Tag Archives: Brotherband

The Battle of Hackham Heath

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Title:  The Battle of Hackham Heath (Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years 2)
Author:  John Flanagan
Publisher:  Philomel
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-0-399-16362-6

Book Summary:
Although Morgarath has been discredited to many and escaped treason by hiding out in the Mountains of Rain and Night, the kingdom of Araluen has not found peace.  King Duncan ascends to the throne after the abdication of his father.  King Oswald never fully recovered from his capture and mistreatment by Morgarath as he attempted to discredit the King and his future lineage to the throne.  Duncan is young, but fair, and his experiences have made him cautious and intelligent.  Unfortunately, not all the Barons are able to comprehend Morgarath’s deceit and some of them have chosen to align themselves with the fugitive.  Also, under Morgarath’s previous control, the Rangers, a group of skilled archers who have perfected the art of unseen movement, were disbanded and discredited.  As the eyes and ears of the kingdom, the Rangers are essential for securing peace and maintaining trust and honor for the new King.

Crowley, the Ranger Commandant, and his fellow Ranger Halt, were instrumental in restoring Duncan’s right to the throne.  Now they work together to reform and rebuild the Ranger Corp as they are ever vigilant about the happenings and mutterings in the Kingdom.  When a rumor starts about Morgarath’s building of an army, Halt braves the treacherous Three Step Pass to spy on the exiled Baron.  Three Step Pass is the only access to the Mountains of Rain and Night and is heavily guarded.  Halt’s climbing ability serves him well as he ascends the steep cliff side.  What he discovers is horrifying.  Morgarath has found a way to enslave and command an ancient group of creatures – the Wargals.  Part bear, part beast, these savage, simple-minded creatures will follow the order to kill to its culmination, or perish trying.  Araluen’s weakened defenses and army have no recourse against these terrifying monsters.

In addition to dealing with the uncertainty of Morgarath’s next move toward impending war and the unease in the kingdom, King Duncan does have one bit of joy in his life.  He has married the beautiful Lady Rosalind and she now carries the heir to the throne.  The stakes in this battle have been raised and the future of the kingdom and its rulers lies with the Rangers and their king as they must fight against an unrelenting foe.

Book Commentary:
Sigh.  This is one of those series that makes me so happy!  John Flanagan fans will not be disappointed.  The same attention to detail, witty humor and banter, and enduring characters are present as in all of his books.  Flanagan truly is a master storyteller; his description and focus on detail create true pictures in the reader’s mind while still finding just the right balance of action and exposition.

In some ways, I feel that this book is written for the fans, as we learn the answers to some questions that have plagued readers throughout the series: questions about Duncan’s wife, the discovery of the Wargals, Halt’s early relationship with Lady Pauline, and Halt’s future apprentices.  The dry and wonderful banter between Halt and Crowley and Halt and Abelard are truly at their finest.  A delightful book throughout that I finished in a single day.

Who might like this book:
I have said this before, but really, there is no better way to explain this:  This is a book for all ages, but you MUST . . . seriously, I won’t talk to you ever again if you don’t . . . read the entire series in order.  It is kind of like the Star Wars saga: read the books in the order that they were written, not in chronological order.

The Ranger’s Apprentice Series in Order:
Book 1:  The Ruins of Gorlan
Book 2:  The Burning Bridge
Book 3:  The Icebound Land
Book 4:  The Battle for Skandia
Book 5:  The Sorcerer of the North
Book 6:  The Siege of Macindaw
Book 7:  Erak’s Ransom
Book 8:  The Kings of Clonmel
Book 9:  Halt’s Peril
Book 10:  The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
Book 11:  The Lost Stories
Book 12:  The Royal Ranger

The Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years
Book 1:  The Tournament at Gorlan
Book 2:  The Battle of Hackham Heath

Additionally, John Flanagan wrote (and is still writing) a spin-off series to the Ranger’s Apprentice that focuses on Skandia.  Those books have some overlap to characters and settings to the original series.

Brotherband Chronicles
Book 1:  The Outcasts
Book 2:  The Invaders
Book 3:  The Hunters
Book 4:  Slaves of Socorro
Book 5:  Scorpion Mountain
Book 6:  Ghostfaces

The Ghostfaces

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Title:  The Ghostfaces (Brotherband 6)
Author:  John Flanagan
Publisher:  Philomel
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-0-399-16357-9

Book Summary:
Hal and the rest of the Heron crew have just departed Castle Dun Kilty in Clonmel after securing King Sean’s signature on the treaty renewal between Clonmel and Skandia.  Such missions are common for Hal and his crew, as the ship and the crew are fast and reliable.  However, as the crew sets out for home, they encounter a terrible storm.  Thrown adrift and moving further and further from land, the ship and its crew are tossed about for eight days.  When the skies finally clear, Hal realizes that he has no idea where he is and their water supply is in serious danger of running out.  In an effort to save his ship and his crew, Hal sets course out into the uncharted waters of the Endless Sea, from where no sailor has ever returned.

