The Vagrant by Peter Newman
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.
The Vagrant is trying to get himself to safety.
Oh, and a baby. And a sword. And a goat.
None of which entirely want to co-operate.
And there’s at least three parties out there who want what he’s carrying.
There’s spoilers later in this review, so I’ll put the overview in now: read this. It’s fantastic worldbuilding, brilliant multi-layered characters, a quest you’ll get hooked into, and I want to re-read. I love it. Read it.
So, more detail…
The world’s fantastic. The ‘baddies’ aren’t; they’re a product of their environment, understandable even as they destroy humankind’s world. The multiple different factions are all at cross-purposes, and their aims change. Even the ‘goodies’ aren’t; they have tried to keep their goals and ideals and ended up fighting a defensive action, unable to adapt to the changing world. The Seraph Knights are gone, and evil is all around – the taint has infected most humans and turned them into strangeness.
And in the midst of the weaving politics and changing landscape, between evil and uncaring humanity and people just trying to survive, the Vagrant is walking onwards.
The baby is adorable; I loved seeing her development and character, brought out so clearly. The book’s even more brilliant because the Vagrant doesn’t speak, and for most of it, the baby doesn’t either – their interactions are done entirely by movement and gesture and look. It’s such a lovely thing to see grow over the course of the events. The Vagrant’s interactions with the world around him are brilliant, too; weaving a path between honour and duty and pragmatism.
We get snippets of other information as we go through – the past and the present interweave so that we slowly learn more about what happened even as we see the effects. We also get the Uncivil’s point of view, the Commander, the Knights; we can see the enemy as well as the Vagrant, and it’s an extra layer of depth to understand what they’re aiming for, to see the unfolding plots and events on both sides.
And then, at the end…there’s more twists, changing aims, more politics. Nothing’s ever plain good or bad, black or white, and every choice has a consequence.
~ Spoilers!! ~
I think my only criticism is that it’s hard to warm to Harm, because I kept expecting him to be killed off. The earlier deaths are brilliant in the shock factor; the Vagrant just keeps going, forced to make horrible choices even though he tries his best to save others. But then when you get to Harm, I couldn’t take him seriously because I expected him to die…even at the end I didn’t think he’d survive.
I wanted the Hammer to survive, too. I liked her. That death felt like a cheat.
~ End of spoilers ~
But overall, I love it. It definitely needs a second read once the past and the present collide, and I’m really looking forward to it!