Thank you so much to author Connor De Bruler for providing me with a copy of Vagabone in exchange for this honest review.
I’m consistently impressed by the works of Connor De Bruler. He has a rugged, stripped down rawness that displays the bare bones of a story. Somehow, through this desert there is also just a little bit of, dare I say, whimsy. It creates an unusual contrast that makes his books stand out from the pack. I’ve seen him compared to Cormac McCarthy and I do think that’s apt, but there’s another layer to De Bruler, a sadness and a sensitivity that brings his stories into the heart as well as the gut.
Vagabone is a dystopian novel in a bleak not so distant future. It’s something we can prepare for with climate change and political discourse on the path they are now. A barren wasteland with everyone focusing only on surviving.
That’s what humans do when it comes right down to it. Survive. Even if it’s pointless, even if it’s not enjoyable, even if it’s hopeless cause we all die anyway, humans survive for as long as they can.
Amalin is a young woman all alone in this world. She is trying to find a figure known as The Teacher. She has her first job as a hired killer and she’s determined to succeed. Her inexperience shows from the start. She does not have the strength to deal with the hardened men blocking her path. She does not have the know how to strategize better either. But she does have a strong sense of instinct and the ability to change plans in a second.
She’s resigned to completing this journey alone until she meets Pancho. A young boy who has been a slave to a man using him as bait to steal supplies from other wanderers. She manages to kill the man, another point for experience, and takes the boy with her as a companion.
She discovers quickly that this boy is valuable to her mission. He used to live with The Teacher, she can use him as bait as well, it appears to be his destiny.
Along their journey two others join Amalin, Isaiah and Maddison. The contribute each in their own way to Amalin learning valuable lessons in survival and grief.
Amalin is half Mexican, Pancho is Mexican, Isaiah is black, and Maddison is trans. They are these identities while the very real threat of Nazis looms incessantly in their world. Vagabone shows how these characters use their perceived weaknesses to their advantage. They may not be physically stronger but they have learned how to out smart and out manipulate their enemies. You must use what you have.
Halfway through the book there is a shift in perspective that really caught me off guard. You always think you’ll know how a book will go and I find it refreshing to be wrong. Although the plot does not go as I foresaw the themes stay consistent.
Without the luxury of forming lasting relationships, friendship, lovers, or otherwise, there are only two motivators on this Earth. Surviving and Justice.
We have a drive to live as long as possible and put down anyone who gets in the way of what little life we have left. Pancho brings the reader this lesson strongly by the end of the novel. Revenge may be best served cold but Justice is swift.
Vagabone keeps things simple, it presents the characters and just enough of the world to understand why they do what they do. Never you mind how the world got to this point, it’s not necessary to know. All we need to know is that Amalin has drive, Pancho needs to grow, and life would be a lot better if we could all help each other to survive instead of competing over who gets to.
5/5 trucks that you pray has some gas in it cause that’s hard to come by in a dystopia 🛻 🛻 🛻 🛻 🛻
Please consider using the following amazon affiliate link to purchase this book, it’s at no extra cost to you and would really help me out, thanks!
For a more optimistic post apocalyptic novel check out Deadheading