Action! Humor! Fantasy! "Kicking off a new series with a bang (several bangs, in fact), Stroud sends two young fugitives with murky pasts fleeing murderous pursuers across a fractured future Britain." —Kirkus Reviews, starred
Scarlett McCain is a shoot-first ask-questions-later kind of outlaw. She scrapes by on bank heists, her wits—and never looking back.
She’s on the run from her latest crime when she comes across Albert Browne. He is the sole survivor of a horrific accident, and against her better judgement, Scarlett agrees to guide him to safety.
This is a mistake. Soon there are men with dogs and guns and explosives hot on their heels. Scarlett’s used to being chased by the law, but this is extreme. It was only a little bank she’d robbed . . .
As they flee together across the wilds, fighting off monstrous beasts, and dodging their pursuers, Scarlett comes to realize that Albert Browne is hiding a terrible secret. And that he may be the most dangerous threat of all.
In this fast-paced, quick-witted whirlwind of a story, Jonathan Stroud introduces two unlikely allies—the outlaws Scarlett and Browne—who are about to become the most notorious renegades in all that’s left of Britain.
After handily knocking over a bank to settle a debt, red-haired, gimlet-eyed Scarlett McCain "no ties, no allegiance" disappears into the woodland wastes between England's Surviving Towns with a rucksack full of cash, her prayer mat and cuss-box, and "little to worry about." When she comes across the aftermath of a terrible bus accident, however, she encounters in the vehicle's toilet cubicle the incident's sole apparent survivor: seemingly clueless youth Albert Browne, bony and bright-eyed. Scarlett begrudgingly agrees to accompany Albert to the next settlement, but the appearance of bowler-hatted trackers sets off a reluctant partnership between the cued-white protagonists that sees them pursued over land and sea across a postapocalyptic, flooded Britain that's menaced by plague, enormous water monsters, ghastly cannibals called the Tainted, and Faith Houses "on the watch for any kind of deviation, be it physical or moral." Some elements feel less sensitively rendered than others, but Stroud (the Lockwood & Co. series) expertly builds flawed characters, cahoots close and tender, and a fully realized setting in this rollicking series opener, employing arch phrasing, witty rapport, and quick pacing alongside the brutally rendered truths of a world intent on controlling outlaws of every type. Ages 10 up. Agent: Andrea Morrison, Writers House on behalf of Veronique Baxter, David Higham Assoc. (U.K.).