As the crew is about to lose all hope, land is sighted.  A river is found and the crew sails upstream to find a seemingly uninhabited land full of fresh water, plenty of game to hunt, and a sandy beach on which to make repairs.  As Lydia is out hunting, she makes two very surprising discoveries.  One is that a very large bear is roaming the forest, and two is that there is evidence of other humans.  The crew encounters the bear in the woods and again when it attacks their camp.  When it comes back again, the crew finds that it has chased two small children up a tree.  Using a secret weapon on the Heron, the crew kills the bear and the children escape unharmed.

Soon, Mohegas, leader of the Mawagansett people, comes to the camp to offer friendship and appreciation for the crew’s defeat of the bear and rescue of the children.  The Heron crew is shocked to discover that the Mawagansett people speak in the common tongue until they meet Orvik Eelcatcher, a Skandian who was deserted on the island when his ship was lost in a storm twelve years prior.  As the crew and the Mawagansett people join together for food and fellowship, a common friendship and appreciation is formed.  The land, though primitive of weapons and transportation, seems idyllic.

But, not all is perfect.  The Mawagansett people are haunted by the attacks of the fierce Ghostface tribe from the north.  Every few years, they come destroy the crops, kill the villagers, and burn the community, and it is soon evident that they are on the warpath again.  In the past, the woefully outnumberd and peaceful Mawagansett people have hidden and allowed their homes to be destroyed, but this time they have Skandian warriors on their side.  Will that be enough to defeat this violent and brutal tribe?

Book Commentary:
So . . . you know how much I love John Flanagan books!  Finished this one in one sitting!!!  The Brotherband series is a spin-off of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series that focuses on a young crew of Skandian sailors.  Although there are a few crossovers of characters and it is the same universe as Ranger’s Apprentice, the Brotherband series focuses on the lives and customs of the Skandian people.  I admit when I read the first two books, I enjoyed them but they didn’t hold the same appeal for me as the Ranger’s Apprentice.  By the end of book 3 however, I was just as hooked on these and I think this book 6 might be the best yet.

Coupled with John Flanagan’s amazing creation of a world and realistic, descriptive details, these stories follow a crew of misfit sailors who come together to truly create a team and a family.  As a sailor, I appreciate the nautical explanations and adventures, but Flanagan uses such amazing detail that even someone unfamiliar with sailing can truly visualize what is happening.  I also enjoyed his lush description of the new land and its inhabitants.

The characters of Hal, Stig, Thorn, Lydia, Stephan, Jesper, Ulf, Wulf, and Kloop continue to grow and develop as both individuals and as a crew.  I enjoy how each is truly a unique personality and that characterization is very evident throughout the story.  Ranger’s Apprentice fans will enjoy references to old favorite characters and familiar places.

On a side note, this is my 100th blog post; how fitting that it should be one of my favorite authors!

Who might like this book:
It is not necessary to have read the Ranger’s Apprentice series first, but seriously, why wouldn’t you???  Great series for all ages; truly John Flanagan is my favorite author!  I know that I have said this before, but you MUST . . . seriously, I won’t talk to you ever again if you don’t . . . read the entire series in order.

The Ranger’s Apprentice Series in Order:
Book 1:  The Ruins of Gorlan
Book 2:  The Burning Bridge
Book 3:  The Icebound Land
Book 4:  The Battle for Skandia
Book 5:  The Sorcerer of the North
Book 6:  The Siege of Macindaw
Book 7:  Erak’s Ransom
Book 8:  The Kings of Clonmel
Book 9:  Halt’s Peril
Book 10:  The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
Book 11:  The Lost Stories
Book 12:  The Royal Ranger

Brotherband Chronicles
Book 1:  The Outcasts
Book 2:  The Invaders
Book 3:  The Hunters
Book 4:  Slaves of Socorro
Book 5:  Scorpion Mountain
Book 6:  The Ghostfaces

The Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years
Book 1:  The Tournament at Gorlan
Book 2: The Battle at Hackham Heath (Coming November 29, 2016)!!!!

