Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Slaves of Socorro - John Flanagan

Slaves of Socorro by John Flanagan
Series: Brotherband Chronicles #4
Genre: YA, adventure
Published on July 15, 2014
Published by Philomel
Pages: 462
Read From: 6.15.15. - 6.20.15

Hal and his fellow Herons have returned home to Skandia after defeating the pirate captain Zavac and reclaiming Skandia's most prized artifact, the Andomal. With their honor restored, the Herons turn to a new mission: tracking down an old rival turned bitter enemy. Tursgud - leader of the Shark Brotherband and Hal's constant opponent - has turned from a bullying youth into a pirate and slave trader. After Tursgud captures twelve Araluen villagers to sell as slaves, the Heron crew sails into action. . . .with the help of one of Araluen's finest Rangers.

Dear Slaves of Socorro,
I really like your series, The Brotherband Chronicles. It's fun and has lots of good characters. But I've had my issues with your books: they are too slow, too much exposition, no major characters ever die - or even get mortally wounded - and there's so much unnecessary detail. That being said, I still love your world and the overall idea of the books. So I can't dislike them. Going into you, I didn't expect anything much different, but I did hope that maybe the slogging pattern would have been broken. Sadly, you didn't exactly break anything.

You take place a few months - or years? - after The Hunters. The Heron Brotherband has successfully defeated the pirate lord Zavac and returned the Andomal to Skandia. Once the most disgraced brotherband in all the realm, they've all risen to prestige and honor. Wolf ship captains are turning to Hal for ideas to improve their ships and they are regularly chosen to help escort trading vessels. But all of the Herons miss the adventure of long voyages and exploration. So when they're assigned a year-long mission as the liaison vessel in Araluen, they readily agree. And of course, it isn't smooth sailing. Tursgud, leader of the Shark Brotherband and Hal's old nemesis, has turned to piracy and slaving, and he's sacking the coast of Araluen. With the help of one of the king's Ranger's, Gilan, the Herons set off to rescue the Araluen captives before they're sold into slavery at the famous slaving market in Socorro.

I liked all of your characters just as much as I did in the previous novels. Hal and Stig's close brotherly friendship is one of my favorites, Ulf and Wulf add a nice flair of comedy with their constant bickering, I want to give Ingvar ice cream, clever-fingered Jesper doesn't get nearly enough page time, Thorn is an adequate "Halt replacement" without feeling too much like a replacement, and Lydia. . . .Lydia I still wish was a twelve-year-old boy instead of a teen girl. I still have such mixed feelings about her. If there's going to be romance between her and Hal at any point, it hasn't surfaced yet, and for that I'm glad because I'm still worried it will drive a wedge between him and Stig - a fact that I am not happy about. I hate it when brothers - through blood or bond - fight over a girl. Lydia is useful and doesn't have that much of an attitude, but she does have a temper that flairs up at the stupidest times, and she also takes things too seriously. I can understand her being protective of Ingvar, but really, Lydia - they're boys and brothers. This is how they tease. If she doesn't like an aspect of Hal's plan, she snaps and blames him rather than thinking about their limited options and how unfortunately risk is something they can't avoid. Lydia just plain needed to be a twelve-year-old orphan boy. We don't need a "main" female character in this series. We're okay with just boys. :)

As a villain, Tursgud definitely didn't live up to Zavac, but I also don't think he was supposed to. And it was, admittedly, nice to see how his story ended; how he turned out after the brotherband competitions. Best of all, though: Gilan was back!! I don't think I've ever disliked any of the Rangers, but Gilan might honestly be my favorite. He's the laid back Ranger, but still so very, very good at his job. Lydia's interactions with him kind of annoyed me because - hey, you don't take an attitude with my favorite Ranger characters, girl! But I liked how Gilan dealt with her, and for the most part, Lydia wasn't that bad.

As always, the world building is really fun. I enjoy reading about a world that is a lot like ours, but different in small, interesting ways. I enjoy trying to guess what countries and cultures are based off of which real ones. But your plot, Slaves of Socorro. When we were in the midst of action sequences, you were good. But the majority of your bulk was made up of yet more Brotherband training and skill honing and impossible, clever plans that would only work for the Herons. I love impossible, clever plans, but for once I have to admit that it'd be a little awesome if one of their impossible, clever plans failed. As for the training - just no. I'm tired of it. I know how the Mangler works; I know how their ship works; I know how deadly Lydia's atlatl is; I know it all! I'll confess that I'll never get tired of reading about the Rangers' archery prowess because I'm an archer myself, but. . . . ;) There needs to be a lot less training and preparation and a lot more. . . . .something. Action. Adventure. Peril.

And for once, you let me down when it came to believability. This is me being nit-picky, Slaves of Socorro, but I have always loved John Flanagan's books because I can always rely on them to be realistic when it comes to weapons and battles. But horror of horrors, Gilan used his sword as a throwing knife! And it worked!! I was devastated! I never thought I'd see an error like that in the Ranger world. It smote me.

Slaves of Socorro, you were good and you've set the fifth book up nicely. I liked your premise and your ending. But I wasn't wowed and was actually ready to be done with you 300 pages in.

Feeling a little sad,
~ Mara A. ~

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

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