The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne

Set far in the future of a mostly-destroyed England, this action-packed adventure is the first of a fantasy series for young adults. The story gallops from one knife-edge moment of terror to the next, with little downtime for the reader to draw breath, as dangers and deadly threats assault the two unfortunate main characters, Scarlett McCain and Albert Browne, at every turn.

Although a full 400-pages, this book rips along at a phenomenal pace and features a wide cast of terrifying creatures and beasts lurking in the verdant and overgrown forests, the deep waters, and even the skies above the seven kingdoms of England. Other humans are no safer to be around, and there are shootings, hangings, fist-fights, and knife attacks galore. There’s even some cannibalism thrown in for good measure.

Scarlett and Albert are well-rounded, likeable, and idiosyncratic. They’re both on the run, for different reasons, and their past lives are part of a slow reveal throughout. Dialogue sparkles and tells us as much about the speakers as the words they utter, while the interactions between the protagonists and supporting characters are funny, fulfilling, and plausible.

The ending is deeply satisfying, with just the right hint of more adventures to come in future books of the series. This is not a book for the sensitive reader, nor for those with a strong moral compass, but to compensate, it provides an abundance of heart, humour and quirkiness, with rich and convincing world-building.