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Literature / Brotherband

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In Skandia, there is only one way to become a warrior. Boys are chosen for teams called brotherbands and must endure three months of gruelling training in seamanship, weapons and battle tactics. It's brotherband against brotherband, fighting it out in a series of challenges. There can be only one winner.

Hal Mikkelson, son of a Skandian hero and an Araluan slave, is a young boy who finds himself the skirl of a brotherband made out of the outcasts of Skandia. The other brotherbands are far superior in both strength and numbers, but Hal has one thing nobody else does: ingenuity.

Books include

  • The Outcasts
  • The Invaders
  • The Hunters
  • Slaves of Socorro
  • Scorpion Mountain
  • The Ghostfaces
  • The Caldera
  • Return of the Temujai
  • The Stern Chase

Sister series to Ranger's Apprentice.

This work provides examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Ingvar almost quits the Brotherband in Book 5, feeling that his difficulty seeing makes him The Load. Luckily, Hal talks him into waiting a few days and comes up with some spectacles to improve his vision, convincing him to stay.
    • Stig also seriously considers leaving the crew in The Ghostfaces, since he's fallen in love. Inevitably, she ends up being a Disposable Woman.
  • Action Girl: Lydia, and Evanlyn, though the latter's more of an Informed Ability for those who haven't read her series.
  • Almighty Janitor: The town drunk, Thorn, was once the Maktig three times consecutively, a feat never been done before or since. He would rather keep it under wraps.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Hal takes the sword of his father. However, it's seldom mentioned again and, aside from being a pretty good sword, doesn't have any special features, unlike most instances of this trope.
  • And Call Him "George": Downplayed; Umar's bear hugs cause Gilan to lose his breath but don't do any lasting harm. The Ranger still tries to avoid more of them after the first couple.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: In both the Skandian and Scorpion assassin cultures, the more badass you are, the higher you can rise.
  • Bad Boss: As in Ranger's Apprentice, this is a defining mark of the bad guys. Tursgud shows little care or respect for the boys in his brotherband or, later, his crew, and Zavac is even worse. The Shurmel, meanwhile, is only at the top of the Scorpion assassins because they practice Klingon Promotion. As per Ranger's Apprentice, the Temujai function on We Have Reserves. Myrgos is slightly better, but that's not saying much.
  • Bash Brothers: The brotherbands are this, although it would be more true to say that the Herons are a set of Bash Brothers and a Smash Sister.
  • Berserk Button: Erak's is anyone implying that any ship is better than his ship, Wolfwind, or messing with his ax. For Thorn (and Stig, before he matures), it's anyone insulting Hal.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Hal makes Ingvar a pair of spectacles in Book 5, keeping him from leaving the Brotherband. Before this, Ingvar was extremely short-sighted.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: This is basically the Skandians' hat. Gilan also has moments of this.
  • Bow and Sword in Accord: Gilan, naturally. Lydia also has a variation of this with her atlatl and dagger.
  • Call-Back: In Book 7, some of the Navigator's Guild are upset that Hal didn't take navigation notes on the voyage where he discovered a new country, which happened in the previous book.
  • Chekhov's Skill: If a skill is mentioned in a book, expect it to come into play at a pivotal moment. Even Edvin's knitting in The Hunters.
  • Comic-Book Time: A minor case. In Book 4, Erak says that he's sending the Herons to Araulen for a period of nine months. They sail from Skandia to Araulen to Socorro and back to Araulen after a few days there. Araulen to Socorro is explicitly stated to be a matter of days. In Book 5, they then sail to Arrida, have their adventure, and back, and by the time they return to Araulen, the next duty ship is waiting to relieve them, implying that almost nine months took place during Book 5.
  • Continuity Snarl: Book 5 mentions that Thorn doesn't clearly remember the Temujai invasion as he was seeing most things over the rim of a bottle at the time. However, Return of the Temujai pretty heavily implies that he was active in those events. Given that there's no clear timeline on where Brotherband fits into its sister series, it's impossible to tell.note 
