Wednesday, February 15, 2012

BOOK REVIEW - Brotherband Chronicles Bk 01 - The Outcasts by John Flanagan

Brotherband Chronicles is the first book in a new trilogy from International Bestselling Author John Flanagan who is probably most widely known for the Ranger’s Apprentice series. It was released in the UK on 3rd November 2011 by Bodley Head and the hardcover is 464 pages including  an extract of Ranger's Apprentice Book One.

The story focuses on young Hal Mikkelson, a young man living in Skandia of mixed parentage. He struggles with a feeling of being an outsider which is exacerbated by him being smaller and less brawny than those around him. Hal however is a genius at building things and seeing ways to improve on others.

When Brotherband training – a rite of passage for all Skandians – starts for Hal finds himself the unwilling leader of a band of outcasts, the boys that no one wants. They are small and wiry but what they lack in size, they make up with skill and courage. Now they must battle against the other bands in the ultimate race where there can only be one winner.

There was a very high mark that Brotherband had to aim for after the excellence that was the Ranger’s Apprentice series. This series is set in the same world of that of the first story but begins in Skandia whereas RA starts out within Araluen. So this of course brings about the question of whether or not you should read Ranger’s Apprentice before coming to Brotherband. After careful thought after reading book one (this is a series so things may change) I am going to say that you do not need to have read Ranger’s Apprentice but doing so will give you a greater insight into the locales mentioned and into the culture and ideology of the Skandian nation.

Let me say that almost immediately I got sucked into this world, the way that John Flanagan paints the details of his stories with rich descriptions means you can easily picture yourself there along with the characters of the story. His style is very descriptive visually without going that step too far which would push it into hammy writing.

Hal is a great lead character, he is the outsider because of his small size and his mixed parentage as well as the fact that he grew up without a father. Like all good heroes though he has his strengths as well as his weaknesses and that is what allows the reader to care for him. He isn’t perfect he plays to his strengths but still suffers some setbacks as a direct result of his shortcomings.

There are a number of solid supporting characters and I am anxious to see what happens next with the members of the Brotherband. I hope we see more of Rolland even though it doesn’t seem immediately likely.

This is the kind of book I cry out for, good male lead and a book that could definitely appeal to young male readers which is something that I am a big proponent of. I feel that YA suffers from a distinct lack of male leads and I hope that this series as well as titles like The Chronicles of Nick and The Heroes of Olympus might blaze a trail for more titles aimed at young male readers.

So to sum up I would recommend Brotherband: The Outcasts to anyone who is interested in a good adventure series with rich descriptions and an intricate world for you to explore. That recommendation goes triple for fans of Ranger’s Apprentice.

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