The Caldera: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 7

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Caldera: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 7 Book Poster Image
Slow start builds to exciting with pirates and a volcano.

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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. Talk of the best way to signal from a beach to the top of a cliff: with a beacon fire at night and a heliograph during the day. We watch the inventor/captain Hal build a makeshift forge on the beach to shape metal. Lots of clever problem-solving, including outsmarting a faster ship in a storm and getting a cage with two people in it up a steep cliff face.

Positive Messages

Lessons in teamwork and leadership are at the core of this whole series. In Book 7, a reminder that you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hal is always the model of a great leader. He falters once here when an invention fails. At first he becomes frustrated, but soon picks himself up and moves on to Plan B. Stig faces the father who abandoned him. Instead of being angry, Stig reaches out to understand his father. When he's disappointed by him, Stig handles it with grace and remembers that he still has good friends who support him. Lydia remains a strong female character who contributes to the positive outcome of every battle. One negative stereotype of note: An Empress is said to have "mood swings."

Violence

Plenty of pirate fighting, but only once is it gory: when a man is sliced in half with a sword. Spears, knives, swords, arrows, darts, and a big cannon-type weapon do damage. Among the Brotherband, a few injuries including an arrow to the arm and near-drownings. When the Brotherband come up against unarmed opponents, they knock them out instead of causing lasting harm. A few ships sink, one after being rammed and ransacked. The innocent crew members are left to drown. A volcano spews rocks and lava and causes earthquakes and a dangerous tidal wave. Talk of dogfights and stealing dogs that will be bested by dogs trained to kill. Story of a man killed in his bath.

Sex
Language

A rude gesture, not described. Talk of swearing.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The Brotherband still prefers coffee over ale or wine. A few scenes in taverns show adults drinking. A party shows pirates/guards drinking until they pass out.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Caldera is the seventh 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, a cult of assassins in Book 5, and ruthless island warriors in Book 6, the crew of the Heron battles pirates to recover a hostage emperor-to-be. There's plenty of pirate fighting, but only once is it gory: when a man is sliced in half with a sword. Spears, knives, swords, arrows, darts, and a big cannon-type weapon do damage. A few ships sink, one after being rammed and ransacked. Injuries sustained among the Brotherband include an arrow to the arm and near-drownings. A volcano spews rocks and lava and causes a dangerous tidal wave. Lessening the violence some: When the Brotherband come up against unarmed opponents, they knock them out instead of causing lasting harm. Overall, the members of the Heron Brotherband, under the strong leadership of the captain, Hal, are loyal to one another and are a great example of teamwork and ingenuity in action. In the scenes of drinking, the Brotherband always choose coffee instead. The first mate, Stig, faces the disappointing father who abandoned him as a child. He handles it with grace, remembering that even without a strong father figure in his life, he always has the support of his friends.

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What's the story?

In THE CALDERA, members of the Heron Brotherband are vying for the title of Skandia's best warrior, or Maktig. Stig, the first mate, is the one to watch in the competition, but his chance at glory is thwarted when his absentee father, Olaf, sneaks into his house one night asking for his immediate help. Olaf was the head of the palace guard in Byzantos to the south and was dismissed when the teen emperor-to-be, Constantus, was kidnapped by pirates. Olaf needs a fighting ship to rescue Constantus and get his post back. Stig and the rest of the Brotherband, sorry to miss the competition but keen on a new adventure, load up the ship and start the long journey south. After a few river-pirate attacks, they arrive in the bustling port of Byzantos. The plan was to gather information about the kidnappers at the taverns before shipping out again, but then Olaf is arrested. Good thing for Olaf he's with the Heron Brotherband. It won't be the first time they've broken someone out of prison, nor will it be the last.

Is it any good?

Great news for Brotherband fans: We're on voyage seven with the Heron crew and, with the help of more nasty pirates and a lava-spewing, rock-hurling volcano, it's still a worthwhile adventure. (We're not giving anything away about the explosive finale when it's right on the cover.) Readers can expect the usual meandering story opening with Stig, Ulf, and Wulf preparing for the Maktig (warrior) competition. Luckily the warm-up doesn't last as long as it does in some Brotherband books. And Ulf and Wulf twin antics are always a fun diversion.

If you enjoyed Book 3, The Hunters, you get to revisit some old River Dan pirate haunts on the way to Byzantos. And Jesper's lock picks, used so skillfully in The Slaves of Socorro, get dusted off again here. What adventure fan doesn't love a prison break? Even as action builds, more time could have been spent on the difficult relationship between Stig and his father, Olaf. It's a missed opportunity to add more depth to the story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Stig in The Caldera. What choices does he make about how to behave around his father? How is Stig like his father? How is he more admirable?

  • If you were in a Brotherband, what would your role be? What skills would you bring to help your shipmates? What skills would you need to work on?

  • Which is your favorite Brotherband book so far? How does Book 7 compare with the others?

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