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  • Writer's pictureKara Chatham

Novel: The Outcasts - John Flanagan


The Outcasts is the first book in the Brotherband Chronicles series written by John Flanagan. This series is meant to be a companion series to Flanagan's The Ranger’s Apprentice series.

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Plot Summary: Hal Mikkelson lost his father at a young age, therefore he never truly knew the esteemed warrior. Since then he has never been welcomed by the other members of his community – Skandia. Part of the reason why he is not welcomed is because his mother is of a different race. The other part of his outcast status is because he has something that the Skandian community does not value very much – intelligence. The Skandians are known and feared raiders that the community refers to as the Brotherband. At the age of sixteen, all young men in the Skandian community begin something called Brotherband training. This training is the only thing that Hal has in common with his peers. This training brings other outcasts into Hal’s life and together they fight to be accepted into their community.

This novel was published by the Penguin Group in 2011. The genre would be Adventure. The novel is written in Third-Person narrative. This way the reader has the complete picture of what is going on and can understand things a bit better because the perspective is unbiased. The choice of words in the novel is more eloquent than would be expected for the type of people portrayed in the novel. It is not too difficult to understand as long as the reader knows her vocabulary. Another thing about the diction is that it is full of sailing terms, and the author was kind enough to put the definitions of some of those before the novel itself begins. The novel is split into four parts as well as having chapters. The splitting into parts helps the reader grasp the stages of life of the characters. The chapters help with the timeline of events. According to Readabilityformulas.com, this novel’s average reading level is at the eleventh grade level. The lowest level that the formulas show is eighth grade and the highest level is college level. According to the back of the novel, this novel is for readers ages ten and up. This “reading level” fits the type of content that is within the novel. There is nothing that would be too heavy and above the understanding of a child at the age suggested by the novel.

Something that Flanagan uses quite well in the novel is aphorisms. These aphorisms are ones that fit today’s society but they are in this seemingly ancient society. They are easily recognizable like the one that Thorn points out to Hal: “Why is he always so horrible? Why does he always want to pick a fight? I’ve never done anything to him! Why does he hate me?’ Thorn regarded him seriously for a few seconds. ‘Because he fears you,’ he replied” (Flanagan 95). This is aphorism works because it fits with the theme of the novel. The community bully picks on Hal because he fears Hal’s self-confidence. Typically when bullies bully, they see something in someone else that they wish they had themselves. Another aphorism that works well in the novel deals with a similar subject – standing up for others: “A good first mate should stand by his skirl” (Flanagan 87). The similes that Flanagan uses help enhance the imagery of the situations. For example, “…riding the water like a resting seabird” (Flanagan 82). Something that is expected in a novel that deals with sailing is for ships to be referred to as “she” and “her”. This novel is no different. Because ships tend to be referred to as women, the novel has plenty of personification. One that stands out the most is when Hal has successfully sailed his ship the Heron that he built with his little band of misfits: “She talks to me, he thought” (Flanagan 83).

This is a wonderful novel for anyone who enjoys a good sea adventure. John Flanagan has written an adventure that could compete with the classic seafaring adventure Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. If the reader has enjoyed that classic, then she will enjoy this beginning novel of the Brotherband Chronicles. It makes the reader almost wish she was at sea experiencing all of these things first hand – maybe even as first mate.

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