By John Flanagan
Philomel Books, 2011. 434 pgs. Young Adult
In Skandia, sixteen-year-old boys must go through brotherband training, where groups must work together while competing against other brotherbands as they try to prove themselves ready to take their place in Skandian society and in the Skandian wolf ships. Hal Mikkelson is half-Skandian, half-Araluen, which, in the eyes of the other Skandians, means he's outsider and probably always will be. His only friend, Stig, is the son a Skandian who stole from his countrymen and then high-tailed it out of the country, which leaves Stig as an outsider as well. They, along with six other outcasts, aren't chosen for a brotherband and by default become a brotherband, the Herons. Competing against larger brotherbands, no one expects the Herons to succeed, but Hal and his new friends are determined to show that they aren't the losers that everyone thinks they are.
In this companion series to The Ranger's Apprentice series, readers will quickly draw parallels with the other series, with small, underdog Hal (similar to Will), strong but not as bright best friend Stig (similar to Horace), and the wise mentor Thorn (similar to Halt). While there are definite similarities, there are enough difference to make the book distinct. Readers familiar with Ranger's Apprentice won't be disappointed by the new series, but it's not necessary to read the other series before diving into this one. Highly recommend to anyone looking for rip-roaring good fun.
The downloadable audiobook is available through Overdrive, and, as with the Ranger's Apprentice series, John Keating does a great job with the narration.