Queries and Conundrums: Summertime Reading

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I’m not dead yet!”  Can you tell I’ve been listening to Spamalot?  I apologize for the long siesta but between the end of the school year and my son graduating from high school, life has been busy.  Finally, things have slowed down a bit.  I have been reading a lot but have had little time to write.  But now it is summer!!!

What is it that makes summer reading so different from the rest of the year?  I know that for me personally, my kids are not in school so I am not reading as much while sitting in carpool lines or while waiting for rehearsal or lessons to finish up.  Don’t get me wrong; the kids are still busy but my reading time has shifted.

During the summer, I read more in the morning, when the house is quiet and the teenagers are still asleep.  I read during the heat of the day when really it is just too miserable to do anything else.  I read in the evening when the temperature finally cools down and the fireflies are just starting to appear.  Summer seems to provide more opportunities for longer stretches of reading time, but it is more than that.  For some reason, I feel less guilty for spending time reading rather than flipping the laundry or running the vacuum or making dinner.  Seriously though; it’s 100 degrees!  Who wants to turn the oven on?!

The requirements of daily life relax a bit and time for reading take precedence over all.  Throughout the school year, I find myself hoarding books to save for summer reading.  Funny thing is that my kids do too!!  Sometimes these books are ones that I know will take more time to process and think about, sometimes they are ones that may have more challenging content, but most often they are just books that I really want to read and enjoy and have the time to relish them.

When I was a kid, my grandparents had a cabin on a small island in Canada.  I used to spend two months up there almost every summer.  The morning meant chores: baking before the temperatures got too hot, weeding the garden, bailing the boats out, and so on.  After lunch, it was my time.  Pops almost always took an afternoon nap and Granny would spend time on her cross-stitch projects.  The only television reception was one station of Canadian television, the only music was from an 8 track tape player, and there rarely were any other children around, so I read . . . a lot.  With the windows open, there was just enough of a breeze to make it pleasant as I curled up on the old cracked vinyl couch on the front porch.  I usually brought a suitcase full of books but I often resorted to pillaging my grandparents’ bookshelves.  It was the summer that I turned 10 that I read To Kill a Mockingbird.  At 12, it was Gone with the Wind and at 13, Anna Karenina.  Summer was meant for not just enjoying my reading time, but rather full immersion.

So, what is on tap for this summer?  The new John Flanagan Brotherband book The Ghostfaces just came out, and next week is the newest Lady Darby – As Death Draws Near – by Anna Lee Huber.  I also have Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The Sword of Summer sitting on my shelf; yes, I know it was released last October.  Don’t judge; it’s been a busy year!  I also still have a pile on my to-be-read shelf and who knows what I will discover when I take a break from the heat and venture into the nearest bookstore.

So, as the temps rise, embrace the true essence of summer.  Be it on the beach, by the pool, or in your own living room, read and enjoy the season.

Four THINGS ABOUT JOHN FLANAGAN BOOKS on Friday

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Four THINGS ABOUT JOHN FLANAGAN BOOKS on Friday
As all book lovers know, when someone asks “what’s your favorite book?” it is an impossible question to answer.  However, if I had to answer, I would say that John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series is my most favorite book series that I have ever read.  I know!!  Huge endorsement there!  As I finished my post on Wednesday about his newest book, Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years – Tournament at Gorlan, I realized that I had so much more to write about . . . like 1300 words more!

Sent in a fictional medieval time and place, the kingdom of Araluen is divided into 50 fiefs.  Each fief is ruled by a Baron and each fief has its own Ranger.  The Rangers are a mysterious group of individuals, skilled in the arts of unseen movement and archery; they are the eyes and ears of the kingdom and help to maintain order.  Loosely based on the Texas Rangers, they are a small group of individuals who had an immense effect on the people they serve and are a formidable force, following the mantra “One riot, One Ranger.”  A young orphan boy names Will is apprenticed to the great Ranger Halt and the series tells of his adventures.

Why do I love these books so much?  Check out my four reasons:

His Description and Detail
John Flanagan previously wrote for television and that skill is evident in his storytelling.  His description is so vivid and lifelike; it is almost written as a script for director to follow.  Although there are intricate fight moves and elaborate battle scenes, his attention to detail allows the reader to see the action without being slowed down by too much exposition.  I have quoted examples from his books to teach young writers how to use all the senses and create beautiful imagery in their own writings.  His detail extends to his character creation.  My family had the privilege of meeting John Flanagan last week and it was fascinating to hear how he took bits of personality from friends, family, and acquaintances and expounded on those nuggets of behavior and created such multi-dimensional characters.  Will was based on his son Mike, for whom the stories were originally written; Lady Pauline was a bridesmaid at his wedding; and Halt has qualities of his sixth grade teacher.  Even Tug, Will’s horse, truly becomes a character through his description and personification.

