Book Review: Outcasts (Brotherband Chronicles)

Outcasts (Brotherband Chronicles: 1) by John A. Flanagan. 2011.

Reminiscent in time and place of the Vikings, Outcasts is the first book in the new Brotherband Chronicles, which is a companion series to Flanagan’s popular Ranger’s Apprentice series.

Hal’s father, a mighty Skandian warrior, died when Hal was very young, but his reputation lives on.  Hal, however, is nothing like his father.  He is not big and he is not strong; he prefers thinking and designing and building to fighting, and so he is considered weak. Even worse, he is also not pure Skandian; his mother had been brought to Skandia from Araluen—as a slave. There are a few other boys in his village like him, who for one reason or another are teased and bullied by the stronger boys.

Every Skandian boy, in the year that he turns 16, must go through several months of  brotherband training, in which boys are trained—physically and mentally—to be a warrior.  Boys are divided into teams, which then live and train together and compete against each other.  Two boys are chosen as leaders from this year’s large group of boys, and they take turns choosing their brotherbands.

But no one wants Hal and the other outcasts, so they are put into their own team with Hal as their leader…and now they must compete against the larger brotherbands filled with bigger, stronger boys.  It is not just muscles that will determine the winner, and Hal and his outcast team have their own strengths.  But will their cunning and loyalty and heart be enough?

This first book of the Brotherband Chronicles series is exciting and fast-paced, full of action scenes both on land and on the sea.  Reluctant readers, especially boys, and those who are fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice series will be drawn to it, as well as those who enjoy sailing.  And like all good books about competition, it offers up good lessons on loyalty, cooperation, and friendship, as well as how to lose and win gracefully.

In an introduction, the author discusses sailing and clearly defines a number of sailing terms, though he assures the reader that he hasn’t “gone overboard” with technical details in the book.  So while there is enough nautical information to please sailors, it should not overwhelm landlubbers or novice seamen.

Blogger:  Tracey L.