Book Review: John Flanagan’s The Outcasts

Posted December 12, 2011 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Middle-Grade readers

I received this book for free from my own shelves 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 Outcasts

The Outcasts


John Flanagan

action & adventure, fantasy in Hardcover edition that was published by Philomel Books on November 1, 2011 and has 434 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed 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, Invaders, The Hunters, The Royal Ranger, Slaves of Socorro, Scorpion Mountain, The Tournament at Gorlan, The Ghostfaces, "The Beast From Another Time", The Caldera

First in the Brotherband Chronicles children’s adventure-fantasy series revolving around eight young men of Hallasholm who are anxious to prove themselves to their peers and countrymen. This story is set several years after the events in The Battle for Skandia, 4, in the Ranger’s Apprentice series.

In 2012, The Outcasts was nominated for the The Inky Awards for Gold Inky.

My Take

The prologue is half-finished which made a reveal later in the story a bit confusing. I’m not really sure why Flanagan bothered with a prologue.

The main theme is team building as the eight primary characters — all outcasts in the village — come together as part of the brotherband training season. Secondary themes include strategy, humanity, and ingenuity.

I liked the glossary explanations Flanagan provided; I had never thought to remember that “port” is “left” and they both have four letters. I’ve always remembered it as “pass the port on the left”. Tells ya where my mind is at!

The Story

It’s a critical year for Hal and Stig. They are 16 now and, with 26 others, will take part in the brotherband training this year. Teams are chosen much as kids today choose teammates, and there are a number of young men this year who know they will be chosen last or forced onto a team. And so it goes, Rollond and Tursgud have each chosen 9 other teammates and neither of them wants what’s left; Erak makes his own choice and determines that the remaining eight will form the third brotherband.

What follows is three months of training in tactics, weapon skills, seamanship, ship handling, and navigation and facing down Tursgud and the Sharks team. Proving themselves to each other, growing together as a team, and demonstrating their abilities to their people. Until that last day. The day when all falls apart.

The Characters

Hal Mikkelson is Thorn’s protégé and brilliant. He sees a way to make things better, and he does it from improvements to a crossbow to ideas on indoor plumbing to prosthetics to improved sail designs. Because his mother, Karin, was brought to Skandia as a slave, many in Hallasholm still see her as one even though Mikkel freed her as soon as he bought her. Stig is his best and only friend; his father stole from his shipmates and ran off years ago. Now his mother takes in laundry to survive. Wulf and Ulf are bickering twins; Edvin is good at math but so average in every way that most don’t even notice him; Jesper has real talent as a thief and pickpocket; Stefan is the village clown and an expert mimic; and, Ingvar is very strong and very nearsighted.

Tursgud leads one of the boys’ cliques in Hallasholm; he’s tall, well-built, athletic, handsome, and an arrogant bully always bragging about his father, the Maktig. Rollond is elected as the second team leader.

Erak is Oberjarl of Skandia. Sigurd is responsible for the brotherband training while Gort, Jarst, and Viggo are in charge of a team each.

Thorne was a mighty warrior until the voyage when he lost his hand saving the ship and his best friend, Mikkel, died; in the six years since he has degenerated into a staggering drunk until one night, Karin Mikkelswife, Mikkel’s widow, saves him from himself.

Zavac is the captain of a pirate ship plotting to steal Skandia’s greatest treasure.

The Cover and Title

The cover is chilling and exciting as I’m guessing that Hal is pulling on one of the sheets as the Heron and two other ships battle a storm at sea. It’s a gorgeous figurehead on Hal’s ship…the boys must have added that after this story ended because it sure ain’t in this story. Nor is this particular scene.

The title is very accurate for the eight boys are The Outcasts twice over.