To say Hal and the Herons have had some sleepless nights since being cast out of Skandia would be an understatement. They can still remember their rise to victory as the champion Brotherband, only to see that glory slip through their fingers when Skandia’s sacred artifact, the Andomal, was stolen under their watch. The Herons had numerous chances to catch the thief, Zavac, yet he and his crew of the Raven eluded the Herons each time, leaving a wake of destruction behind. Failure, though, is not an option, and there is no turning back. Hal and his Brotherband must return to Skandia with the Andomal --- or die trying.
"I’ve grown quite fond of reading about how Hal and his friends seem to wriggle themselves out of impossible situations time and time again, and I’m eager to see what Flanagan has cooked up for the next episode in the lives of this scrappy and resourceful Brotherband."
The Herons think they’ve backed Zavac into a corner at last, but getting to him is going to be tricky. The thief has made his way to the infamous pirate haven of Raguza located along the river Dan, and gaining entry is next to impossible. But before tackling that problem, the Herons will first have to get past a town called Bayrath that uses a boom to control the river passage. It appears that Zavac has taken great care to make sure none of the Skandians follow him, and Hal and his friends are immediately thrown in jail and sentenced to hang. If impending death wasn’t a big enough problem, Hal learns that besides getting past the boom, the only other way to get further down the river is to navigate dangerous rapids. So death by hanging or death by crashing into rocks. Take your pick!
Most people might wither under the circumstances, but not the Herons. They have labored too hard to get this far just to let a little thing like a death sentence get in their way. Like so many times before when facing adverse situations, the Herons go to work. With the help of Lydia, they escape jail, figure out how to safely traverse the rapids and finally arrive at Raguza to confront Zavac.
It is at this point where you finally see that the Herons are no longer a group of bumbling young boys who think they can save the world. Now they know they can. That doesn’t mean, however, that it is certain to happen. They are, after all, just a bunch of teenagers who still bicker, tease each other and think they know it all. Just who do they think they are, infiltrating a pirate haven and taking on a ruthless killer? Despite all this, the Herons haven’t underestimated what they can accomplish --- and neither should you.
The first story arc of the Brotherband Chronicles comes to a close, but author John Flanagan promises that nothing will be the same. You can’t just have your honor and dignity stripped away, live through dangerous battles, come face to face with death and expect things to be the same, can you? I’ve grown quite fond of reading about how Hal and his friends seem to wriggle themselves out of impossible situations time and time again, and I’m eager to see what Flanagan has cooked up for the next episode in the lives of this scrappy and resourceful Brotherband.
Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on November 30, 2012