Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: The Hunters - John Flanagan

The Hunters by John Flanagan
Series: The Brotherband Chronicles #3
Genre: YA, adventure
Published on October 30, 2012
Published by Philomel
Pages: 403
Read From: 11.1.12 - 11.6.12

Hal and his brotherband crew are hot on the trail of the pirate Zavac and they have one thing only on their minds: Stopping the bloodthirsty thief before he can do more damage. Of course, they also know Zavac has the Andomal, the priceless Skandian artifact stolen when the brotherband let
down their guard. The chase leads down mighty rivers, terrifying rapids, to the lawless fortress of Ragusa. If Hal is to succeed, he will need to go beyond his brotherhood training. He will need to challenge the pirate one-on-one, knowing only one of them will survive.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Yes. Despite the fact that there is a “character impersonator” on the front, his face is not defined all that much, so I’m okay with it. I do love the cover art for this series; it’s exciting, and I love how each picture refers to some specific part in the corresponding book.

Characters: All of the Herons remain really good characters. Hal is a great protagonist, Stig a wonderful “second,” Ulf and Wulf and all the others great in all their roles. Thorn is a character who continually grows on me. My initial impression of him at the beginning of the series was a sad Halt wanna-be. But something about him really clicked with me in this latest installment, and I no longer think of him as a Halt substitute. Zavac continued to be a really good villain for this series; he was a believable pirate, ruthless, cunning. While still not my absolute favorite villain out of all of Flanagan’s books, he fit this particular story. Now for Lydia, the girl character. I’ll admit, she proves her usefulness in this one, but there is absolutely no reason why she couldn’t have been a twelve-year-old boy. She doesn’t have The Attitude, but she didn’t seem to be able to take a joke and her continual sassing of Thorn got on my nerves. I’m okay with characters who show their friendly affection through sarcastic banter, but when Lydia said something, it felt more disrespectful than affectionate, and it did bring her perilously close to having an Attitude.

The Romance: The potential love triangle between Hal, Lydia, and Stig does not get much of an opportunity to surface in this installment, for which I am eternally grateful. But it’s hovering there in the background, threatening to ruin future books. I don’t want to see Stig and Hal be at odds with each other over a girl, least of all Lydia, who honestly doesn’t seem worth it.

Plot: This is what makes me say that out of the three books so far, this is the best one. The other two books spent a lot of time on the Herons training themselves, and while it allowed the Reader to see their camaraderie strengthen into an unbreakable bond, it also got boring after a while. For a brief second, The Hunters threatened to sink into yet more brotherband training, but the Author thankfully only devotes not even a whole chapter to  it, and that’s the last we hear of it. The rest of the book is spent with the Herons actually hunting Zavac down, running into obstacles, and outsmarting Zavac’s allies. It was exciting! There’s a jail break and sneaking away in the dead of night; false murder accusations and disguises, and as a grand finale, a duel. The Herons’ ruse for getting into Raguza was genuinely clever; I really enjoyed it.

Believability: Flanagan has always been good at presenting Readers with battle strategies and plans that are plausible, and he has always written realistic battles, with realistic wounds. Lydia realistically doesn’t engage any pirates in a hand-to-hand fight, but relies on a long-range weapon, since she doesn’t have the strength to hold her own in a close-quarters fight. The one thing that struck me as incorrect was the rapidity which willow bark tea clears up one of the character’s fever. Willowbark works well, but considering how bad of a temperature the boy has, it wouldn’t clear the fever completely up in less than an hour.

Writing Style: At times, the Author tries a little too hard to be funny, like with the knitting scene and the Heron ballad at the end. I found those two scenes to just be silly. He also uses a dialogue ploy which I absolutely hate. I really don’t like bits of dialogue where a character asks a question that the Reader just might be wondering, for the sole purpose of having another character provide the answer. It’s a very choppy method of putting the Reader’s questions to rest, and often disrupts the story’s flow. Apart from that, Flanagan’s writing is as it has always been: entertaining. He shows his prowess at writing sea battles in this book, which is amazingly good. 

Content: None.

Conclusion: The end was exciting, fast-paced, and not dragged out. It got to the point. I’m usually not okay with the villain and hero having a one-on-one showdown during a big battle because it’s so unlikely, but in this case I was fine with it, because a ship is significantly smaller than a battlefield, so if someone is actively seeking out another, it’s plausible. As a whole, I really liked The Hunters. It was definitely the best out of the three.

Recommended Audience: John Flanagan fans, even those who gave up on the Ranger’s Apprentice series. Girl-and-guy read, any age.

Others in the Brotherband Chronicles:
1)The Outcasts
2)The Invaders
3)The Hunters
4)Slaves of Socorro

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