Scorpion Mountain: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 5

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Scorpion Mountain: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 5 Book Poster Image
Exciting adventure pits Heron crew against cult assassins.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The same glossary of sailing terms precedes each book in this series, showing how important it is for readers to know them to follow along. Hal works on a few cool inventions in this book, too: the first spectacles for his friend Ingvar and a land-sailing ship using discarded chariot wheels.

Positive Messages

Lessons in teamwork and leadership are at the core of this whole series. A recurring theme in Book 5: smart battle tactics and meticulous preparation are way more important than the size of your army.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hal continues to be a good leader, but it's his skills as inventor that shine here. Ingvar finds his confidence and skill when Hal invents a pair of spectacles for him. The twins Ulf and Wulf set aside their bickering and show true brotherly love when one is injured. As the lone girl in the brotherband, Lydia shows herself to be just as brave and resourceful as the boys, sometimes more so.

Violence

A few tense battle scenes with deaths from swords, axes, arrows, spears, and Lydia's special throwing darts. A dart pierces one character's lung, and he dies with a "pink froth of blood around his lips." One member of the brotherband is seriously injured, and a freed slave has his broken arm set. One character is killed in a sword duel. A man rides his horse to near exhaustion and it falls in a rut and dies; birds pick at its flesh. Slaves kill their slave master, with a mention that he'd whipped them and treated them horribly. A band of assassins offers their services for money, with talk of all the stealthy ways they can kill their victims; one target has a near-miss with a poison arrow. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Hal and his underage crew prefer coffee over ale, except in a party scene at the end where it seems everyone is drinking. A cult of assassins takes hallucinogenic drugs. An enemy wakes up with a hangover with a mention that he's always drinking wine. Talk of older warrior Thorn's past drinking problem.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Scorpion Mountain is the fifth book in the Brotherband Chronicles, the companion series to John Flanagan's popular Ranger's Apprentice series. After taking on malicious slave traders in Book 4, Slaves of Socorro, Captain Hal and the crew of the Heron engage a cult of assassins hidden in Scorpion Mountain set to kill a princess. There are bloody battles on their journey with plenty of enemies killed by sword, ax, arrow, spear, and special darts expertly wielded by Lydia, the lone girl in the crew. One of the brotherband gets seriously injured. Expect the occasional macabre detail ("pink froth and blood around his lips"). There's one party scene with ale served to young and old, but usually the underage crew of the Heron prefers coffee. Lessons in teamwork and leadership continue to be at the center of this series. A recurring theme in Book 5: smart battle tactics and meticulous preparation are way more important than the size of your army.

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What's the story?

Fresh off a victory against Socorran slavers, Captain Hal and the brotherband crew of the Heron sail back to Araluen, where they're stationed as protectors. There's less than a moment to enjoy their success when King Duncan of Araluen calls them to his castle. His daughter, Princess Cassandra, has a price on her head, and there's been an attempt on her life already. A man named Iqbal paid a group of assassins to carry out her murder after Cassandra injured his brother. Getting to Iqbal won't be easy. He's laying siege to a seaside town, and every ship that comes near its port is overtaken, its crews enslaved or killed. The Heron crew will have to be more than cunning and find a way to coordinate with the cavalry sent to take back the town while they take the port. Of course, leave it to Hal to have an excellent plan ... but, as usual, he can't plan for everything.

Is it any good?

There are fewer lulls in SCORPION MOUNTAIN than in Book 4; the objective is clearer earlier on. One might wonder, what heroics are left for the Heron brotherband, who've now vanquished pirates and slave traders? A creepy mountain-dwelling cult of assassins, it seems. Sounds extra scary, but fans of the series will follow Hal and crew anywhere. It's hard to worry about them when they possess such mad skills (of which author John Flanagan reminds readers at length) -- especially after Hal crafts spectacles for Ingvar. Now that Ingvar can see, he's a fighting machine. 

Readers of The Ranger's Apprentice series have the advantage of knowing the Ranger Gilan a bit better, giving a climactic scene a bit more resonance. But it's exciting till the end regardless. And it will definitely make readers wonder what on earth could be next for the brotherband in Book 6.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about inventions. What did Hal invent this time? How did it help him and his friends?

  • Who's your favorite member of the brotherband? How does each contribute to the crew? If you were on the crew of a ship, what do you think your role would be? Which weapon would you choose?

  • Have you read the rest of the series or The Ranger's Apprentice series? Will you keep reading? 

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