Today I’m sharing an exciting new book for teen readers packed with daring exploits and audacious crimes. AND I have the second part of Chapter Two for you to enjoy. If you’ve missed reading Chapter One and the first part of this chapter, check out which stops on the blog tour to visit on the graphic at the end of this post.
“Set in a broken, future England, where gunfights and monsters collide, this is the exciting first title in a phenomenal fantasy teen series by the bestselling children’s novelist.
England has been radically changed by a series of catastrophes – large cities have disappeared and London has been replaced by a lagoon. The surviving population exists in fortified towns where they cling to traditional ways, while strangely evolved beasts prowl the wilderness beyond. Conformity is rigidly enforced and those who fall foul of the rules are persecuted: some are killed, others are driven out into the wilds. Only a few fight back – and two of these outlaws, Scarlett McCain and Albert Browne, display an audacity and talent that makes them legends.”
Wow! What an absolute whirlwind of a read! The opening pages just suck you straight in to Scarlett’s broken, brutal world and whoosh – you’re off on an adventure full of courage, cussing and non-conformity. And it’s funny. So, so funny!
Set in world where conformity and religion loom large, where the ‘tainted’ (post-apocalyptic) monsters roam, and all that’s left of England is a scattering of highly-fortified cities, people have to be tough to survive. And boy is Scarlett tough!
At first glance, Scarlett Browne may not seem like your typical heroine – she swears, she kills and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. But Scarlett is a character of contradictions – she meditates, she has a swear box, and her sarcastic nature is just to die for. Finding the pale and mysterious Albert Browne in the wreckage of a bus is a turning point for Scarlett but it seems there’s more to him than meets the eye.
Packed with action, fights and thrills this book is sure to grip its readers and have them begging for more (my son has already asked me to keep hold of this book so that he can read it when he’s finished his current one.) It’s not all fist fights and cussing though – the story could open up plenty of interesting conversations about power and morality too. 12+
Now for an exclusive peek at the end of chapter two:
Chapter Two – Part 2
[Continuing from Chapter Two – Part 1 published on WhatIRead.co.uk whereScarlett is in the middle of a bank heist, and counting down the time Mr H. J. Appleby, manager of the Cheltenham Co-Operative Bank, has left to open the safe!]
“You’re clearly rather an unhappy person, my dear,” he said. “You need guidance. If you want, we could pop along to the Faith House, get a Mentor to set you right.”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” the girl said. “Thirty-five seconds.”
Mr Appleby glanced at Old Glory. The hoary time-blackened face of the clock showed twelve twenty-seven. Miss Peterson never stayed out long. Yes, his staff would come back soon, find Eric, see something was wrong… “You’re not from here, I take it,” he said. “Maybe you didn’t see the cages in the square? Just opposite the tea shop?”
“Thirty seconds remaining,” the girl said. “Yeah, I saw them.”
“Those cages are where we put petty criminals here in Cheltenham,” Mr Appleby said. “You quit this nonsense now, you’ll get away with a day or two in the cage. Nothing too painful – just a bit of public jeering, maybe some prodding with the poles of justice. Then you’re run out of town. But if you don’t quit it…” He tried to speak slow, put emphasis on every word. “If you don’t quit, we’ve got the iron posts at the far end of the fields. We tether you there and leave you for the beasts. Or, who knows, maybe the Tainted come out of the woods and carry you off alive. Do you want that, my dear? I’m an Appleby, one of the ruling families in this town. I can arrange it, easy as blinking. Thieves, deviants, bank robbers: that’s what we do to them.”
“Yeah?” The girl’s green eyes gazed at him, unblinking. “Seems you’re pretty tough. But I do things too. Ask the big guy in the lobby downstairs. Ask four dead outlaws out there in the fens.” She blew a tiny bubble of pink gum, let it pop back into her mouth, continued chewing. “One thing I won’t do,” she added, “is waste time with my life on the line. Your speech there took fourteen seconds. I’ve used up another six. That’s ten left to get that safe open, to remember the combination and turn the wheel just right. And you with those poor old shaky hands and all.”
Mr Appleby swallowed. “I’m not opening the safe,” he said.
Just a quick movement would be all he needed. Distract her, wrench the drawer, pull out the gun… “I really think,” he said, “we should talk about this.” Gabbling now. Calm down. She wasn’t going to do anything.
He looked towards the window.
“Five,” the girl said. “Four.”
“You’re too late.” Mr Appleby pointed down into the street. “The militia are here.”
