Thursday 1 April 2021

The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne by Jonathan Stroud

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.

Anyone who knows me will know both how much I love Stroud’s Lockwood and Co series and how much I adore a good dystopian. So, this was a no-brainer to me! Set in an apocalyptic future, where Britain has divided itself into seven “kingdoms”, we follow Scarlett and Albert travels through Wessex, the wilds of the Cotswolds! As I live in that area, it was weird to see town names that I recognised but twisted to survive in this future.

Scarlett is a bank robber, primarily, although she also travels, sells dubious “religious artifacts” and, only as a last resort of course, kills. After a job goes very nearly wrong, Scarlett is forced to run to avoid being caught by the town’s militia and discovers a bus crash. Against all odds, amid this bus crash is Albert, a stringy-looking boy who is uncharacteristically bright and chatty for such a bleak world. They form an unlikely and sometimes dangerous alliance to travel together to Stow. Obviously, things go wrong, people get killed, they need to change plans and rob more banks… you know, the usual. As they are chased across Wessex, we learn more about them, and they discover secrets about each other – especially the reason they are being chased in the first place.

Stroud has an excellent way of telling a story without revealing too much; the reader ever so slowly puts the pieces together about Scarlett’s past, about the way this world works (or doesn’t, depending on the point of view) and most importantly, about Albert. Not only was it about unlikely friendships but it had strong themes of family, trust and survival. Another winner from Stroud, as far as I’m concerned, and a world and set of characters that I’d love to hear more about.

Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.