The Ghostfaces: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 6

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Ghostfaces: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 6 Book Poster Image
Swashbuckling uncharted-island adventure has a few lulls.

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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. Also, Book 6 shows the advantage of a civilization capable of making weapons and tools out of metal over civilizations still using stone and wood tools and weapons. The (fictitious) Scandians may be more advanced in some ways but still hold a real documented belief, called the World Turtle, that the earth isn't round, it sits on a turtle's back, and sailing too far will push you off the turtle's shell.

Positive Messages

Lessons in teamwork and leadership are at the core of this whole series. In Book 6 grief is lessened with the help of friends. Also, there's much respect shown for other cultures and ways of life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hal continues to be a good leader, steering his brotherband out of danger in a storm. He supports his best friend even when it's difficult -- both when he doesn't agree with a choice he makes and when his friend suffers a loss. In general, author John Flanagan puts much focus on all the good qualities of each member of the brotherband, restating them often when he shows them working together or showing a particular skill.

Violence

The usual battle violence with swords, axes, knives, darts, arrows, and a giant crossbow appropriately named the Mangler. The enemy are the fierce Ghostfaces of the title, painted up like skulls. They regularly take slaves with talk of how they kill all the men in villages they pillage. Ghostfaces and some villagers die of battle wounds and drowning. Two deaths are particularly sad to main characters. A rampaging giant bear is killed to protect children; other animals in the forest are killed for food with much talk of the hunting practices of the lone female in the brotherband. A dueling punch knocks someone out. Sailors almost die of thirst.

Sex

A few romantic kisses.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Enemy warriors drink alcohol made from corn. Talk of older warrior Thorn's past drinking problem.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Ghostfaces is the sixth 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 and a cult of assassins in Book 5, the crew of the Heron tackles a terrible storm that blows them so off course they almost die of thirst onboard. On an island somewhere in the Endless Ocean, they encounter and fight a giant bear and fight the Ghostfaces of the title, ruthless warriors painted up like skulls who pillage small villages and enslave or kill the inhabitants. Expect the usual battle scenes with arrows, axes, swords, darts, and the ship's signature giant crossbow, the Mangler. Less expected for the series are two sad deaths, one of which results in an intense period of mourning for one of the Heron crew. Lucky for him he has his brotherband friends to help him. In general, author John Flanagan puts much focus on all the good qualities of each member of the brotherband, restating them often as he shows them supporting one another, working together, or showing a particular skill.

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What's the story?

Hal and the crew of the Heron are all ready to sail for home after official business in Clonmel, but the weather has other ideas. A relentless, rough wind pulls them off course completely. When it's discovered that one of their water casks sprang a leak, the need to find land is urgent. Hal makes the tough decision to pull the ship well into the Endless Ocean in uncharted territory -- the ship just won't budge in any other direction. Just before the crew dies of thirst, they encounter an island. It seems uninhabited at first, but when Lydia goes hunting in the forest she spots fresh human footprints. Whoever is out there is wary of the brotherband -- almost as wary as the brotherband is of something else: giant scratch marks in the trees. They could only have been made by a massive bear, one that's sure to come sniffing around the new brotherband camp.  

Is it any good?

As reliable as Hal is as captain of the Heron, every book in the Brotherband Chronicles is a reliably good read, including this one. Here comes another high-seas, swashbuckling adventure, this time in the uncharted territory of the Endless Ocean fighting against a band of skull-painted pillagers -- well, eventually. It's not all swashbuckling. After a harrowing start where the crew almost dies of thirst, there's quite a lull as readers get acquainted with a new island and its inhabitants, friendly and not.

It stays friendly for some time, actually. There are banquets and the swapping of recipes, with an amiable village of locals. The dreaded Ghostfaces of the title take a very long time to arrive, making readers almost think the crew is getting off the island easy -- if you don't count a nasty encounter with a giant bear. As usual with the series, when the action ramps up and the axes and swords come out, there's quite a payoff. Unusual for the series, the very end takes on a somber tone.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes a long adventure series good. Will you keep reading this one? What do you think is next for the brotherband, especially now that they're getting older and noticing girls?

  • In an author's note, John Flanagan says he took pains not to stereotype the (fictitious) indigenous people the brotherband encounter on the island. Can you think of older books you've read or movies you've seen -- Peter Pan, for one -- where stereotypes of "natives" are rampant? What's the danger in stereotyping?

  • What do you think about Hal's decision not to chart his course from the island back home? Why did he feel the island needed protection from other Scandians like himself?

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