  • Curse Cut Short: During the Saga of Hal and the Heron Brotherband, Stefan and Jesper originally planned to include a line rhyming with "as bold as brass", preceded by "plan to kick his-". Svengal cuts them off, and they change to an amended version.
    "We've come to challenge Zavac, and he's going to breathe his last."
  • Dark Is Evil: Zavac and Tursgud both have very dark-colored ships. Hal plays with this in Book 7 when the Heron is painted dark green, as it's simply a more pragmatic choice, though it's noted that he has unpleasant connotations with dark-coloured ships.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: In-universe, the Skandians consider themselves to be better than pirates, because they don't kill unarmed civilians and only steal some loot from their target. Most victims of their raids don't see much of a difference.
  • Divided into Disaster: Defied. When the Skandian teens are being split into "brotherband" groups, Erak refuses to let Tursgud select either Hal or Stig (both of whom he dislikes) into his group. He chastises the young man for using this time of preparation to engage in petty rivalry rather than focusing on the importance of the training.
  • The Dog Bites Back: In Scorpion Mountain, Hal unknowingly knocks the slavemaster unconscious with the end of an oar when he breaks most of an enemy ship's starboard oars. Two of the slaves take advantage of this to punish him lethally for whipping so many of them over the years.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Hal's revolutionary sail plan is mentioned in Ranger's Apprentice.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The purpose of the Brotherband program. Hal's rescue of Stig also applies.
    • The crew also become this with Gilan-while there's civility and some respect in the fourth book, it's not until after they go through danger that he really becomes part of the team.
  • Foregone Conclusion: A mild one. In Ranger's Apprentice, Gundar Hardstriker boasts about the Heron sail design, mentioning its designer with little impunity. Hal's redemption in the eyes of Skandia is Played for Drama, and the mention of Hal before he recovers the Andomal is taboo.
  • Gentle Giant: Ingvar. However, his poor sight makes it hard to use his strength around people. He becomes much less gentle when he gets his spectacles (though still gentle around Lydia).
  • Gilligan Cut:
    Hal: He said he never saw the river. Maybe it's better than it sounded.
    Stig: This is worse than it sounded.
  • Glad He's On Our Side: After Hal makes some spectacles for Ingvar and Thorn gives him a new weapon and some lessons in using it, the big boy becomes a terror on the battlefield. Observing this, Thorn notes to himself he's created a monster, but luckily, Ingvar is the Herons' monster.
  • Guile Hero: Hal, to the point where the Herons basically just expect him to figure out their problems for them. Gilan, as a Ranger, is also this to an extent, and Lydia has her moments.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Stig flies off the handle at any provocation, real, imaginary, slight or serious. It even costs the team one of the wrestling matches during Brotherband training when his opponent mocks him to goad him into making a mistake. He grows out of it.
  • Hufflepuff House: The Wolves. They do not even make it to the final tasks.
  • Impossible Thief: Jesper is able to steal the armband of a man he is talking to.
  • Insult Backfire:
    Tursgud: Herons? Herons aren't dangerous. Unless you're a fish!
    Edvin: And, or course, that's just what a shark is. A big, dumb fish.
  • Interquel: With Ranger's Apprentice. Erak is the Skandian Oberjarl, elected in "Oakleaf Bearers." However, Hal's sail plan is used in "The Emperor of Nihon-Ja." See Continuity Snarl above.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Thorn and Hal and Stig (and eventually the rest of the Heron brotherband). But especially Hal.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: A Tualaghi warrior pretends to surrender to Ulf during the taking of Tabork, only to stab him in the side once he lets his guard down.
  • It Will Never Catch On: A gloomy Araulen jewel merchant doesn't think "spectacles" will catch on as a name for the new invention Hal came up with to improve sight.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Severely downplayed. Olaf left his family and stole from his shipmates, showing little to no regret for it, but he does care for Stig a little, and helps Lydia when she is wounded (though this may be simple pragmatism).
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Tursgud. It particularly shows when he takes up slave trading.
