery is abolished in Skandia is that "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 the Skandians as slave.
    • It's also pointed out that Duncan is the first king to appoint women to important positions, and the Bedullin suffer from racism towards the Arridi, as does Hal in the spin-off series. Racism and sexism are definitely strong forces at work, just less so in Araulen.
  • Time Skip: Two or three, depending on how one counts:
    • Book five skips straight to Will being a full Ranger with his own fief after still being an apprentice in book four. Book seven goes back and fills in some of the gap.
    • A pretty long one between the events of Book 10 and Book 12 (Book 11, being a collection of short stories, doesn't really count). 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 their own profession: Will as a Ranger, Horace as a knight, Alyss as a diplomat—and Cassandra as a ruler. Jenny and George are also implied to follow this path.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Cassandra and Alyss.
  • Tomboy Princess: Cassandra's hobbies including sneaking around at night and scaring the sentries half to death with her sling.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: The 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 Guys and a Girl: Will, Horace, and Evanlyn in part of book 2.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Alyss and Cassandra in Book 10.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Happens to Halt in book three after his refusal to fulfill his order. Thankfully, he gets it back.
  • Unbroken Vigil: Will and Horace at Halt's side while Halt is talking in his sleep.
  • Undying Loyalty: Will and Gilan both have this to Halt.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Arguably between Will and Evanlyn in book 2.
  • 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. It is mentioned that, had the Skandians fought the way they expected them to, the Temujai would have won handily. Unfortunately (for the Temujai), the Skandians had a man who knew how to counter the tactics used by the Temujai: Halt, which can justify this to some extent.
  • 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. However, they have limits. When the main leader starts to grow incensed at how many of their men are getting killed, one of his sub-commanders tries to brush it off by stating they expected casualties fighting the Skandians. The leader rounds on him and roars they were expecting a "skirmish" against a bunch of Leeroy Jenkins, not a drag-out fight with archers and well-thought-out defenses.
  • "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. Then again, he isn't exactly thinking logically at the time.
    "[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, and also a close ally.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: