The son of a courageous sea raider who died in battle and of a former slave from another country, Hal Mikkelson is by far the biggest outcast in Hallasholm, the capital of the nation of Skandia, a country of seafaring marauders. In a land of extremely well-built sailors, raiders, and warriors there isn’t really a place for Hal’s creative mind and his ingenuitive yet radical ideas. Now he is thrown into the depths of a Skandian competition with almost no chance of success. John Flanagan’s The Brotherband Chronicles: The Outcasts is the exciting start of his second page-turning series, after his bestselling Ranger’s Apprentice series. In Flanagan’s eyes, Skandians are pretty much Vikings; they wear sheepskin clothes and horned helmets, they live in the far north with lots of snow and cold winters, they sail on long, square-sailed ships which double as warships, and most of all, they are known for their skills as axmen. Hal is almost sixteen when he builds his own boat out of spare boat parts. With help from his best friend Stig, Ingvar, a nearsighted yet powerful teenager, and Ulf and Wulf, two quarrelsome, identical twins, he sails out to sea with great success and pride. However, Brotherband training is coming up fast and Hal is left with a full band of misfits and outcasts that the other two teams didn’t want, as well as two less members. Brotherband training is where fifteen and sixteen year-olds take part in difficult fitness and weapons drills, nautical and seamanship classes, and one huge competition before they are to become full fledged Skandian men, and Hal is at a huge disadvantage.
Most people who have read John Flanagan’s other books in the Ranger’s Apprentice series will definitely love The Brotherband Chronicles: The Outcasts since it takes place in the same world and even includes some of the same characters. If you haven’t done so, you should be aware that all of Flanagan’s books are filled with Medieval battles and day-to-day life. However, he writes normally boring parts of the book in a way that makes them just as exciting as a sudden ambush. Hal is a likable character and I like him especially because he is an outcast and he thinks completely different from all the other Skandians. Most of all, he is kind and good-hearted and persistent for his small size and ego. Additionally, I thought Ingvar was an intriguing character since he is nearly blind and enormously strong, but quiet and methodical at the same time. If you want to read The Brotherband Chronicles: The Outcasts, you should plan on reading the next book in the series because there is a wild plot twist and one huge cliffhanger at the end of the book. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and I loved the unique characters, the entertaining setting, and most of all, the incredibly exciting story.