The Lost Stories by John Flanagan
The Lost Stories, book 11 in John Flanagan’s RANGER APPRENTICE series for young readers, is a collection of short stories that fill in some gaps and give us supplemental information about Flanagan’s characters and world. The collection begins with a short frame story which takes place in July 1896 in the Republic of Aralan States which was formerly the medieval Kingdom of Araluen. An archaeologist and his assistant are excavating a site and looking for evidence of Castle Redmont and the Rangers of Araluen. They find a chest full of manuscripts that contain these tales:
“Death of a Hero” — (Takes place about 15 years before The Ruins of Gorlan.) Pauline has convinced Halt to finally tell Will the truth about Will’s parents, which is slightly different from what Halt told Will in The Ruins of Gorlan. Although I felt like this was one of several examples of Flanagan building his world and making stuff up as he goes along, the story, and its title, is unexpectedly poignant.
“The Inkwell and the Dagger” — (Takes place during The Icebound Land.) In response to numerous emails from fans, Flanagan gives us the story of what Gilan did while Halt was banished in The Icebound Land. If you’ll recall, Halt had been tracking a criminal named Foldar. Gilan completes this task for Halt using deception and his sword-fighting skills. Besides being fun, this story gives young readers a glimpse into the design features and function of medieval castles.
Note: I believe that the remaining stories, except for “The Hibernian,” take place after book 10, The Emperor of Nihon-Ja. There are spoilers here for previous books in the series.
“The Roamers” — Will’s puppy is missing and Will and Alyss suspect that he’s been stolen by a band of Roamers (think: Gypsies), so they set off to track down the Roamers and get the puppy back. Alyss gets a chance to shine in this story and young readers will learn a little about animal abuse. The Roamers are disappointingly stereotypical.
“Purple Prose” — It’s almost time for Horace’s and Cassandra’s wedding and Will is preparing a speech. Knowing that it will go down in the history books, he’s working hard to speak elegantly. Then he and Halt get called away to find and capture some thieves who are using false beacons to drive cargo ships aground. This story is really funny, and I’m likely to always remember it when I think of the RANGER’S APPRENTICE series.
“Dinner for Five” — I loved this story about a band of thieves who steal some jewelry and then decide to hide out in Jenny’s house until they can make their escape in the dark. Knowing that Jenny runs the best restaurant in town, they assume she’ll be gone for the day. However, they happen to pick the day that Jenny is home preparing a romantic dinner for Gilan. And to compound their errors, one of them insults Jenny’s food. Big mistake!
“The Bridal Dance” — It’s Horace’s and Cassandra’s wedding day. Everyone is there, including friends from across the sea. But Will is worried because he suspects that assassins are planning to attack King Duncan or Princess Cassandra during the wedding feast. But if anyone can protect the royal family, it’s Will Treaty.
“The Hibernian” — This story pre-dates all the others. It’s about how Halt met Crowley and joined the Ranger Corps. We learn a lot about the history of Araluen, Duncan’s family, Morgarath, and the Rangers in this story.
“The Wolf” — This sad story was in response to readers’ questions about how long Ranger horses live. It explains the special breeding program that produces horses that can inherit a Ranger bond. I didn’t believe that this medieval society could do something so technologically advanced, but I’m sure it satisfies the kiddies who were worried about horses that don’t live as long as Rangers.
“And About Time Too” — Finally, Will and Alyss get married.
At the end of the collection is an extremely short provocative fragment which, I think, ties the RANGER’S APPRENTICE series to Flanagan’s newer series, THE BROTHERBAND CHRONICLES. I’m not certain about that, though.
I’ve been down on the last few RANGER’S APPRENTICE books, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Lost Stories. That’s because each is short and, therefore, better paced than the more recent novels have been. It was delightful to learn more about these beloved characters and to witness amusing little tidbits that didn’t make it into the books. I am certain that any fan of the series will want to pick up The Lost Stories. I listened to the audiobook version narrated by John Keating. He is excellent, as always. The audio version is 13 hours long.
This sounds like a change of pace. I love the title “The Inkwell and the Dagger,” with its play on the old proverb.
I’m glad that you liked these stories so much, especially in light of how frustrated you’ve seemed with the last few books. Hopefully the next series you work through will be more consistently enjoyable!