I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Caldera by John Flanagan
Genres: Action, Adventure, Alternative History
Published by Philomel Books Pages: 427
on November 21, 2017
Source: the library
Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Scorpion Mountain, The Tournament at Gorlan, The Ghostfaces, “The Beast From Another Time”
Seventh in the The Brotherband Chronicles alternative history adventure series revolving around the very young men who make up the crew of the Heron.
I hadn’t realized The Caldera was not a short story until I noticed the ending page number. Yeah, well, I was turning those pages as fast as I could, wanting to know what happened next. I guess I missed how long it actually took.
I swear, I thought it was a short story. Well, okay, two stories…using multiple third-person points-of-view, for we hop from one person’s head to the next, with each having his own scene. Story-wise, the most obvious is the adventurous rescue of the young emperor including the excitement of the Heron’s journey to and from. The underlying story is Stig’s dad. Come back to his family, desperate for help. The conflict is in why his dad ran off, and Stig hoping to kindle a relationship with a father.
Obviously, I thought it was good, even if it is less exciting than previous stories in the series. It’s taking Hal’s abilities for granted, showing off how well-practiced are the crew. But it does demonstrate that Hal isn’t always perfect, but very willing to think again.
Not to worry, for Hal is still amazing. Wait’ll you read about the pirate chase and the Heron “surfing” that wave. I did wish I could have been aboard then!
I do enjoy the competence of the boys and their acceptance of Lydia as a full-fledged member of the crew, appreciating the skills that each person brings. And of course, I love how they get the best of any bad guys, lol.
It’s a few terrifying chases at sea, Hal wracking his brain to figure out how to save the Heron, her crew, and everyone else. More nerve-wracking is their plans to use Myrgos’ elevator. Less nerve-wracking is Thorn’s Titanic moment, lol.
What it comes down to…is loyalty.
The boys are bored being aground as they wait for the results of the Maktig. Then Stig’s outlaw father shows up, begging for help.
A young boy has been kidnapped and at the mercy of dread pirates. It’s also an opportunity for Stig to meet, to get to know, his father, and the Brotherband supports each other. It’s no contest that they’ll follow Stig in whatever he decides.
Hal Mikkelson is the skirl of this Brotherband with a quick, inventive mind, and an expert navigator for all his young years. Karina is his mother, a former Araluen slave freed by Mikkel Fastblade. Kloof is Hal’s dog (Slaves of Socorro, 4).
Stig Olafson, best friends with Hal, is the his first mate and Thorn’s battle lieutenant; the one-handed Thorn is a valuable member of the crew, the battle-master, and a former Maktig winner three years in a row; Edvin is their medic and chef; Jesper is the former thief; Stefan is the bow lookout; Ingvar is their “mountain” who is close friends with Lydia (he’s also the only one who can cock and load the Mangler — kinda makes up for his nearsightedness); Ulf and Wulf are the arguing twins brilliant at trimming the sails; and, Lydia Demarek, who is brilliant with an atlatl and is an excellent tracker (The Invaders, 2), make up the crew of the Heron.
Hannah Olafson is a good cook who survives by taking in laundry; she’s also Stig’s abandoned mother. Olaf Attelson is the stinkin’ selfish jerk of a father who stole from his crewmates and ran off years ago. Now he’s the commander of the emperor’s palace guard in Byzantos.
Hallasholm is the town where…
…the leader of Skandia, Oberjarl Erak Starfollower, lives. The Wolfwind is his ship, and Svengal is his first mate. He also oversees the six-member Navigators Guild executive committee that includes Gerdt Smolensson, Paavo Nilsson, Keldt Horgasson, Seb Peckson, and Holger Brayson who all fear Hal’s rising influence.
Oren had been a contender for the prize. Arndt is a trawlerman. Anders owns a shipyard. Gordy is one of the boys who worship Hal.
Sigurd Breathblaster lives in Baskenholm and needs a wake-up call. Aspenholm is a small fishing port. Krall is a prosperous river town that charges a toll of every ship that passes (The Invaders). Bayrath is even bigger than Krall. Captain Zigmund commands one of Bayrath’s boom ships.
Amalon is the port Mannoc works out of as captain of the Seahawk, gathering ships, including the Foxhound, to escort merchant ships. This time, there are six ships he’ll be guarding, one of which is the Southwind.
Drogha is the next town, followed by Raguza, a pirate stronghold (The Hunters, 3).
The Maktig (Mighty One) is an annual contest to honor the winner of a series of physical contests. The judges include Woten, Per, and Luda. Berg-blad-trasa is also known (by us) as rock-paper-scissors. Thalga is the Skandian goddess of sailors and travellers. Ragnak was Oberjarl when Olaf ran off.
…an old and corrupt empire from which Byzantos broke off of which Constantus was its founding emperor. Empress Regent Justinia is the mother of the real emperor, the fourteen-year-old Constantus. Lacrimus is Olaf’s personal orderly. Corporal Junius Dall is commander of the watch-house garrison. Aristide is one of the Gallicans.
…an island where the crew meets Kostas, a fisherman. Fergil Drommond is commander of the island’s Citizens’ Vigilance Committee.
…the secret pirate stronghold of Myrgos, the captain of the Vulture. Demos is his first mate.
The Mawagansett is a tribe who befriended Hal and his crew in The Ghostfaces, 6.
The Cover and Title
The cover is a range of deep royal blues representing the hills, the sky, and the swirling waters, a bit of purple in the shadows, and the pinkish oranges of rock and fire. It’s an end of events with the devastating whirlpool encircled by steep hillsides below the hilltop fortress, flaming rocks falling seaward even as fissures erupt on the land. The text starts at the top with a note that this is a subseries of Ranger’s Apprentice in gold with this series’ name, Brotherband, writ large in a gothic font, also in gold, stretching upwards at the start and the end to embrace the text above. The title is tiny beneath the series name in more of a yellow font outlined in gold. At the bottom of the cover is the author’s name…in gold.
The title is both destruction and salvation, The Caldera, the actions of which are so well timed.