Book Review: John Flanagan’s Slaves of Socorro

Posted November 23, 2014 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 Slaves of Socorro

Slaves of Socorro


John Flanagan

action & adventure, fantasy in Hardcover edition that was published by Philomel Books on July 15, 2014 and has 480 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, The Outcasts, Invaders, The Hunters, The Royal Ranger, Scorpion Mountain, The Tournament at Gorlan, The Ghostfaces, "The Beast From Another Time", The Caldera

Fourth in the Brotherband Chronicles action-adventure series for middle-grade readers revolving around Hal Mikkelson and his young crew aboard the revolutionary Heron and heading into an encounter with the Rangers of Araluen.

In 2014, Slaves of Socorro was on the shortlist for the Aurealis Award for Best Children’s Fiction.

My Take

Noooo. I don’t wanna wait…! I cannot believe this is only four installments into the series. I feel as though I’ve already spent so much time with the Herons, that I’ve known them for ages. And I can’t wait for Scorpion Mountain, 5, to come out December 2, 2014. Partly because Slaves of Socorro is more of an introduction to the next set of adventures for Hal and the Herons.

Slaves of Socorro is a grand adventure with men of honor. I can’t really call Hal and his crew boys, these boys are men. Honorable men. It’s action and fun with good morals for your kids. Nor do they simply run into chaos, instead they plan for it. Not a bad trait to encourage, lol.

Although I did find the two fracases in the gold market clumsily written, and the lack of intelligence gathering about the slave market was a big misstep. Then there was Lydia’s over-the-top reaction to Thorn’s idea, but I suppose Flanagan needs to get the drama and tension in somewhere.

Turns out that Thorn cleans up well…and Hal may be getting a new dad.

This one’s too funny…

“‘My father replaced the handle and I replaced the head,’ he said. ‘But otherwise, it’s completely original.'”

Flanagan sets it up nicely to ensure that others learn to use the Mangler.

It is a lovely example of karma catchin’ up to ya.

The Story

It’s a well-timed trip in so many ways for Lydia is under siege and the boys are bored running routine patrols. Erik’s decision to sent them to Araluen to relieve the duty ship there is perfect. Especially for the merchant ship that’s sinking and then the 12 villagers from Deaton’s Mill who are captured by slavers.

Both incidents are Tursgud’s doing. And the Herons are willing to chase him down and recover those slaves, and hopefully, take Tursgud down.

The Characters

Hal Mikkelson, the skirl of the Heron, is consulting on reworking the sails of other Skandian in between sailing patrols with the rest of the Herons: Stig is his first mate and Thorn’s battle lieutenant; Thorn is the older crew member, the Battle leader with his one hand and the removable implements Hal has created for his right hand; Edvin is their medic and chef; Jesper is the former thief; Stefan; Ingvar is their “mountain”, the only one who can cock and load the Mangler — kinda makes up for his nearsightedness; and, Ulf and Wulf are the arguing twins brilliant at trimming the sails. From Limmat (see The Invaders, 2), Lydia Demarek is still with the Herons, an honorary and valued member of the fighting crew. Karina is Hal’s mother, and she runs a restaurant. Kloof is the new pony, oops, I mean, dog, that Hal finds.

Erak is the Oberjarl, the ruler of Skandia at Hallasholm. Svengal is his constant companion and friend. Anders is the somewhat skeptical shipwright. Bjarni Bentfinger is even more uncertain — it’s his ship! Rollond is a contemporary of Hal and the boys. A nice guy and leader of the Wolf Brotherband, he’s interested in courting Lydia. Tark is one of the harbor watchmen. Gundal Leifson fetches a suddenly, um, customized ax.

Tursgud is the leader of the Shark Brotherband and has turned from a bullying youth into a pirate and slave trader. Daddy bought him a ship, Nightwolf, in hopes of creating a sense of purpose in his son. Kjord is one of his crew.


Gilan is the Ranger who meets Hal and the Heron‘s crew. King Duncan rules in Araluen and will turn out to be grateful for that treaty. The Princess Cassandra, now married to Horace (The Lost Stories, 10.7), had an alias some time ago, Evanlyn (see The Icebound Land, 3).

Village of Cresthaven

Wolfspear is the current duty ship and is captained by Jurgen Half-Foot. William is the headman for the village of Cresthaven where Heron will be based. His fellow councilors are Gryff Seeder and Sloan Wheelwright.

Village of Deaton’s Mill
Gough is the villager who reports the attack and kidnapping of twelve of their people including Ophelia, Walton who is their spokesman, and George and Abel (whom I wouldn’t have minded being left behind). Ben Tonkin is another villager.

Jerard is the Gallican captain of the foundering Hirondelle. Moondarkers are wreckers.

Socorro is…

…a desert Arridi town that holds slave auctions. The gold market, a.k.a., the souk, does not permit women to enter. Colonel Bekara is the commander of the souk garrison. The Bey rules and earns taxes on all transactions. Mahmel is the jerk in charge of the slave auction; Saleema is his long-suffering wife. Corporal Jemdal Oran is assigned to the Third Patrol of the dooryeh, the Bey’s guards. Tarik is one of the prison guards. Asaroki are brigands who roam in groups, attacking the vulnerable. Bernardo is a prisoner whose karma catches up with him too. Jimpani is one of the Zambazi warriors Hal frees.

The Cover and Title

The cover is browns and blue as the Nightwolf surges forward with its vertically striped sail and its oars out for some reason. Quite satisfying to watch the ship moving so fast. The title is an embossed gold foil with deep shadows, the author’s name is gold foil and those same shadows while the title has the shadows but a white fill instead of the gold. The extra bit of information is simply white.

The title is what Hal and his friends are after, the Slaves of Socorro.