The Vagrant is his name. He has no other.
Years have passed since humanity’s destruction emerged from the Breach.
Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape.
As each day passes the world tumbles further into depravity, bent and twisted by the new order, corrupted by the Usurper, the enemy, and his infernal horde.
His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war.
What little hope remains is dying. Abandoned by its leader, The Seven, and its heroes, The Seraph Knights, the last defences of a once great civilisation are crumbling into dust.
But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.
[vey-gruh nt] noun
1.a person who wanders about idly and has no permanent home or employment; vagabond; tramp.
2.Law. an idle person without visible means of support, as a tramp or beggar.
3.a person who wanders from place to place; wanderer; rover.
I was instantly attracted to this book by the cover art and the title. The enigma of the hooded man with no face wielding a powerful sword in one hand and yes a swaddled baby in the other. The name and synopsis give little away just teasing those senses of curiosity. In fact, it did so much I could not even wait for my signed/numbered collectors edition to arrive from Goldsboro Books. Instead, I listened to the audible version despite its only review being someone who really disliked it and gave up after chapter 10.
When listening to audiobooks during my day to day routine, I tend to take in the story fairly easily. By Chapter 12, I realised I was lost and discombobulated, there is some rather bizarre voicing by the narrator, that certainly does take a bit of getting used too. But…..
I started again ensuring this time I followed the story more closely and giving it the time and attention, in fact, it really deserves, having the finely detailed imaginative descriptive quality of Patrick Rothfuss but with an unworldly kookiness you would expect from Neil Gaiman.
Our protagonist, the one on the front cover has no name and is unable to speak. He is a seraph knight, a trained fighter on a dangerous and somewhat suicidal mission to single-handedly save the world from the evil Usurper, who taints the population creating violent demons who seem intent on apocalyptic destruction. Newman’s world-building is brave and beautiful, yet eerie and frankly horrifying. It is a futuristic dystopia with a medieval twist.
For this mission the Vagrant is armed with only ‘The Malice’, an ‘Untainted’ baby (who like any other baby still needs its nappy changed) and a pet goat with attitude, who if could talk, I’m pretty sure would have a very similar vocabulary to Donkey out of Shrek.
..And then one time I ate some rotten berries. Man, there were some strong
gases seepin’ outta my butt that day!
Yet the hooded stranger who has the world heavily on his shoulders is patient with a heart that speaks volumes helping others in need.
On the journey, he meets Harm, who is another forced into a life of violence, yet this has no true reflection on his personality. His determination to travel with the baby and the hooded man pays off, he takes it upon himself to take the 2 (or 3 including the goat.) of them under his wing, nurture them and showing them there is still good left in this broken world.
The Vagrants lack of voice makes for some interesting friendship building between himself and Harm, though the author handles this fantastically well, with every nod, kick, and facial expression speaks volumes louder than any words. As a reader, I felt drawn to take on the Vagrants emotions and perspective of the world. The relationship between Harm and the Vagrant reminds me of the beautiful companionship Wall-e and Eva build against the odds.
In fact there were a few parts which made me think of the Pixar movie, the dystopian like world that no longer has trees, plants and flowers and like in Wall-e where the seed is such a powerful integral moral of the story, we have a similar situation where untainted human shit from the North is such a precious and valued compost.
Newmans’ characters have unusual metaphoric like names which blend in beautifully with the protagonist and the authors artistic and contemporary style of writing.
The enemy known as the usurper is determined to stop the Vagrant in his tracks sending his strongest tainted to hunt him down, the knights of Jade and Ash and ‘The Hammer’ that walks.
Despite the huge visual difference between Newmans’ world and our own, there are still some things that never change. They meet Ghenna who guards the city requires Blood samples, Skin swab, full body scan and clearance from the council and yes a waiting list to enter. (Now that does sound familiar.) Although this is only until The Vagrant reveals his true identity and Ghenna changes his attitude.
‘Were not ordinary travellers, my companion here, he’s a Seraph Knight.’
‘On a mission direct from the seven.’
‘No…Bloody….Way. Oh my sons you guys are serious. You’re the real deal. Okay….Okay…..We got to keep real cool.’
Ghenna’s audio narration did make me chuckle.
This book is not at all what I expected, in the same way as when I read ‘The DeathHouse’ by Sarah Pinborough, with its tough and powerful exterior tightly guarding pages that are horrifying and tragic but strangely heartwarming.
Listening to the audiobook, I feel I have barely even touched the surface of the depth and detail of this poetic debut by Peter Newman. I cannot wait for my collectors copy to arrive, so I can read it again and again.
The Vagrant by Peter Newman Published by Harper Voyager