  • Macguffin: The Andomal. No Skandian actually knows what it is, but they consider it a great treasure.
  • Master Swordsman: Gilan and Thorn are both this, and Olaf is no slouch either, if not quite at their level. Subverted for the Shurmel, who only thinks he's this due to lack of competition.
  • Must Have Caffeine: As usual, a staple of the heroes.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Olaf is moderately regretful that he left his wife and son high and dry, but never takes responsibility for either it or any of his other Jerkass actions or comments.
    • Hal averts this in Book 1 by claiming full responsibility for the loss of the Andomal.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: In Scorpion Mountain, Jesper and Stefan decide to leave out the identity of the slaver the Heron defeated in Socorro, not so much from deference to Tursgud as to his relatives.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Rollond is a genuinely kind person to Hal and Stig, even rounding up his crew to stop Tursgud from attacking them. Lydia even acknowledges this, which is part of why she has so much trouble rejecting his advances.
    • Hal as well—he's a bit of a Socially Awkward Hero due to his ostracization, but to those who show him kindness, he responds with Undying Loyalty.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Pretty much said word for word by Sigurd. He encourages Hal to come up with the cleverest way to get points for his undermanned team.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Hal mentions having gone on several secret missions for Erak, more than are shown in just the books.
    • Thorn's Maktig competitions are also this.
  • One-Man Army: Stig and Thorn are two stand-out examples, as is Ingvar once he gets his sight back. Book 7 also has Olaf kill about eight men in under a minute, which pretty definitively marks him as this trope as well.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In Scorpion Mountain, Ulf and Wulf actually hug at their reunion rather than getting into a fight immediately, given that Ulf nearly died the last time they saw each other.
  • Opaque Lenses: Ingvar's spectacles are made of drilled tortoiseshell. Apparently he's terrifying.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Pretty much every Skandian ever. Even Hal gets into this a bit.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Heron brotherband. There is a half-Araluan, a temperamental first mate, eternally bickering twins, a short-sighted Gentle Giant, a joker and excellent mimic, an Impossible Thief, a bookworm/Team Chef, and later on, the town drunk and an Action Girl who's not even Skandian. And even later, a Team Pet. Erak lampshades this.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Erak, though YMMV (he did give the Herons the Sadistic Choice of going after the Andomal and possibly getting killed, or living in shame, but they did allow it to be stolen). Thorn is also this in his role as Team Dad, and so is Duncan.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Not for people, but for concepts. Despite their deep roots in Skandian society, neither the Maktig nor the Andomal are mentioned in Ranger's Apprentice. In fairness, the Araulens probably aren't too interested in Skandian culture, and there's no particular reason for either to have been brought up (especially since Thorn was possibly still drunk at the time).
  • Retcon: Apparently, Karina led the Skandian women in making arrows for the men all the way back in Ranger's Apprentice Book 4. Not unjustified, as the main characters would not have had any major interaction with her.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Selethen, Erak, Duncan, and Cassandra are all stand-out examples (although again, the latter two are an Informed Ability for those who aren't familiar with them).
  • Sadistic Choice: In The Invaders, Hal must choose between chasing the Raven, or saving Wolfwind from sinking. He chooses the latter.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Hal jumps town with the Herons and Thorn in order to take back the Andomal, despite the fact their weapons (and ship) are actually forfeit to Erak as punishment. Somewhat subverted, actually, in that Erak expected them to try and get it back.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Svengal and Erak, Hal and Stig, and Lydia and Thorn, provide the stand-out examples, although the snark gets passed around like a hot potato.
