Hal and his fellow Herons return home to Skandia after defeating the pirate captain Zavac and reclaiming Skandia’s most prized artifact, the Andomal. With their honor restored, the Herons turn to a new mission: going to Araluen. But soon after they arrive, news comes of a Skandian wolfship attacking a village and enslaving twelve people.
With the help of the ranger Gilan, the Herons set off to track down Tursgud—leader of the Shark Brotherband and Hal’s constant opponent. Tursgud has turned into a pirate and a slave trader, and the Herons are determined to save the twelve Araluen villagers from him. The Heron crew sail into action. But finding Tursgud and freeing the slaves proves more difficult than the Herons ever imagined.
The Slaves of Socorro begins slowly, as it starts with the Herons returning home. When they are given a mission, the Herons travel to Araluen. Along the way, they see Tursgud’s ship and give chase, but Tursgud is able to slip away. Determined to find Tursgud, the Herons travel to Socorro. This causes the first half of the book to lack action and suspense, and readers will be glad when the Herons finally arrive at their destination.
The pace picks up in the second half of The Slaves of Socorro. Flanagan vividly builds the world of Socorro, which adds interest to the story. As the Herons come up with a plan to free the Araluens, Ingvar agrees to pose as a slave. His imprisonment shows his willingness to make sacrifices for strangers. Ingvar’s kind nature and loyalty are admirable. The Herons also highlight the importance of working as a team, as well as embracing each person’s strengths.
Fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series will cheer as Gilan joins the Herons on their mission. However, fans will be frustrated when several scenes depict Gilan in an uncharacteristic way. Gilan is not the only new character added to the story. Kloof, a misbehaving dog, joins the crew and adds humor to the otherwise serious story.
In typical Flanagan style, the book concludes with an epic battle that is somewhat bloody. Tursgud and his crew all die; however, their deaths are not celebrated. Even though many people die at the hands of the Herons, they intentionally try to disable their enemies instead of killing them when possible.
Slaves of Socorro may start off slowly, but the second half of the book is full of action as the Herons save the Araluens from slavery. The story’s difficult vocabulary and detailed sailing scenes make the Brotherband Series best for strong readers. Readers will enjoy the friendship between the Herons, Thorn’s gruff behavior, and the unexpected plans that Hal comes up with. Readers will be eager to begin the next book in the series, Scorpion Mountain, which will add another character from the Ranger’s Apprentice Series.
- When Lydia finds out that Karina and Thorn are going to a celebration together, Lydia sings, “Karina and Tho-orn, sitting in a tree-ee. Kay-eye-ess-ess-eye-en-gee.”
- Thorn asks Karina to the celebration. Later, Thorn tells Hal, “Just wanted you to know, there’s been no . . . funny business between me and your mam. No . . . hanky-panky, if you know what I mean.”
- Before Thorn sails off on a mission, Karina “threw her arms around Thorn’s neck and kissed him soundly on the mouth. For a moment, Thorn was caught by surprise. Then he responded eagerly.”
- One of the saved Araluens thanks Hal and then “leaning in, she kissed him on the cheek.” When Lydia snorts, Thorn asks, “What’s got your undies in a twist, princess?”
- The Oberjarl, Erak, sees Tursgud, “and half a dozen of his unsavory crew members” drinking ale. Tursgud’s “eyes were bleary and he was very much the worse for drinking ale.” When the boys are disrespectful, “Erak raised the cask high, then slammed it down on Kjord’s head. The bottom of the cask gave way and showered the remaining ale down over Kjord’s body and shoulders. . . He [Kjord] sat upright for a second or two. Then Erak grabbed his collar and jerked him up and back off the bench with one convulsive heave.” Kjord is knocked unconscious. Erak tells Tursgud, “‘Now pick that piece of garbage up.’ He jerked his head at Kjord, who was moaning softly. ‘And get out of my sight.'”
- A man shows up in Cresthaven looking for help. The man says slavers “hit us after dark and caught us totally by surprise. Killed three and took twelve prisoners. The rest of us ran. . . [They] drove us off and sat around drinking and feasting on our food and ale—and burning down houses and barns.”
- A group of men attacks the Herons. In the fight, Hal uses a large crossbow. “The force of the shot jerked the man’s leg out from under him, and he fell, dropping the bow and clutching at his injured leg.” The Herons create a shield with their bodies. “Four of the attackers went down in the first impact, as the Skandian axes, and Thorn’s mighty club-hand smashed into them. . . The leader looked back in an attempt to rally his men. . . [a crossbow bolt] hit him squarely in the chest. The impact hurled him backwards and crashed into two of his men, dead before he hit the sand.” Many of the bandits are wounded or killed in this eight-page fight.
