by John Flanagan
reviewed by Maria Parenti-Baldey
Brotherband, The Caldera, 7, starts with the annual Maktig contest. Stig’s father, Olaf, arrives to ask Hal and his Heron brotherband fighters to save a 14-year-old emperor kidnapped by the pirate Myrgos. The action, tension and adventure begin when the Heron brotherband set off on their quest.
However, if you didn’t read the blurb, the opening paragraph was a basic fight scene. At the end of the paragraph there was a hint of a contest. But it wasn’t until the end of the fight we’re informed it’s the coveted annual Maktig competition. The Maktig or ‘Mighty One’ carries great authority and prestige among Skandians. Mentioning it from the onset, would have orientated readers to hang on to every – grip, impact, ram and lock.
Having grown up with Hal, Thorn, Stig and Flanagan’s way with the series, it was unexpected to meet contemporised language and behaviours. Hal, Skirl of the Heron and Thorn, his Battlemaster, had spent years in the Heron brotherband or traversing into The Ranger’s Apprentice series. Thorn would not ‘…made a little moue (pout) of surprise,’ when he found out Hal had been training Stig at night. He may have raised his eyebrow or offered a nod of approval. And neither would Thorn ‘…regard the young warrior with new respect’ given the years sailing together. Also, as they watched a form of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ for Ulf and Wulf’s Maktig event – their ‘sniggering’ jarred and lingered on the page, far too long.
Some unnecessary words, phrases and sentences dotted throughout has interrupted the reader’s participation. When Olaf talks about Hal’s reputation, Hal shrugs it off ‘…uninterested.’ However, the following sentence, ‘If Olaf had intended to flatter him, it hadn’t worked.’ The reader would conclude this. Some extraneous words have interrupted character traits e.g.., Olaf nodded ‘meekly’, ‘Thorn grunted ‘sarcastically’, Thorn ‘smothered a short bark of laughter.’ Also, while setting sail, Lydia would not ask Hal about ‘the figure muffled in his fur coat’. She would wait until the skirl was ready.
The tension and action started when ‘…under the guise of night’ the Heron passed Erak, the Oberjarl, in Wolfwind. Hal had set sail to get Olaf out – avoiding further Navigators’ Guild committee scrutiny, and to save the young emperor. Flanagan allowed us to enjoy Hal’s every thought and strategy when outsmarting the pirate Myrgos and his ramming Vulture.
The end epilogue would please readers with the Heron brotherband sailing towards Araluen, into The Ranger’s Apprentice Series. Flanagan could have doubled the excitement, if Hal mentioned it would delay facing the Oberjarl and the executive committee. Brotherband, The Caldera, 7, fits neatly into the successful Brotherband series whose world of the Skandian people – trading to survive, supporting allies and fighting evil, evolved into Flanagan’s incredible series in 2011.
Random House Australia 2017, 432 pages, paperback $18.99, ISBN 9780857980137