The Outcasts is the first book in the Brotherband Chronicles, a new series by John Flanagan. I really enjoyed his Ranger's Apprentice series and was interested to try his new series.
Boys of a certain age in the land of Skandia go through Brotherband training. They split into teams and compete against each other in many different skill areas. The team we are most interested in is made of up of the outcasts - the boys who were not picked by the other teams. Each has one or more quirks or unusual life circumstances. They are not perfect, but they make mistakes and learn from them as they compete against the other teams. A nice camaraderie is built between the boys as they develop their teamwork skills.
So far, the new series is not quite as good as Ranger's Apprentice in my opinion. The character of Halt was an anchor for that series, and there is no character who plays the same role here. There is a lot of introductory narrative in this book, so it's possible I will enjoy future books more.
The villains in this book are a group of pirates. The good guys, on the other hand, are raiders. I don't see a lot of distinction between those two professions, which caused me a little trouble while reading this book.
Like the Ranger's Apprentice series, this is a good book for reluctant male readers and for anyone who feels like the kid who always gets picked last. I will give at least the next book in the series a chance to hook me more thoroughly than this one did.