Hello Internet. Welcome back for Review #28. This series had me very stuck. I was debating to actually do this, as of both this and Ranger’s Apprentice I have only read the first book. But I believe these two books are examples enough of how the author has presented this series, it’s counterpart and it’s world.
Do I like John Flanagan? Hmm. I have attempted to read his Ranger’s Apprentice series with small success. Some of this was the characterisation, and some of this was the fact that after the first book, I decided that to continue down the rabbit hole (as there were eleven books out when I finally deigned to open book one) would not be beneficial for my sanity or productive towards my efforts at having a varied diet (which is important, as a balanced intake of books by different authors and different styles helps foster a better literary health. The more you know). So yeah, that’s a very simple way of saying I was scared off by Archive Panic and a massive fandom. The series had its own bookshelf in the library, gods above!
But now? Well, maybe I had the wrong idea. Brotherband, through it is set in the same universe with similar elements and a more pronounced “Viking” and nautical theme, is entertaining. I was lucky enough to be an audience member to a talk by John Flanagan about finalising Ranger’s Apprentice and his then up-and-coming new series, and though it is always awesome to see an author talk, Flanagan struck me as someone whose attitude towards writing is very focused on making the reader experience the very things described in the books. His style is never jargon-heavy, but he does use language which can be picked up or explained in-universe easily. His intimate-third-person style focusing on a character is the bread and butter which the world is served on, and though it is overused to the point of insanity it works with little objection because it is done well.
Brotherband displays a very outwardly grisly culture of fictional Vikings (called something I can’t really remember and couldn’t be bothered to call them anyway), and this allows the readers to take all they assume about Vikings and live them out mentally in glorious cliché and myth. Big, horned hats and all. So whilst this is somewhat of a love story towards the stereotypical Viking archetype, the series (or, at least, the first book that I have read) verges on a deconstruction of the genre. Every problem which normally would be glossed over is brought to light, and like with Ranger’s Apprentice, the book breaks down the things we see as typical for the fantasy staples and shows how they work to a way which is very well-thought-out. And this is well shown through the different characters as well.
Will and Hal share clear similarities in the way they are taught, but are both fundamentally different people. Whereas Hal is hot-tempered, yet smart and innovative, Will is very quick and rash to do the otherwise impossible whilst remaining (somewhat) cool-headed. Both of these characters push the stereotypes of who these “classes” of fantasy are, and they prod at the underpinnings of the typical genre defaults. But hey, all in all it comes down to a good ride, which is what this is.
Brotherband: The Outcasts was published in 2011 by Random House. It can be found on Amazon here.
Yours: J.M. Pear