I think most readers try to imagine the stories they read in their minds.  Sometimes I struggle with trying to visualize characters or settings that are so unfamiliar to my own experiences.  That is never a problem with Flanagan’s books and it makes me even more endured to his novels.  His love for the characters and his stories is evident through the pictures that the reader can create in his mind.

The Creation of his Fictitious World
The time and setting for Flanagan’s stories are fictitious but obviously based on history:  Araluen is England, Arrida is the Middle East, the Skandians and their longboats are the Vikings, and so on.  There are knights and duels and chivalry and monsters.  The world that John Flanagan created is similar enough to history that he doesn’t have to spend too much of the story creating the world and can instead use the time to tell the storySometimes I feel that authors spend so much time creating their worlds that the essence of the story is lost.  I have this complaint about a lot of current dystopian novels.  I am so drawn into the complexities of the society that story is based on that I lose sight and interest in the story itself.

Flanagan does a great job at giving just enough for the reader to see this loosely based medieval world while tying it closely enough to medieval England that the reader is comfortable with the setting.  I loved how Flanagan was not overly concerned with a precisely detailed setting.  He commented to the audience that when he was creating a battle scene for one of the novels, he needed something to block the left flank.  So, he put a mountain there.  He enjoys creating the world and making it believable but doesn’t allow it to detract from the story itself.

The Universal Nature of the Stories
I discovered this series when my son was about seven and we read the first couple of books together before he continued with them on his own.  My husband reads them and loves them, my daughters read them and love them, I read them and love them.  They are part of that ambiguous genre of young adult – adult novels, whose protagonist is a young adult and the books are often located in the Young Adult section of the bookstore, but they are appealing to and enjoyed by adults.  These series are some of my favorites because they allow families to read and enjoy together on many different levels.  These are the books we read as teens and then re-read as adults and then re-read again with our own children.  They are the “Shakespeare books” of our time; the books that transcend age because of their universal themes and enduring characters.  The Ranger’s Apprentice books fall into this category.

I love when I can enjoy books with my whole family and we can discuss them from so many different perspectives.  As I was the original discoverer of the series (yeah, I don’t let my family forget that!), I always get the latest release first.  You know, finder’s prerogative.  Anyway, I was reading Flanagan’s latest book and my family heard me laughing.  I commented that Halt had just met Abelard and everyone know what I was talking about.  Flanagan’s use of humor is also a wonderful quality of this series.  My family has many favorite lines that are quoted often.  I mean, what isn’t funny about “Gundar, having removed his axe, was anxious to use it again.”  Quirky, witty, and even whimsical at times; these books make us laugh and cry and celebrate together.

More books, More stories, More series, Oh My!
The absolute best part of John Flanagan’s works is that there are a lot of stories, multiple series, and he is writing more!!  I hate when I fall in love with an author and there is a limited number of works to read.  The series starts with the adventures of Will and his friends in The Ranger’s Apprentice Series.  As a spin-off series, The Brotherband Stories tell of a young Skandian and his crew of the Heron.  There are some cross-over characters from the Ranger’s series, which let me tell you, was so exciting.  My new favorite characters meet my old favorite characters!!  His latest series is a prequel trilogy to the Ranger’s Apprentice Series.  The first book The Ranger’s Apprentice Early Years: The Tournament at Gorlan was just released and the author has promised two more to follow.  I was even more excited when Flanagan announced that he felt he still had more stories to tell in the original Ranger’s Apprentice Series and would be writing more!  Squeak!  So excited!!

Have I inspired you to read John Flanagan?  Here is the complete list of his works . . . again.  Yes, I really love this series and am really serious that you need to read it.  OF COURSE, read them in order and let me know what you think.

The Ranger’s Apprentice Epic
Book 1:  The Ruins at Gorlan
Book 2:  The Burning Bridge
Book 3:  The Icebound Land
Book 4:  The Battle for Skandia
Book 5:  The Sorcerer of the North
Book 6:  The Siege of Macindaw
Book 7:  Erak’s Ransom
Book 8:  The Kings of Clonmel
Book 9:  Halt’s Peril
Book 10:  The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
Book 11:  The Lost Stories
Book 12:  The Royal Ranger

The Brotherband Chronicles
Book 1:  The Outcasts
Book 2:  The Invaders
Book 3:  The Hunters
Book 4:  Slaves of Socorro
Book 5:  Scorpion Mountain
Book 6:  COMING SUMMER 2016!

The Ranger’s Apprentice Early Years
Book 1:  The Tournament at Gorlan