I'm sorry to say I didn't enjoy this book. This is a young adult book, I understand, but I couldn't help but feel insulted by the writing. It was all function and nothing else, and worse than that it had so many repetitions and explanations of gestures that it made me think John Flanagan thought his readers would be idiots who didn't understand that when a character nodded it meant they agreed with something. Everything is told, nothing shown. I was TOLD that someone was angry or confused or happy, I was hardly ever shown it. And when it did occur, it happened with "in anger" or "in frustration" after it, so consistently redundant that I actually flinched every time it appeared, which was maybe fifteen plus times on a single page. The writing was awkward and contrived; I can't even count the number of times I saw the phrase, "as a result, . . . " The plot just a competition between boys. I was waiting for the plot to pick up into some romping adventure but it just sat there at a competition. The characters were flat, especially the boys in Hal's brotherband. One of them was a thief. Everything about him, every character trait had to do with the fact he was a thief. He run really fast, because he's a thief, I guess that would be a helpful trait if you were a thief (literally it was explained like that in the book). It's mentioned he's a thief almost every time his name comes up in paragraph. Or the "I'm short-sighted, not stupid" appeared in the dialogue at least two times. These characters had pretty much one defining feature and it was all they were throughout the entire novel. Not to mention the random love interest present in maybe two pages tops. I had forgotten about her until near the end she randomly kissed Hal. It's as if she was an afterthought, "oh yeah I need a girl character, she should probably just be a love interest but I don't want to deal with her so she'll appear just two times and it'll just be defending her from the antagonist and then a kiss for the hero." Exposition made up half the dialogue, all awkward and sounding out-of-character. I'm not actually sure what was in-character though, to be honest, everything was so stilted and cliche and written in one voice, all the characters could be the same if not for their defining feature. Sorry, I'm being really mean. It's my opinion only, but I regard this book as one of the weakest pieces of literature I've ever read.