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.
The Raven was at sea.
South of Shelter Bay, the weather had cleared several days earlier and Zavac had put to sea immediately. The Raven ws a bigger ship than the Heron, with a much larger crew to handle her, and to bail her out if necessary. So Zavac had no fears about her ability to handle the waves.
And Zavac’s hunting instincts were aroused.
Hal and his brotherband are determined to restore their name by tracking down Zavac and his spoils. First, they have to wait out the weather, which keeps them shore bound in a sheltered cove. then they have to locate the pirates aboard the mighty Raven. When they do figure out where their quarry is, the Herons have a huge challenge in front of them. The pirates are in a heavily fortified town, which they have taken over. Hal and his friends must liberate the town and defeat the pirates. But doing so will not be easy. Hal will need a foolproof plan, and lots of help from allies old and new.
The Invaders is a the second in the Brotherband series, and continues the adventures of Hal and his brotherband, and their ship, the Heron. It will be best enjoyed by those who have read the first, though would stand alone, with plenty of action and character development. There are also several threads which will keep the reader eager for the next installment, including a new female character who offers an opportunity for romance but also, importantly, seems a strong character in her own right.
The Invaders (Brotherband), by John Flanaagn
Random House, 2012
This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.
‘Oars! Oars!’ shouted Hal. Even without the sail they still had plenty of momentum and the edge of the mole seemed to shoot by him. He ehard the clatter of wood on wood as the crew ran out the oars. Ahead of him Wolfwind loomed closer and closer. He thrust savagely on the steering oar and Heron’s bow began to swing…But he still wasn’t sure if it was turning fast enough.
Hal Mikkelson has always been a bit of an outcast. his mother was an Araluen slave, and his father, though Skandian, is dead. The only friends he has are Thorn – a recovering alcoholic who was his father’s best friend – and Stig, whose father is a thief. When it comes time for brotherband training Hal and Stigg find themselves grouped with other misfits. Together they must complete their warrior training and compete against two other brotherbands in a series of challenges. There can be only one winner, and no one expects it to be Hal’s group. But what the outcasts lack in strength and numbers, they compensate for in courage and ingenuity.
The Outcasts is the first title in the new Brotherband series from John Flanagan, author of the Ranger’s Apprentice series. The new series is set in the same reality as the older one, and will appeal to its fans. The two heroes also share similarities. Hal, like Ranger Will, is a misfit who is clever and brave. the pair also both have no father. But in spite f the similarities they are different characters – and the setting and storyline, too, are quite different, offering readers something new, yet still in Flanagan’s popular style. What is the same is the sense of lots of action, an absorbing and diverse cast, and plenty of tension.
Young readers – boys especially – will love the action and the viking village setting, and will wait eagerly for the next installment to see more of Hal and his friends’ adventures.
The Outcasts (Brotherband), by John Flanagn
Random House, 2011
This book can be pruchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.
Halt was lying face down and, gently, Will rolled him over. He moved the cowl back from Halt’s face. His eyes were shut and his face was deathly pale. He didn’t seem to be breathing and for a moment Will felt a surge of horror rush through him.
Halt dead? It couldn’t be! It was impossible. He could not imagine a world without Halt in it.
Will loves travelling with his friend Horace and his mentor Halt, who is like a father to him. But this journey is also filled with danger, as the trio track Tennyson and his followers, trying to stop their reign of crime on villagers, and their deception of gullible believers in their cult. When he and Halt take on two Genovesan assassins who try to ambush them, Will wonders whether this might be his mentor’s last battle.
Halt’s Peril is the ninth title in the Ranger’s Apprentice series and picks up in the days following the previous instalment. With the blend of humour, action and adventure which this medieval series is known for, there is also character development as we see Will’s continuing maturation in the face of new challenges and setbacks.
Best read in sequence with the rest of the series, the story does largely stand alone.
Halt’s Peril, by John Flanagan
Random House, 2009
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
While the village might appear small and unimportant at first glance, a closer scrutiny told a different story…it was a prosperous community – and probably had been for years on end.
And that, of course, explained the presence of the Outsiders here.
When the annual Ranger Gathering comes around, Will looks forward to seeing his mentor, Blade – but Blade is not there. Instead, he is off investigating mysterious happenings in the west, where a religious cult known as The Outsiders is causing havoc. Already, The Outsiders have undermined five of the six Hibernian Kingdoms, and now they are making inroads in the sixth, Clonmel. Soon, Will joins Halt and their friend Horace, on a mission to drive the Outsiders out of Clonmel. First, though, they have to convince the King of Clonmel that he needs their help.
The Kings of Clonmel is the eight title in the successful Ranger’s Apprentice Series and sees Will and his friends embark on plenty of adventures. Whilst Will uses all of his Ranger skills to infiltrate The Outsiders, Horace is called to battle and Halt must face his past. Together, though, will they prove enough to defeat the wily and strong Outsiders?
This series offers plenty for fantasy fans, as well as for any reader who simply enjoys action and adventure. The Rangers rely on a blend of courage, subterfuge and honour to confront their enemies and keep their kingdom safe. They face a mix of formidable opponents, and appreciative and unappreciative recipients of their good deeds.
A great blend for teen readers.
Ranger’s Apprentice: The Kings of Clonmel, by John Flanagan
Random House, 2008
It happened as quickly as that. One moment there was nothing. Then, in the blink of an eye, the figure was there, fully formed. Huge and menacing, black against the mist, a shadow figure of a giant warrior in ancient, spiked armour, with a massive winged helmet on its head. It must have been twelve metres high, he thought as he stood, rooted to the spot in terror.
Will has finally completed his apprenticeship and is now a fully-fledged Ranger, assigned to a small, safe fief. But even a small, quiet fief holds challenges to test Will’s ranger skills. Then his friend Alyss arrives, bearing news of a secret assignment, and Will must travel North, disguised as a jongleur, to seek answers to the mystery of a ghostly Night Warrior. Here, Will must use all of his Ranger skills to solve the mystery and protect the future safety of the Kingdom.
The Sorcerer in the North is the fifth title in the wonderful Ranger’s Apprentice series and sees Will on his first top secret mission as a Ranger. He is no longer under the instruction of Halt, the Ranger to whom he was apprenticed in earlier books, but Halt is still a figure in this book, as are other favourites including Will’s friends Alyss and Horace. The story stands alone, though readers who’ve read the earlier books will have an advantage.
Exciting fantasy reading.
Ranger’s Apprentice: The Sorcerer in the North, by John Flanagan
Random House, 2006