The Outcasts: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Outcasts: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Fun underdog tale starts high-seas series.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

A glossary of sailing terms appears at the very beginning of the book, showing how important it is for readers to know them in order to follow along.

Positive Messages

Teamwork, becoming a leader, brain over brawn, taking responsibility for mistakes, and respecting authority are all important learning lessons for the boys in the Heron brotherband. Hal also learns that winning respect is more important than beating everyone in a competition. Maybe not the best lesson, though, is when a Hal stands up to a bully with his fists and everyone decides this is the only way to handle the situation.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hal becomes a leader in this book, overcoming the prejudice he faces because his mother is a foreigner and earning respect. He makes mistakes and can be thoughtless to Thorn, his supportive mentor, but he always owns up to what he's done and makes amends. All the boys in Hal's brotherband are the last ones anyone would pick to be on their team but they still come together and work hard to win. Hal's friend Stig has a problem with his temper but he's loyal and hardworking. Thorn is an alcoholic who stops drinking to be a better mentor to fatherless Hal. On the minus side, the boys are training to be Seawolves and sail ships that sometimes raid other towns and keep the spoils.


Pirates overtake ships and kill the crew, one of them a boy. They also slit a couple throats. In the brotherband there's a nasty fist fight, rough wresting as part of the competition, and some sparring with weapons. Back stories are told of Hal's father dying from a spear, Hal and Stig nearly drowning, and Thorn losing his hand in a sailing accident.


A brief mention of a teen kiss and some flirtling.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Much about Thorn's years of heavy drinking after the loss of his hand, how he quits to mentor Hal, and how he nearly starts drinking again to cope with a sadness but throws the bottle away. Ale is served at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this adventure/fantasy from the author of the Ranger's Apprentice series is fairly low on violence. Pirates kill sailors and watchmen in two brief scenes and there's one significant fist fight among teen boys, but otherwise the focus is on teens coming together as a team. The main character, Hal, becomes a leader, and the boys in his underdog "brotherband" employ all their skills to compete against other, stronger brotherbands. There's lots of talk about Hal's mentor Thorn and his years of drinking, but he quits in order to be a positive figure in Hal's life.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySUBIN August 5, 2018

A Great Series

It is a fantasist book for children who lie adventure in there books but are mature enough to handle a small amount of romance and the loss of life.
Teen, 14 years old Written byTEENbookNerd April 28, 2021

pretty enjoyable

I think that this book is very well written, it explains a lot of the things that the people in the book build very specifically, the book focuses on boys as th... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bynerskine February 14, 2019

Best Adventure Book Ever!

Best Book Ever!

In book 1 of the Brotherband Chronicles written by John Flagon, the main character, a teenage boy called Hal, has a rough life. His dad died... Continue reading

What's the story?

Boys turning 16 in the Skandian town of Hallasholm are excited about one thing: brotherband training, where they learn \"tactics, weapon skills, seamanship, ship handling and navigation,\" while competing in teams. But in the team selection process Hal, his friend Stig, and other less popular or less muscular boys are left with no team and told that they are stuck with each other. Not a good start, but they're determined to make it work. Hal becomes leader, and their first task begins: building their own shelter. Thanks to Hal's shipbuilding apprenticeship they earn the most points. But other tasks won't be as easy for the group, short two members and lots of muscle. Meanwhile, disguised pirates come to town looking for a way to steal Hallasholm's most precious treasure. The town is on to them, but is it enough to stop them?

Is it any good?

If you like underdog stories and camp, you'll love THE OUTCASTS. If you like boats, it's an added bonus. The author of the Ranger's Apprentice series gets readers rooting for Hal and his friends -- even those crazy bickering twins -- as they take on one challenge after another. At first it's kind of surprising that almost the whole book focuses on the brotherband training, but it sets up the series well and hints at the excitement to come. It also gives readers time to get to know Hal and see him become a real leader and an innovative thinker. He's a character worth following on many adventures.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why it's so fun to root for the underdog. What are your favorite underdog stories?

  • Is it surprising that Hal's team does as well as it does in the brotherband competition? How did the boys use their strengths? What were they?

  • Do you agree with the way Thorn trains Hal to handle Tursgud, his bully nemesis? Is it only natural for them to work things out with punches if they're training to be warriors? Or was there another way?

Book details

  • Author: John Flanagan
  • Genre: Adventure
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Philomel
  • Publication date: November 1, 2011
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 17
  • Number of pages: 432
  • Last updated: June 19, 2019

Our editors recommend

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