Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Brotherband Chronicles:  Book 1 - The Outcasts

Brotherband Chronicles: Book 1 - The Outcasts

John Flanagan
Fiction  Series
For ages 10 to 14
Penguin, 2011   ISBN: 978-0399256196

Hal has never really fitted in. The son of a freed Araluen slave and a well-respected Skandian warrior who died in battle, Hal has been allowed to forget that he is not a ‘proper’ Skandian. For as long as he can remember people have called him names and bullied him, and for as long as he can remember Hal has done his best to ignore the taunts and has focused on doing the things that matter to him.

One of the things Hal has done, is to learn a much as he can about boat building, and with the help of his friends, he has built a beautiful boat which he has named the Heron. The Heron is half the size of a regular Skandian wolfship, but she is superbly built and the unique sail system that Hal has built for her makes her agile and fast. When Hal puts the Heron through her paces, he shows everyone who is watching that the Heron is a fast little ship, and that he is an excellent helmsman.

Though Hal is only half Skandian, he is still allowed to participate in the special training that all teenage Skandian boys experience. The boys are broken up into groups called brotherbands, and in these groups they live, eat, and train. Often the brotherband members stay together for the rest of their lives.

In the selection process, two boys are nominated to be skirls, or leaders. One is a boy called Tursgud, who is probably the biggest bully in Hallasholm, and the other is a boy called Rollond. After Tursgund and Rollond’s brotherbands are complete with ten boys in each team, there are eight boys left, including Hal and his best friend Stig. It is decided that they will form a third brotherband, and Hal is chosen to be the leader. Everyone in his brotherband, the Herons, is an outcast of some kind, but the eight teenagers don’t allow this to become a problem. Instead, under Hal’s strong and fair leadership, they learn how to work together as a team.

Hal has always been a thoughtful boy who is a good planner and tactician, and he quickly learns what are the strength and weaknesses of his brotherband members. He then uses their strengths in the trials that the brotherbands are required to complete as part of their training. The winners of the trials earn points for their brotherband team. Though they are smaller than the other brotherbands, the Herons don’t give up hope that they will end up being the team that wins the most points.

This is the first book in what promises to be an exciting and addictive new series. The Brotherband Chronicles are based in the same world that John Flannagan created for his popular Ranger’s Apprentice series. This time though, the main characters are Skandians instead of Araluens, and this time the main character, Hal, has to figure out who he is and what he stands for.