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Even kings need “people disagreeing with them. We get accustomed to thinking we’re always right just because we are kings,” King Duncan. –Scorpion Mountain
Brotherband Chronicles #5
by John Flanagan
AR Test, Strong Female Character
Hal, his Brotherband crew, and the Ranger Gilan have freed the twelve Araluens sold into slavery. Returning to Araluen, Gilan is given a new mission by King Duncan: protect his daughter’s life. Princess Cassandra has survived one attempt on her life already, and now whispers of a second attempt have reached the kingdom. A deadly sect known as the Scorpion Cult is thought to be behind the assassination threat. Not waiting to see if the knife will strike true, the Brotherband again teams up with Gilan to track down the would-be killers.
Like the other books in the Brotherband series, Scorpion Mountain has nonstop action as Hal and the other Herons travel to a new location. Several characters from the Ranger’s Apprentice Series make an appearance and assist the Herons. The Herons fight in several bloody battles, which are described in more gruesome detail than in the previous books. One member of the brotherband, Ulf, is seriously injured and must be left behind. However, Ulf eventually heals from his wounds and is reunited with the Herons. While much of Ulf and his brother’s bickering was entertaining, many readers will find that they do not miss the brothers’ constant arguing.
As the fifth installment of the series, Scorpion Mountain continues to show the different qualities of the Brotherband Series, however, none of the characters show personal growth. Even though the Herons visit several new locations, the story is predictable and contains few surprises. Like the other books in the series, the crew travel somewhere new, Hal comes up with a brilliant invention, they fight an epic battle and then return home to a celebration. While the interaction between the characters is entertaining, some readers may find the story’s plot tedious rather than exciting.
Fans of the Brotherband Series will find that Scorpion Mountain uses the same formula as the other books in the series. Gilan and the other characters from the Ranger’s Apprentice add interest to the story; however, the characters are not well developed. Despite the story’s predictability, the action and adventure will keep devoted readers interested.
- When an assassin tries to kill the princess, Lydia throws a blunt dart at him, knocking him out. He is then tied to a chair and questioned.
- In order to free a town from raiders, the Herons attack one of their ships. When they get close to the ship, “Lydia’s first dart hit the helmsmen, killing him instantly. He reeled back across the deck, releasing the tiller, then crashing to the planks.”
- The Herons use the Mangler to throw huge projectiles at the ship. One enemy tried to throw a spear at the Herons but, “He never managed it. An arrow suddenly thudded into his chest.”
- During the battle, the slave master peeked out of the port and “was caught across the jaw by one of the leaping oar butts. He fell senseless to the deck. Two of the rowers, seeing their chance, leapt on him, drawing the long knife from his scabbard.” The slaves kill the man.
- The Herons board the ship and Stig uses his ax to kill an enemy. “The man stumbled before falling on his side, a shocked look on his features.” The Herons kill every crew member. The battle is described over 11 pages.
- The Herons enter a harbor and attack an invading force. “Philip was drawing back the second arrow when he felt a massive impact against his chest. . . The impact was like a hard punch but the area was numb. Then the pain came. Huge waves of it. . . he collapsed to the wharf like a rag doll.”
- As the Herons enter the town, they are greeted by Invaders. “Thorn’s terrible club-hand rose and fell and swept from side to side, breaking bones, cracking ribs, sending enemies flying.”
- During the battle, a “man went down, his horse somersaulting beneath him and sending him flying headlong into the rocky ground.” A lot of the enemies are killed and Ulf is seriously injured. The battle is described over 40 pages.
- A group of cult members attacks the Herons. One man “begun to swing down from the saddle when Lydia’s first dart arrived. It went into his upper arm, slightly above the small circular shield that he wore there, and penetrated through to his body.” The man’s horse spooks and the man is “dragged behind it, one foot still firmly trapped in the stirrup.”
- A man gets caught in a “ditch concealed by the thornbush.” Thorn “leaned forward and brought a huge, iron-studded war club down on his skull with crushing effect. The attacker’s hoarse war cry was cut short and he fell face-down, suspended on the clinging thornbush.”
- During the battle, Ingvar hits a man. “The Ishti warrior felt as if a galloping horse had slammed onto his shield. He was hurled back several paces.” The warriors retreat. The battle is described over five pages.
- The Shurmel, a cult leader, and Gilan fight one-on-one. The Shurmel thrusts his sword and “meeting no solid resistance, the Shurmel staggered forward, off balance, and felt the razor-sharp point of Gilan’s sword as it flicked up to touch his throat. A small runnel of blood came from the spot where it touched.”
- During the fight, “Gilan went on the attack.” The Shurmel “staggered back clumsily, only just managing to avoid the stroke.” Eventually, Gilan “stepped forward and slammed his axe into the Shurmel’s unprotected ribs, driving the weapon to the hilt. . . The Shurmel’s eyes mirrored shock, then disbelief, then pain, in quick succession. Then his knees gave way under him and his eyes went completely blank as he collapsed to the stone floor.” The fight is described over 5 pages.
- A group of cult members attempts to attack the Herons’ ship. As a warrior tries to get onto the ship, Thorn’s “heavy club-hand swept down and smashed the man aside. He fell awkwardly, half in the water. . .” The man tries to get back onto the raft causing one of his comrades to stagger. “Thorn’s sword caught him in the middle of the chest and he fell into the sea without another word.”
- As the enemy tries to board the Heron, “Ingvar let out a bellow of fighting rage and lunged with his voulge over the side. The blade stabbed in and out like a striking cobra, and three of the Ishti fell back from the ship in terror.” Another raft gets close to the Heron and two men board the ship. “One of them went no farther. A heavy dart flashed across along the deck and thudded into his chest.” The scene is described over several chapters.
- Reinforcements begin boarding a raft. Someone shoots the Mangler, which is a huge crossbow. “It hit the raft at an angle, but the impact was enough to shatter the pottery warhead and send shards of hard clay whirling through the crew. . . the water around the raft turned red with their blood.”
- Hal sees the warriors and his “land sailor plowed at full speed into the three men, hurling them to either side like so many ninepins.” At the end of the fight, “a third of the Ishti fighters had been killed or wounded . . . The others wasted no time in surrendering.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- When a king meets with the Herons, he offers them ale or wine. They decline.
- Thorn is a recovering alcoholic. He thinks back to a time when “he saw most things over the rim of a brandy tankard.”
- An assassin shoots a poisoned arrow at the princess.
- Philip the Bloodyhand is captain of an invading force. When he is woken up, he has a hangover, and “several empty wine flasks and jars [were] scattered around the room.” Phillip orders a man to “get me wine.”
- A small group of the Herons go to negotiate with a cult leader. When they arrive, the members were chewing something that Gilan assumes is “some kind of drug. Possibly a hallucinogenic or relaxant.”
- When the Herons return home, the town throws a huge party where ale is served.
- Occasionally, characters use a name of a Skandian god as an exclamation. For example, “Gorlog’s earwax,” “Hern’s breath,” and “Gorlog’s eyebrows.”
- The assassin said he is protected by Imrika, the goddess of death.
- When Gilan kills the cult leader, the Shurmel “realized that this ridiculous foreigner offered him a wonderful opportunity. Truly, he thought, he has a gift from the goddess Imrika. He raised his eyes to the heaven and uttered a silent word of thanks for this gift.”
- When Gilan runs into an acquaintance, the man says, “It is you! May the almighty one be praised”