Edvin was on the bowpost lookout. ‘Ship!’ he called, pointing to the south-west.
At first, Hal saw nothing. But as Heron rose onto the crest of a wave, he saw a dark shape, low in the water. Stefan, who had the keenest eyesight, had leapt up onto the starboard rail, steadying himself on one of the thick stays.
‘She’s dismasted!’ he called. ‘She’s in trouble!’
Hal and his friends of the Heron brotherband are bored, so when they are offered the chance to be the Skandian duty ship to the Kingdom of Araluen, they are excited. With Hal’s new dog – Kloof – joining the crew, they set sail for their new post. But even before they arrive, their duties begin. A stricken boat has been attacked by a rogue ship, and its crew is one they know only to well. Soon they are on the trail of their old foe Tursgud, along the way needing to mount a rescue mission for twelve Araluens who he has taken to be sold as slaves.
Slaves of Socorro is the fourth in Flanagan’s Brotherband series, set within the same world as as the successful Ranger’s Apprentice books. Fans of the latter series will be delighted to see Ranger Gill appear in Slaves of Socorro, travelling with the Herons to free the slaves.
As always, there is plenty happening here – action and suspense, along with humour and plenty of luck. Hal’s dog, who attaches itself to him early in the book, is an entertaining addition to the crew and readers with an interest in boats and sailing will find the detail of the boat and its journey fascinating, though it doesn’t overwhelm the story.
Good stuff for young adult readers, and competent primary aged readers too.
Slaves of Socorro, by John Flanagan
Random House, 2014
Available from good bookstores or online.