Monday, June 4, 2012

The Invaders (Brotherband book 2) by John Flanagan

Book one ends with Hal and his crew of sailors fleeing in disgrace from the city they grew up in order to retrieve the Andromal, the sacred artifact of the Skandians, that was stolen by pirates when Hal's crew was supposedly guarding it (they fell asleep). Hal knows that they will be pursued and dragged back home to be punished for leaving the city. They flee under cover of a storm and find a sheltered inlet where Thorn, an adult Skandian warrior who came with on the crew, begins training them on how to fight like warriors. The young boys are no match for pirates and the training is intense. When they discover a girl, Lydia, in a boat adrift at sea they find out that the pirates they are seeking have taken over her town and are pillaging it of emeralds found in a nearby mine. Hal must put together a plan to defeat the pirates and give the town back to the villagers.

Flanagan loves weapons and shines when describing the use and function of them. Hal invents a crossbow that he mounts on his sailing ship, as well as, a way for his sailing ship to go faster in the water. Lydia is an expert using a dart throwing weapon called an atlatl. Flanagan's writing reminds me of nonfiction texts at times. He's good at descriptions, setting and action; less good with interesting word choices and internal character development. He has his usual humor and banter but I didn't think it worked quite as well in this story because it was between adults and boys. Usually he has the banter between adults and if it's with the boys they don't get it half the time and that makes it funnier.

The characters are distinct and have flaws although Hal doesn't really change much from the beginning to the end of the story. Thorn actually changes more becoming the warrior he once was and finding a purpose in his life. Ingvar is interesting as well. His eyesight is so bad that he is almost blind and Thorn teaches him to fight by feel not sight.

Lydia uses darts for a weapon because the crossbows are difficult for women to master since the physical strength necessary to pull them back is lacking in most females. Flanagan is an archer and I like that he is realistic on this point. While I read and see movies where women will perform impossible physical feats and I usually just go with it; it was refreshing to have this aspect presented realistically. That's why I raised my eyebrows when  Lydia hits the oil sack on a moving boat with no practice. Would she be able to do that?  Also, I found it unbelievable that the adults wouldn't give input into the strategy for attacking the village against the pirates. Hal does all the planning and the adult warriors don't really add anything to it. I would have thought it would be a group effort, not just the one brilliant young kid in the form of Hal, coming up with the entire scheme.

There is plenty of action and violence. They are at war so there is some torture and deaths. The details are not graphic but there are quite a few deaths. An entertaining read.

Reading Level 5.8
3 out of 5 Smileys

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