  • Strategy Versus Tactics: Hal is the expert at strategy—making sure the Herons are in the right location to attack—while Thorn is the master of battle tactics and practically unbeatable in personal combat.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Even the best Gadgeteer Genius will occasionally come up against a problem they can't McGyver their way out of.
    • Just because the Skandians no longer act as pirates (or 'raiders'), doesn't mean the seas are safe. There are plenty of other groups willing to fill in the power vacuum.
    • Jesper is faster than Tursgud, but that doesn’t mean he has more endurance (especially because Jesper's expertise is in running away from pursuit, requiring agility and a good start rather than endurance, while Tursgud is a natural athlete). When he runs a marathon against Tursgud, he gets exhausted and loses at the very end.
    • Similarly, while Jesper is the Stealth Expert, he doesn't have superpowers. As he lays out in Book 3, even if he could sneak through a well-lit jetty and onto the Raven, he would still have to deal with a) the ship moving when he stepped onboard, b) a maximum of fifty or so crewmen, plus Zavac himself. Even Gilan probably wouldn't have been able to pull it off.
    • Surprisingly, people do get hurt in battles, and not just the bad guys. Ingvar discovers this in Book 2, and Ulf and Wulf in Book 5. Similarly, many warriors are Combat Pragmatists and won't hesitate to stab an off-guard enemy or pull a fake surrender.
    • There being a lot of escaping slaves is no guarantee that they can fight Socorro’s city guard. Only two groups end up escaping, and the rest are recaptured or killed.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • All of the Herons, but Ingvar specifically goes from bumbling Big Guy to dangerous warrior once he gets his glasses.
    • Thorn regains his badass levels after getting a stern talking-to from Karina and becoming Hal's Parental Substitute.
    • The Stern Chase shows off Erak's political awesomeness; whereas once he was just an intelligent bruiser, he shows off his diplomatic clout and makes a threat to another ruler that involves hurting them financially rather than physically. Halt would be proud.
  • Training from Hell: Brotherband training. Thorn also puts his crew through a not-quite-so-hellish version of this.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Hal and the Herons are forced to give up their win because they lost the Andomal.
  • Twin Telepathy: Ulf and Wulf are often said to have some kind of mental link because of their twinhood, but it especially comes up in Scorpion Mountain, when Wulf has to sail with the other Herons, leaving his injured brother with Selethan's doctors. At one point during the voyage, he announces he knows Ulf is improving, because he's awake and hungry. Apparently even Wulf feels confused about how he knows that.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: All of the Herons are this, but special credit has to go to Hal and Stig, and Thorn and Lydia. Svengal and Erak also show themselves to be this trope, though in Svengal's case it's mixed with Servile Snarker.
  • What a Drag: While the scouting group are attacking the Herons in Scorpion Mountain, their leader tangles his foot in the stirrup while dismounting and his frightened horse runs away, dragging him with it. His subordinates make no attempt to help, as he had been a mean and ineffective leader anyway.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Karina gives one to Thorn in Book 1, leading to his Character Development and beginning as a Parental Substitute to Hal. Hal and Stig also give harsh ones to Olaf in Book 7, regarding the latter's It's All About Me nature.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Hal, Edvin, and Jesper are this compared to many of their physically stronger enemies. Gilan also shows the value of this trope when fighting the Shurmel.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: It's said in Book 3 that Zavac used to have fifty men, but lost ten or a dozen in the attack on Limmat, eight more when he tried to ambush them in Raguza, and a further ten who refuse to fight the Heron crew (of whom there are ten). This ought to leave him with about twenty. Thorn comments that this puts them at three to one, and for the rest of the book, Zavac is treated as having roughly thirty men. Whoops.
  • World of Snark: It's the same universe as Ranger's Apprentice, what do you expect?
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Karina gives a speech along these lines to Thorn in Book 1 as part of her What the Hell, Hero? speech. Hal also gives one to Ingvar in Book 5.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go: Zavac extracts the information he needs using this tactic.

Alternative Title(s): The Brotherband Chronicles