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“It’s the enemy you don’t see that gets you,” Hal. –The Stern Chase
The Stern Chase
Brotherband Chronicles #9
by John Flanagan
The Herons are home in Skandia—preparing to celebrate two of their own and working on sea trials in the newly constructed Heron. But during a short excursion, they encounter an Iberian pirate ship raiding the coast of Sonderland, so Hal and his crew take action.
Though the Herons quickly triumph, the Iberians voice their fury at the Herons, vowing to take revenge. And soon they do—raiding the harbor and stealing or destroying as many ships as they can. Though there is little proof the Iberians are behind it, the Herons take their ship—the only one that survived the raid—and race after their enemy in hot pursuit. They will take down these pirates and get justice, no matter what.
The Stern Chase lives up to its name since the majority of the story focuses on the Skandians chasing the pirate ship. At first, Hal and his crew, The Brotherband, are trying to discover what country the pirates come from. Then, they need to figure out which direction the pirates went. And then, they must find the pirate’s secret hiding spot. Unfortunately, the search lacks action and readers may quickly become bored with the chase. Another of the book’s flaws is that The Stern Chase follows the same format as all the other books in the series, which doesn’t allow any surprises to unfold.
While the previous books in the Brotherband Chronicle are action-packed and interesting, The Stern Chase is stale. There is little interaction between the characters and none of the characters show any personal growth. The story begins with Invgar and Lydia’s engagement party, however, once the party is interrupted there are few scenes that feature the couple. The Skandian Oberjarl, Erik, also joins the expedition, but he only has a small role. Overall, none of the characters are given a chance to shine.
One of the best aspects of the Brotherband Chronicles is the sense of comradery among the crew and the action-packed scenes. However, The Stern Chase is missing both of these elements, which will leave readers disappointed. If you’ve sailed through all the Brotherband books, you can find additional excitement and adventure by reading the Starcatchers Series by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson and Lintang and the Pirate Queen by Tamara Moss.
- When a member of the Brotherband, Thorn, is about to leave to search for pirates, he says goodbye to his girlfriend and kisses “her on the lips. It was a long kiss . . .”
- Iberians attack a trading ship and the Brotherband jumps in to help. “Thorn charged into the rank of the Iberian crew. His massive club smashed into one man, hurling him to one side, then he swung back again and took another in the chest as the startled pirate turned to face him.”
- The battle continues and the ship’s captain “leapt forward, bringing his long-bladed sword down onto the helmet of the pirate captain who had faced him. . . The sword blade sank deep into his helmet, cleaving a deep cut in the metal. The pirate’s last conscious thought was that he had dropped his own sword and was now unarmed and at the mercy of his former prey.” It is implied that the pirate dies. The scene takes place over four pages.
- The Brotherband captures the remaining pirates, who are closest to the harbormaster. “The pirates, their hands bound behind them and secured in a line by a rope around their necks, were marched down the quay by the trader’s crew. . . Piracy was a capital crime, and they had been caught red handed.”
- Pirates sneak into the Skandia harbor and damage their ships. In the morning, the Skandia guards are discovered dead. One of the guards is, “lying on his back, staring unseeingly up at the sky. . .he had been stabbed.”
- The pirates anger a bear that attacks them. “One massive, claw-laden paw swiped at him before he could bring his sword forward. The huge claws opened four red weals across his face. . .” The bear struck the pirate who smashed “into the rock wall behind him. His limp body slid slowly to the ground. The pirates run from the bear, but “the terrible bear snapped and smashed at those nearest it, leaving a trail of broken bodies.” Six men “paid the ultimate price, their bodies hurled to the rocks on either side, or lying still where they fell.”
- A sailor describes a pirate attack. His men were outnumbered and were quickly killed and “their bodies thrown overboard.”
- The Brotherband meet the pirates on the open sea. The pirates began shooting arrows towards the Brotherband. “An arrow flashed down at Thorn, grazing his arm and leaving a bloody welt.” Thorn “hurled the grapnel overhand back toward the ship behind them. . . Thorn’s blind throw had been effective. A man tumbled off the bow of the big ship, falling into the sea and being driven under by her plunging forefoot.” During the short confrontation, men on both sides are injured.
- Several members of the Brotherband spy on the pirates. The Brotherband hears a small party of pirates approaching. Lydia, a member of the Brotherband, throws a dart, and a pirate “felt a jolting impact in his right shoulder. The force of it spun him half around and the impact jarred the sword from his grasp. He staggered. . . then his legs gave way and he sank to the ground, gasping as he felt the first waves of pain seizing his upper body.” The man dies.
- The Brotherband tricks the pirates into following them. The Brotherband’s ship, Heron, purposely runs into the other ship’s oars. “The air was filled with the splintering, cracking sound of the oars being smashed and shattered. Lethal splinters of white oak flew above the two ships. . .” Several of the pirates “fell, struck by sharp daggers of white oak. . . Within seconds, a good half of the rowing crew were injured or disabled, lying groaning or unconscious on the rowing benches. . .”
- One of the Brotherband sets off “the Mangler,” which throws a giant bolt ball at the pirates’ ship. “It smashed into the men crowded around the mast, cleaving a deadly path through them, throwing bodies left and right before it sailed clear over the side into the sea.”
- The Brotherband boards the ship. “Thorn led the way. . . His massive club-hand smashed out to left and right, shattering shields, breaking limbs and fracturing ribs among those who opposed him.”
- During the battle, the Skandian Oberjarl, Erik, was wounded “but he seemed impervious to them, ignoring the blood streaking his arms and legs, dealing out quick vengeance to any who struck him. The pile of fallen pirates grew around him as he shattered and smashed his way along the blood-streaked deck.” The bloody battle is described over 12 pages. The pirates started with a crew of forty. After the battle there are “fewer than a dozen left standing.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- The Skandians throw an engagement party. During the party, alcohol is put out “so that revelers could fill and refill their tankards as they pleased.” Many of the adults get drunk.
- The Brotherband finds a sinking ship that had been attacked by pirates. One of the wounded men is given a “painkilling draft.”
- Oh my Lord and Oh God are both used as an exclamation once.
- “Gorlog’s beard” and “Gorlog bite him” are both used as an exclamation once.
- The Brotherband gives a sailor from another ship a funeral. Hal wonders how to perform the ceremony because he “wasn’t familiar with whatever gods the Gallicans might pray too, and Skandians weren’t a particularly religious group, regarding their own gods with a kind of affectionate disdain.”
- The pirates hear a “low rumbling sound, full of threat and menace, and wonder if such an unearthly sound might come from a djinn or a demon.” A djinn is an intelligent spirit of lower rank than the angels, able to appear in both human and animal forms, that can also possess humans.
- When the pirates see a bear, “one of the men. . . let out a yelp of fear, calling on his gods to protect him.”