- While Ingvar is imprisoned in the slave market, another Slave named Bernardo, bullies him. “Each of his questions was accompanied by a vicious elbow jab into his [Ingvar’s] ribs.” Bernardo’s head jerked back with the first punch. . . Ingvar heard the sound of bones cracking as the man’s nose broke. Bernardo uttered a choked cry, dazed from the rapid sequence of devastating punches.”
- To create a diversion, Gilan starts a fire in the gold market. As he is leaving, someone sees him and Lydia and calls for the guards. The guards attack and “Lydia took a pace forward and punched her dirk into the soldier’s upper arm. The heavy blade sliced through the man’s chainmail shirt like a hot knife through butter. He felt the sudden burning pain in his arm.” Several of the guards are injured.
- As Gilan and Lydia flee, the guards continue to follow. “Gilan’s sword shot forward. . . the guard felt the impact, felt the point penetrate his chest and almost immediately withdrew. He felt the hot gush of blood that spelled the end.”
- Hal and some of the Herons break into the slave quarters in order to free them. When they enter a room, a guard “began to rise, just as Thorn kicked the heavy table over. The two on the side nearest Thorn were caught by a quick back-and-forth sweep of his club, thudding into their skulls and sending them sprawling to either side.”
- As the slaves try to escape, soldiers “began shooting at the fleeing slaves. . . the would-be escapees began to fall, some crying out in pain, others ominously silent.”
- While trying to escape, a group of guards corner the Herons and slaves. Hal’s dog Kloof attacks. The guard “yelped in fear as Kloof’s jaws clamped shut on his sword arm with all the force of a bear trap. . .” Then the Herons rush the guards. “Thorn’s small shield slammed full into his face, breaking his nose and cheekbone. The sergeant stumbled backward, blinded by blood and tears, his hands to his face, sinking to the cobblestones, huddled over in agony.”
- One of the Herons stabs a guardsman who “fell sideways, staring in horrified disbelief at the blood welling from the wound. His chain mail and his sword clattered as he crashed onto the cobbles.”
- To prevent Tursgud from following the Herons, Hal secretly ties ropes to Tursgud’s ship. When Tursgud tries to follow, the ship is ripped apart, and “the water rushed in and the boat filled and sank. . . One or two heads bobbed on the surface and they could hear their desperate cries. Then they fell silent.”
- As the Herons flee Socorro, guards use a catapult to throw huge boulders at the ship. The Herons use their own catapult to launch jars filled with pottery shards. The pottery shatters, hitting a guard. The guard “took a jagged, five-centimeter piece in the forehead. It tore a huge flap of skin from his head. Blood gushed out, blinding him, and he threw both hands to his face in pain.” Gilan and Lydia shoot arrows at the guards.
- A guard accidentally hits a trebuchet, and a boulder fell on the commander who “was still hurling curses at the little ship as it slid past. . . when the huge, crushing weight landed on him. He screamed once, then he was silent.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Hal’s mom soaks a “slab of meat. . . in a mixture of red wine and oil.”
- At a dance celebrating the Heron’s return, wine and ale are served to the adults. “The band seemed to have mastered the art of drinking deep drafts of ale in sequence, so that the music continued, uninterrupted.”
- The Herons go to Cresthaven to relieve a Skandian crew of duty. Someone tells Hal, “the ale is wonderful.” Before they leave, the villagers throw a party for the Skandians, who drink plenty of ale.
- Smugglers bring brandy from Gallica into Cresthaven.
- Wine is served at the gold market.
- Tursgud and his men had been banned from “several drinking places.” So Tursgud went into a different tavern and “spent the night there, hunched over a table in the corner, repeatedly calling for his ale cup to be refilled.”
- When the Herons return the Araluens, the village throws a party and offers their guests ale. The Herons drink coffee instead.
- The Skandians often use their gods’ names as exclamations. For example, when a dog eats a brush, Hal yells, “Let go, you fool! . . . Orlog blast you!”
- When the Herons approach a damaged ship, Hal says, “Oh Gorlog’s socks, they think we’re going to attack them.”
- Someone calls the Oberjarl a “silly old fool.”
- Two brothers argue and call each other names, such as idiot and blithering twit.
- Several times someone is called an oaf or an idiot.
- Damn is used once.
- A guard calls his commander a “son of a pig.”
- The Socorrans build prayer towers for their gods. Hahmet is the god of war. Jahmet is the god of love. Kaif is the god of good harvest, fair weather, business and success, and family matters. The Socorrans pray three times a day.
- The Hellenese believe in the goddess Ariadne.
- When the Herons rescue slaves, one of them tells Hal, “May the gods bless you for coming.”
- Someone says, “By Ergon’s tears,” which refers to an obscure Araluen god.