John Flanagan, Return of the Temujai (Brotherband #8), Laurence King Publishing, October 2019, 352 pp., RRP $18.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780143785941
The Brotherband series is set in the same world as the very popular Ranger’s Apprentice, developing a new cast of Scandian characters. Under the leadership of Erak, the Oberjahl of Scandia, several Brotherband crews have been trained in the art of war, particularly on the oceans, and compete against each other to hone their skills. Erak appears in several Ranger’s Apprentice books at earlier times in his career, creating a direct link between the two.
The Heron Brotherband members are the heroes of the series. An underdog group of outsiders, they have since proven themselves many times. In Return of the Temujai, Hal, the talented leader of Heron, is charged by Erak with leading the team on an intelligence mission, as the war-loving Tamujai seem to be on the prowl once more. Being without his famous ship, also named Heron, Hal, Stig, Thorn and the others undertake the mission discreetly, discovering that Erak is correct in his suspicions, thus requiring the main action of the story to begin.
With their ship now repaired, the Heron now begin their next task of keeping the Temujai out of Scandia, taking the reader through a complicated story over land and lake, involving cleverness, cunning, and plenty of action.
Lydia is a unique part of the Heron Brotherband. Her back story is told in an earlier book, but her skills are more subtle and are more quietly enacted than the men’s. She is a master of the arrow, amongst other talents. I was sorry to find that Lydia is the only female character of any substance in the story. Whilst part of the team, I am unsure if she is actually a part of the Heron Brotherband. She is certainly a strong, quiet character, and is highly regarded amongst the Herons.
Reading Book 8 as an introduction to the series was interesting. The characters are introduced through the plot by statement and behaviour and one soon gets into the swing. The plot relies upon the many characters, their talents and foibles, but mostly the importance of belonging to the team. But action is the driving force of the story. This book will be enjoyed by fans of the series for its fast pace, clever solutions found to problems along the way, and the many details of the battles, small and large, which result from the mighty challenges undertaken.
It is a book I would think worth a try for a reluctant reader in the right circumstance. I have certainly known many readers (yes, mainly boys) who can chance upon a good read, regardless of niceties like being the first in a series, so long as it is full of action. A sense of belonging is also a compelling aspect for many readers. It is nice to sometimes be able to place such a book in their general direction.
Reviewed by Marita Thomson