The Outcasts by John Flanangan

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Brotherband Series Bk. 1. Random House, 2011. ISBN 978-1-74166-449-2.
(Age 10+) Highly recommended. As a fan of John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series, I was looking forward to the first of the new spin off series, Brotherband . Would the world of the Viking-like Skandians be as gripping as the stories of Ranger Will and his friends?
The Outcasts did not disappoint. Of course the reader of the Ranger's Apprentice will remember the Skandians, but the focus is on a new character, young Hal who doesn't fit the warrior image and uses his mind to invent and create rather than use the brute strength of the other boys.
Hal is at the age of becoming a warrior and with other boys must be selected into a team or brotherband as part of his training. The boys must endure 3 months of weapon training, battle tactics and seamanship. Hal reluctantly becomes the leader of one of the three teams and his group the 'Herons' are the outcasts, the unwanted, hence the title of the book. It is a great honour to be the winning team and the boys fiercely compete to earn points. Can the outnumbered and unlikely 'Herons' ever have a chance of winning?
There are many similarities between Hal and Will from The Ranger's Apprentice. Both are small but clever and have a strong friendship with a bigger, stronger boy. Will was taught by Halt who was a father figure to him and Hal is mentored by Thorn, a gruff and one handed ex warrior who has his own personal issues to deal with.
As the Skandians are a seafaring race there is a lot of discussion and action around boats and sailing so I was thankful for the small introduction on sailing terms at the beginning of the book.
I am looking forward to the next title as The Outcasts ends with a new adventure.
Highly recommended for 10 years + and will be enjoyed by John Flanagan fans.
A book trailer is available for the Brotherband series.
Jane Moore