Book Review: John Flanagan’s The Ghostfaces

Posted August 3, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Middle-Grade readers

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: John Flanagan’s The GhostfacesThe Ghostfaces by John Flanagan
This action & adventure, historical fiction is a hardcover edition was published by Philomel Books on June 14, 2016 and has 400 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

four-stars

Other books by this author include The Sorcerer in the North, The Siege of Macindaw, Erak's Ransom, The Kings of Clonmel, Halt's Peril, The Emperor of Nihon-Ja, The Lost Stories, The Outcasts, Invaders, The Hunters, The Royal Ranger, Slaves of Socorro, Scorpion Mountain, The Tournament at Gorlan

Sixth in The Brotherband Chronicles historical action series for middle-grade readers and revolving around a band of young Skandians, brothers-in-arms who sail the seas.

My Take

There’s a sense of Leif Eriksson and his Vikings discovering America in this as well as the attitude of the Europeans about that Endless Ocean. Thorn’s explanation of how the world is shaped makes as much sense as any of the others, and it does at least make sense for their decision on which direction they should sail.

It’s a sweet and sad story with those elements I adore about Johann David Wyss’ The Swiss Family Robinson and David Conover’s Once Upon an Island with their can-do, make-do attitude. The interaction between the Herons and the Mawags is warm and so very honorable. I did enjoy how surprised the Mawags were by the Herons’ battle skills! And they certainly enjoyed Hal’s inventive mind!

As usual, Flanagan’s characters are distinct and caring. Parents will appreciate the sense of teamwork as well as each acknowledging each others’ strengths and weaknesses.

There really isn’t much show in The Ghostfaces. Maybe because the trials the Herons undergo would be too much for kids?? Which doesn’t really make sense.

That fight between Stig and Simsinnet was pretty funny. Pretty brief as well, lol.

Stig finally experiences total acceptance and love. And family. Love that turns into tragedy that will make you cry. I know I did, even though — and I really, really hate to say this — I wanted it to happen this way. Hal’s decision, too, at the end of the story was sad, but the best choice, really.

The Story

It’s a cocky impatience that finds the Herons battling a tremendous storm, struggling for home, and being blown off course deep into the Endless Ocean where they encounter unexpected people and unlooked-for battles of all kinds.

The Characters

Hal Mikkelson is the genius inventor and navigator and the skirl of the Heron and her Brotherband. Karina Mikkelswife is Hal’s mother.

The Heron is…
…the ship Hal designed and the boys built. Thorn is an old, one-handed Skandian and their battle leader. Stig Olafson is first mate and Hal’s best friend; Edvin is their combat medic, cook, er, chef, and relief helmsman; Wolf and Ulf are the bickering twins who trim the sails; Stefan; Jesper has the skills of a thief; and, the very strong but half-blind Ingvar is doing much better with the glasses Hal invented in Scorpion Mountain, 5. Lydia Demarek is the “brother” who joined them in The Invaders, 2. She’s got some amazing skills! Kloof is the dog they adopt in Slaves of Socorro, 4.

The Mawagansett are…
…a Native American* tribe led by Mohegas. Pacahan is his wife. His nephews are Tamorat and Hokas. Romanut is the battle leader. Simsinnet is a champion, hotheaded, warrior who is in love with Tecumsa. Minneka and Lahontas are the children whom the Herons save. Millika and Pillika are twins who love teasing Ulf and Wolf; Sagana; Tecumsa is a beautiful woman; and, Bird of the Forest is laid out on a bier.

Orvik Eelcatcher, a.k.a., Man Who Swims, was shipwrecked twelve years ago when a storm caught Arnulf Sharkfighter‘s Wolf Foot. He ticks off the Herons!

The Imsinnis skassak the Ghostfaces, are…
…a brutal warrior tribe of Native Americans from the north. Holds a Black Lance is their leader with Crusher of Heads his second-in-command.

Hallasholm, Skandia, is…
…home to Hal and the Brotherband. Erak is their Oberjarl. Svengal is his best friend.

* Flanagan is careful to note that he avoided using terms such as Native American so as to not give offense. My using these terms are my own choice.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a mix of deep browns on the sides and bottom and the yellowish-greens of the forest illuminated by the light which two men bearing weapons, an iron sword and a flint ax, approach. The title and series information are excellent examples of terrible choices for contrast. The companion series information is in white at the top with this series information below it in an embossed dark gold under which is a much smaller title in a deep red. The author’s name is at the bottom in a black-outlined brighter gold.

The title is the enemy, The Ghostfaces, who destroy.

four-stars

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