The girl rolled her eyes, but she turned her head to look, and Mr Appleby yanked at the gun drawer. Stiff, yes – but he had it open! Goddam it, the gun was wrapped in a hand kerchief! Why had he done that? What was he thinking? Who wrapped their revolver like a birthday present? He flicked off the cloth, had it in his hand. He jerked his arm up, cocked the gun—
—and found the girl had a revolver of her own already pointed at his heart. She looked infinitely bored. Another bubble emerged, slowly, insolently, from the centre of her mouth. She moved a strand of hair from her face.
Bang! The bubble popped. With a groan of fear, Mr Appleby flinched backwards in his chair. He dropped the gun with a thump upon the desk.
“Three, two, one,” the girl said. “Time’s up, Horace. Now open the bloody safe.”
“All right!” Mr Appleby rose; in a flurry of frantic movements, he turned the circular dial, inputted his grandfather’s code, and swung the safe door open. He heaved the strongbox out and dumped it down between the revolver and the plate of biscuits.
“There,” the girl said. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?” She gestured with the gun. “Now take off the lid.”
He did so. Inside, as lovingly prepared by Mr Appleby himself, was the bank’s cash reserve: neatly wrapped wads of fifty-pound notes, Wessex-issue, stacked, spotless and vulnerable. It made Mr Appleby sick at heart to see them like that, so naked and exposed. He stared at them miserably.
The girl took a string bag from somewhere, shook it out. “Put the notes in, please.” Her eyes flicked towards the door.
A great hatred rose in Mr Appleby as he obeyed her. It was hatred for the chaos that ruled beyond the walls of the Surviving Towns, out there in the endless fens and forests; chaos that had the impudence to skip into his study wearing dirty boots and a leather coat.
“I’ll see you killed,” he said. “Where are you going to run to? Mercia? The Wilds? We’ve got trackers.”
“Yeah. But they’re no good.” She was doing up the bag, looking at her watch.
“I have friends in every town.” “Friends? With your face? That I seriously doubt.”
“You are stealing Faith House money. You understand that they have operatives? They’ll hunt you down.”
The girl hefted the bag in her hand. “Will they? You heard of Jane Oakley, Mr Appleby?”
He shook his head.
The grin became a glare. “Geez. Don’t you ever read the news-sheets?”
“I assume they’re outlaws and brigands. Wicked females who beset the towns.” He leaned towards her across the desk, quivering with all the righteous fury of a rich, respectable man. “They’re your associates, I suppose?”
“No.” The girl bent in close. He caught the smell of woods and water, and of a none-too-fragrant woollen sweater. “They’re not my associates, Mr Appleby. They’re me.”
There was a soft cry from the doorway. Mr Appleby and the girl looked up. Miss Petersen stood there, open-mouthed and anguished, and with her – thank Shiva! – a militiaman in his dark green bowler hat.
For an instant no one moved.
To his own surprise, Mr Appleby reacted first. He snatched at the string bag, yanking it towards him. The girl came with it; he struck out wildly at her, but she ducked beneath the blow, swivelled and punched upwards with a strong, thin arm. Pain exploded in Mr Appleby’s midriff, in the region of his tea and sandwiches. He let go of the bag and toppled backwards in his chair. Moaning, flailing, through his streaming tears, he saw the militiaman begin to move. But where was the girl? Above him, on the desk! She’d jumped so fast he’d barely seen it. She caught his eye, smiled. Bending low, she clutched the bag of notes to her, then sprang straight over Mr Appleby and out through the plate-glass window, pulling it away with her in a cone of sparkling shards.
Blue sky. Sunlight. A heartbeat of silence.
A sudden outcry from below.
Dead, surely! Clutching at his stomach, Mr Appleby hoisted himself up. He took a stumbling step, leaned out of the window, gazed down upon a wonderland of spreading glass and scattering pedestrians.
Where was the body? He rubbed his eyes.
Somewhere near, a bell gave a merry tinkle. Mr Appleby looked up the road.
There – a bicycle! The girl on it, peddling like a demon! Off up the high street, the string bag bouncing at her shoulder. She looked back once, saw him peering, made an abusive sign. Then she swerved round a toddler, upended an old lady into the gutter, and sped on.
Mr Appleby could hear Miss Petersen behind him, yabbling like a crow. He heard the militiaman blowing his whistle, blundering his way downstairs. He ignored these distractions, craned his head out of his broken window and watched his money receding up the street. Soon he could no longer see the bag, but only a dancing flash of bright red hair, which seemed to wave cheerily at him as it passed the post office and the duck pond and the bus stop, and so vanished at last through the gates of Cheltenham and out into the Wilds.
You really need to buy the book and find out what Scarlett gets up to next!
*Many thanks to Walker Books for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*