The Outcasts is the first in a series of novels called Brotherband by Australian author John Flanagan. The book was released in Australia and the United States on 1 November 2011 and in New Zealand on 4 November 2011.
In Skandia, there is only one way to become a warrior. Boys are chosen for teams called brotherbands and must endure three months of gruelling training in seamanship, weapons and battle tactics. It's brotherband against brotherband, fighting it out in a series of challenges. Only one brotherband can win.
12 years ago Mikkel, Hal's father, died on a raiding trip. Before his death he had his best friend,Thorn, promise that he would help Hal. Thorn promises but loses his right arm on the voyage back. Once in Skandia he becomes a drunk, however Hal's mother Karina reminds Thorn of his promise and starts to employ him in her inn.
12 years after his father died, Hal Mikkelson has become a boy who builds whatever he thinks of with the help of his best friends, Stig and Thorn. At the same time he works with Anders, the local shipbuilder. During this time Hal buys an unfinished ship from Anders and finishes building it, naming it the Heron because the sail was based on a heron's wing. After sailing the Heron with some boys Hal recruited, Hal stops working on it to prepare for Brotherband training.. During Brotherband training, boys who are 16 in Skandia are taught the basics of fighting and ship navigation. For each brotherband, a leader must be chosen - this year there are a total of 28 boys divided into 3 brotherbands: The Sharks, The Wolves, and The Herons. With Hal finding himself the unwilling leader of the Herons, made up of the Heron's crew and a few additional boys, he must step up to the challenge. Every Brotherband must participate in team and individual activities to earn points at the end of the Brotherband training the points are totaled up. Hal manages to win permission to use the Heron in Brotherband training.
While Brotherband training continues a Skandian trading fleet is attacked. The leader of the pirates, Zavac, demands to know about the secret treasure of Skandia. The leader of the trading fleet vows not to tell until he sees that one of the pirates had grabbed his nephew. Knowing that his nephew shouldn’t die for his mistakes the head of the trading fleet begins to tell about the treasure, the Andomal, knowing that it is well guarded. As he talks he remembers that one night every year it is not so well protected.
Zavac arrives on the shores of Hallasholm, the Skandian capital, with his damaged ship, and claims to be a troubled sailor. Erak, the Oberjarl, or leader, of the Skandians, allows them to stay, but appoints Thorn to keep watch on them.
Hal and the Herons defeat both rival brotherbands and are given the honour of defending the Andomal for a night. Hal leaves the site temporarily and the watchman falls asleep, allowing Zavac and his pirates to infiltrate the site and steal the Andomal. When it is discovered, a furious Erak harshly scolds the boys, takes away the horned helmets they won, erases the Heron brotherband from the competition, and demands that they give over their weapons and the Heron. However, the Heron brotherband, together with Thorn, uses the Heron to chase after Zavac for a chance at social redemption.