They are outcasts. Hal, Stig, and the others–they are the boys the others want no part of. Skandians, as any reader of Ranger’s Apprentice could tell you, are known for their size and strength. Not these boys. Yet that doesn’t mean they don’t have skills. And courage–which they will need every ounce of to do battle at sea against the other bands, the Wolves and the Sharks, in the ultimate race. The icy waters make for a treacherous playing field… especially when not everyone thinks of it as playing.
I’ve never read any of John Flanagan’s work, even though both my mom and my brother have (they are big fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice series). I would not have picked up this book based on the description I shared above. It’s just not enough to lure me in when I’m browsing the bookstore (or Amazon, as it were). Which is not to say that I haven’t discovered books I’ve enjoyed after ignoring the teaser and reading them anyway. That’s exactly what happened here. I picked up this book on the recommendation of a fellow book lover. This person also recommended another book I’ve read and loved, so I felt his recommendation of The Outcasts was a solid one.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t even want to like this book at the beginning. That’s because there were a few times when the narration switched from third person limited to omniscient, and over the years omniscient narration has started to annoy me. But this only happened on occasion and once I got used to it, I flew through the book.
I mentioned in another post that I love when authors sneak their characters on you. You know what I mean, right? You end the book and suddenly feel like your best friends moved away? Well, I definitely felt that way about Hal, Stig, and their crew. I loved watching their development throughout the story, and I thought each of the characters was very realistic. I love when characters have flaws, even if it makes them jerks sometimes. I enjoyed Hal’s sort of wake-up moment when his father’s friend Thorn attempted to give him fighting tips and Hal observes that he always thought of Thorn as a “somewhat down-on-his-luck admirer than as any kind of mentor.” We know better, of course, but it’s often too easy to give a character knowledge they would have no business knowing, and it feels more authentic when the character has to learn that lesson himself.
I recommend this book if you enjoy epic journeys, fighting, trickery, and friends that become family. If you’ve enjoyed John Flanagan’s previous novels, then I definitely think you’ll enjoy The Brotherband Chronicles, which The Outcasts kicks off.