A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Same glossary of sailing terms precedes each book in this series, showing how important it is for readers to know them to follow along. Battle strategy is carefully thought out and executed, this time with ships in motion.
Lessons in teamwork and leadership are at core of whole series. In Book 9, persistence, patience, and strategy are key since the Brotherband is outnumbered and the enemy always seems one step ahead of them.
Positive Role Models
The positive attributes of Brotherband crew members are always talked about at length. They work together seamlessly, they are highly skilled and disciplined, and members of the team have specialized skills like cooking, healing, sail trimming, tracking, hunting, and fighting. Hal, as their young leader, is always coming up with a clever plan to get them out of a bind. Here he has some doubt about his decisions but follows through and continues to lead despite his doubts.
Lydia, the lone woman on the ship, proves extremely valuable to the crew, as a tracker and on the atlatl (weapon that shoots darts). Even though this book finds her engaged to a member of the crew, she's not treated any differently. Also, when two members of the Brotherband find out she doesn't have bridesmaids, they talk their way into being "bridesmen." Rather than taking any flack for not conforming to gender rules, they are set upon by a number of girls in the village who think it's cute. There's a limb difference in the crew: Thorn is missing an arm, but it doesn't slow down the warrior. This series values larger-than-average-size characters who are warriors and in great shape – including Thorn and Ingvar. Conversely, characters who are crooked politicians or harbor masters are often described as out of shape, short, and fat.
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Violence & Scariness
The usual battle violence with swords, axes, knives, darts, arrows, a giant crossbow appropriately named the Mangler. Men die and are injured in battle. Most of the detail involves battle strategy but some includes specific injuries, like how men are impaled by darts and the sharp splinters of broken oars. A shipwrecked man is recovered and then dies of his injuries. Two guards die in a stealth attack and are found the next morning. Five men die in a bear attack, with minor details of giant claws and bodies thrown around. Whole towns are found after they've been looted, their ships damaged or burned. Talk of pirates going to trial who will surely be hung.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A kiss. Talk of romance and an engagement between two crew members. Village girls flirt with sailors.
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"Damn" said once, and a few oaths uttered evoking the Scandian gods, like "Gorlog bite him."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Two big parties involving the whole town and lots of ale and wine with talk of people falling asleep under tables after overdoing and waking up later to continue the party. That said, Hal and his young adult crew are only ever seen drinking coffee, and lots of it.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Stern Chase is the ninth book in the Brotherband Chronicles, the companion adventure series to John Flanagan's popular Ranger's Apprentice series. Expect the usual battle violence with swords, axes, darts, arrows, and a giant crossbow. Men die and are injured in battle. Most of the detail involves battle strategy, but some includes specific injuries, like how men are impaled by darts and the sharp splinters of broken oars. A shipwrecked man is recovered and then dies of his injuries, and two guards die in a stealth attack and are found the next morning. Five men die in a bear attack, with minor details of giant claws and bodies thrown around. Since the Brotherband is dealing with pirates again in this installment, whole towns are found after they have been looted, their moored ships damaged or burned. Expect a lot of drinking (ale and wine) at two large parties in the village. Hal and his young adult crew still favor coffee, however. One of those parties is an engagement party for two members of the crew, so there's a splash of romance here. Lydia's engagement doesn't change how she's treated. She's still a valued part of the Brotherband. The positive attributes of Brotherband crew members are always talked about at length. They work together seamlessly and they are highly skilled and disciplined. Hal, as their young leader, is always coming up with a clever plan to get them out of a bind. In The Stern Chase, he has some doubt about his decisions, but follows through and continues to lead despite his doubts.
Is It Any Good?
Fans of the long-running nautical series will enjoy another adventure with the Heron Brotherband, even if its scope is smaller than many previous outings. There's joy in the predictable here: the same stalwart characters, the same battle skills and strategic smarts on display. There's also joy in small developments for the characters, especially an engagement between Ingvar and Lydia. It's nice to see that Lydia's new status doesn't change how she's treated by the Brotherband. She even gets some surprise heartfelt support from the comical twins Ulf and Wulf. More time with the characters would have been welcome. Like when will it be Stephan's time to shine again, or Jesper's? And who else will find a love interest now that they're the right age for that kind of thing? Edvin can cook and sew -- some Hallasholm girl needs to snap him up right away.
There's little downtime in The Stern Chase for romance, however. As the title implies, it's all about the chase, and the stakes are high. The more damage the rogue wolfship does, the worse the Scandians look. These are some devious pirates, and it takes getting into their heads to figure out how to beat them, especially as outnumbered as the Herons are. As usual, it will take all of Hal's smarts and all the Herons working together to get the job done.
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