The Hunters (2012) is the third Fantasy novel in the Brotherband series, following The Invaders. The initial volume in this sequence is The Outcasts.
In the previous volume, the Heron crew was looking for the Raven, but the weather has pushed them south. For ten days they had been running before the wind and bailing water out of the ship. Finally, Hal looked for a place to shelter from the storm.
Hal took the Heron into a smaller sheltered body of water that he named Shelter Bay. After beaching the ship, the crew slept onboard. The next day, they built a shelter as they were taught in training and rested for a day or so. Then they goet bored.
Hal discussed the problem with Thorn and then set a schedule of duties and training. Thorn was appointed training master and the boys soon found out that he knews his stuff. Eventually Hal convinced Thorn to let him tell the boys about his three years in a row tenure as the Maktig.
Thorn first resumed their exercises. The crew discovered that certain muscles hadn't been used much on the ship. Jesper discovered that Thorn could still move fast.
In this novel, Hal Mikkelson is the son of a Skandian father and an Araluen mother. He is very intelligent and good with his hands. He invented a new type of sail plan and then built the Heron with some help from his friends. Now he is skirl -- captain -- and owner of the Heron.
Karina Mikkelswife is Hal's mother. Her husband had died on a raid in Iberia. For the past few years, she has been running an eating house to keep her son and herself alive.
Thorn was a shipmate of Mikkel. After Mikkel's death, Thorn had lost his right forearm in tangled rigging. Without his right hand, Thorn could not use an axe or any other weapon, but Hal devised a wooden hand for him that could hold a shield. Now he is sailing on the Heron as a trainer and advisor.
Stig Olafson was Hal's only friend. Hal had saved Stig from drowning in a nearby cove. Now they are close friends. Stig helped build the Heron and is now the first mate on the ship.
Ulf and Wulf are identical twins. They like to swap names to confuse others.
Ingvar is a very large boy, but he is nearsighted and clumsy. Yet he is very strong and is rather intelligent.
Jesper and Stefan raise the yardarms for the sails. Jesper is a reformed thief and lockpicker. Stefan usually anchors the ship on beaches.
Edvin is the smallest in the crew, but is the cook and medic. He may be the smartest boy in the crew.
Lydia is a girl who likes weapons and hunting. She was saved by the Heron crew and is now one of the Heron crew.
Zavac is a Magyaran pirate and captain of the Raven. He had stolen the Andomal from Hallasholm and Hal's band got the blame.
Rikard was the first mate on the Stingray. He was a Magyaran pirate until captured by the Heron crew.
In this story, the Heron is once more chasing the Raven. Zavac had escaped from Limmat and sailed away. Rikard told the Heron crew that Zavac was sailing to the pirate haven at Raguza. Now Rikard is kept tied to the mast until his information is confirmed.
Ingvar was shot with an arrow during the battle in Limmat. Edvin cleaned and bandaged his wound. Now he is now running a fever and getting worse.
Edvin tells Hal that the voyage might be worsening Ingvar's condition. The swaying of the ship may be keeping Ingvar from getting sleep. Hal decides to beach the Heron for a few days to allow Ingvar to rest.
While they are camped on the beach, Rikard frees himself and runs into the dark forest. Lydia and Thorn go after him. Lydia follows his trail and shows Thorn the signs of his passage. They catch Rikard the next day.
Meanwhile, the crew try to bring down the fever in Ingvar. The only treatment that Edvin knows is damp clothes. When that doesn't seem to work, he remembers that easterners used willow bark to relieve the fever. Hal and Stig look for willow trees along a nearby creek.
The Heron sails on to the Dan river and upstream to the river port of Krall. There they find someone who has seen the Raven. Thorn gives Rikard three Limmatan nobles and sends him into the town.
The Heron crew prepare to leave, but a guard insists that they stay. The town council has decreed that no ship leave after dark. They reluctantly wait for dawn.
This tale brings bad news to the Heron before morning. Rikard has been killed and the town guard suspects Thorn of killing him. They are delayed while the dock guards are brought in to describe their observations of the ship.
One of Zavac's officers was in town and takes word of the Heron to him. Zavac bribes the local tyrant to arrest the Heron crew. They find guards waiting for them at the toll house.
Hal and crew have more adventures on the Don. The next installment in this sequence is Slaves of Socorro.
Highly recommended for Flanagan fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of naval combat, young sailors, and lots of action. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin