First in the Brotherband Chronicles, a companion series to the bestselling Ranger's Apprentice books, this nautical adventure from Flanagan takes place in the northern land of Skandia. The story concerns Hal Mikkelson, who's half Skandian and half--well, it doesn't really matter. He's considered a half-breed, an "Araluen weasel," which means that he has to work twice as hard as others to gain respect. Having turned 16, Hal must join a brotherband, a group of boys whose entire future--and, most importantly, their status as potential crewmembers and raiders on a wolfship--is dependent on how well they compete against other brotherbands, both individually and as a team. Although he's brilliant, Hal is relegated to a group of castoffs and losers who look to him for leadership. Loosely modeled on Viking culture, the Skandians value courage, seamanship, and brute strength. This enjoyable, old-fashioned tale should have easy appeal for Flanagan's many fans, who are already invested in the world he's created. It features relatable though somewhat minimally developed characters, most of whom are clearly identified as either heroes or villains. Ages 10-up. (Nov.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC
Gr 6 Up--Hal Mikkelson, 16, is appointed "skirl," or leader of his brotherband, eight seafaring Skandian boys left unchosen by their athletic and popular peers. Disadvantaged by Ingvar's impaired vision, Ulf and Wulf's constant bickering, Stefan's clowning, Jesper's thievery, and Stig's hot-headed impulses, the outcasts become Herons, after the wolfship Hal helped build and later purchased. Encamped to train and compete against much stronger 10-men teams, the Shark and Wolf brotherbands, the outnumbered Herons are bullied by childhood nemesis Tursgud, leader of the Sharks. Action scenes are plentiful as Hal enlists the hidden strengths of each team member to outsmart opponents in tactical competitions. Meanwhile, an unsavory pirate, Zavac, loiters in town, plotting to steal Hallasholm's Andomal, a precious piece of amber. When Erak the Oberjarl, a major character from the "The Ranger's Apprentice" series, entrusts the victorious Herons to sentry duty at the Andomal shrine, it is not surprising that Zavac makes his move. Hal's shame in failing to protect the town's treasure compels him to set sail after Zavac in an ending that is an obvious setup for another installment. Hal's mentor is Thorn, a one-armed, recovering alcoholic with a once-glorious past who promised his mortally wounded friend, Mikkel, that he would look after Hal and his mother. Well developed and vocabulary rich, with endearing new characters and a rousing adventure that assures new episodes, this book will delight Flanagan fans.--Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY[Page 118]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.