The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud – REVIEW

Set in a fragmented future England, The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne introduces us to a world where gunfights and monsters collide, and where the formidable outlaw Scarlett McCain fights daily against the odds. When she discovers a wrecked coach on a lonely road, there is only one survivor – the seemingly hapless youth, Albert Browne. Against her instincts, Scarlett agrees to escort him to safety. This is a mistake. Soon, new and implacable enemies are on her heels. As a relentless pursuit continues across the broken landscape of England, Scarlett must fight to uncover the secrets of Albert’s past – and come to terms with the implications of her own.

In his first new project since Lockwood & Co., Jonathan once again fuses action, humour and mystery to create a uniquely exciting adventure with two fascinating heroes at its heart.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Walker.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I recently read The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud and loved it. The story is set in a dystopian British future comprised of Surviving Towns surrounded by the Wilds and roving outlaws. Faith Houses make the law and deem who is and is not suitable. To be considered healthy, you must be physically and mentally unblemished; a simple birthmark can mark you as wicked and ungodly.

“That morning, with the dawn hanging wet and pale over the marshes, Scarlett McCain woke up beside four dead men.”

The world-building is wonderfully rich and detailed. The Surviving Towns parade themselves as bastions of virtue and progress but they hide a dark side of corruption and slavery. The Wilds are haunted by cannibalistic monsters called the Tainted and there are some truly scary moments featuring them. Giant wolves, bears, and otters roam the fens and forests, and the author weaves an action-packed adventure against these backdrops.

“The secret of being a successful outlaw was to move fast and stay light on your feet. No ties, no allegiance.”

The main characters are Scarlett and Albert, both in their late teens. Scarlett is a sarcastic, abrasive, and pragmatic outlaw who rescues Albert, a naive and innocently open boy with many secrets. The banter between the two of them sparks so many funny moments and their friendship is brilliant to watch unfold. I appreciated the exploration of Albert’s past and the trauma he’s suffered and continues to suffer. The addition of boatman Joe and his grand-daughter Ettie enhanced the story and complemented both Scarlett and Albert’s characters.

“I thank you for your companionship, brief though it was, and wish you well in whatever afterlife you find yourself. I shall remember you always – your hair, your scowl, the roll of your green eyes.”

The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne was fun and well-paced, with moments of levity, pain, humour, horror, and adventure. The snippets we were given of the Cataclysm that led to this bleak future were tantalising and I hope a sequel explores more of this history, especially the Tainted. I’d highly recommend this YA fantasy/dystopian.

(Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon UK)

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