by Peter Newman
Cover Artist: Jamie Jones
Review by Katie Carmien
Harper Voyager Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780008163303
Date: 10 May 2016 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
When an unholy horde broke into the world, the armies of the angelic Seven thought they had an easy victory in front of them. They were wrong. With one of their number slain and their army destroyed, they were forced to retreat. Now half the world is a wasteland ruled by their enemies, the people exploited, oppressed, and made pawns in a war beyond their understanding. The North remains unconquered, but is too weak and diminished to give any aid. A mute man known only as the Vagrant travels through the wasteland, carrying an infant and a holy sword. He has one mission: bring them both to the Shining City. And he will let nothing stand in his way.
For someone who can't talk, the Vagrant is a beautifully drawn character. Newman does an excellent job of illustrating his emotional conflicts and his developing relationships both with the baby and his new friend Harm without having him say a word. The side characters were also all extremely vivid, but never so much so they distracted me from the Vagrant--Newman writes them in such a way that it's clear they have their own stories going on in which they are the main characters, but keeps the Vagrant equally interesting as the main character of this story.
I also liked the complexity, of both the world and the morals. Without spoiling the ending too much, the society the Seven have built is no prize, either. Where the wasteland is brutal chaos, they're stifling order--not bad, but not doing things right either, and shooting themselves in the foot because of their inability to accept anyone who's not a "pure" human. It would have been very easy to fall into a heaven/hell dichotomy despite not explicitly using the Christian mythos, but Newman handily avoided this, which makes for a far more interesting book.
One problem is that the flashbacks seem a bit thrown in. A chapter will start with a heading like "Eight Years Ago", and then flip back to the present after a paragraph, which can be confusing for a little bit. Also, the way Newman renders Vesper's speech can sometimes be annoying to read. As a toddler, she often mispronounces things, but it doesn't need to be written out every time, much like other accents.
The cover copy states that The Vagrant is perfect for fans of Mad Max and The Dark Tower, and this is absolutely correct. Newman has written a fast-paced, exciting adventure story that is both dark and tinged with hope.