The Vagrant by Peter Newman (Harper Voyager)

The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape, carrying nothing but a kit-bag, a legendary sword and a baby. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the sword, the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place. 

Released last year, The Vagrant was one of the many fantasy novels that begun a new series that I never got the chance to getting around to reading so I was delighted to finally get the chance to pick it up especially as it had been on my to watch list for some time. Yes, it may have the traditional man in the hood cover that all fantasy novels seem to have, but it did manage to have an interesting premise with the lone drifter type that when you look at examples in the past, have often worked out well and not just in the fantasy genre.

Newman’s lead is the Vagrant, a friendless warrior that carries a legendary weapon. His sole objective and purpose is to reach the last outpost of humanity, the Shining City, in order to deliver the sword that could play a difference in the war to come. It’s an interesting if simple plot that is played out effectively and works pretty well, creating the main character as an enigma who we don’t actually get to know that much about. And his only companions are a baby and a goat, which allow for moments of comedy that really added to the whole unexpected feel of the novel.

The book blends the premise of epic fantasy with a post apocalyptic style similar to what Mark Lawrence employed in his Broken Empire novels yet also feels like it shares element with the Fallout games. There is technology here but the main focus is on the fantasy, and there’s a lot of darkness that makes the book work. If you’re a fan of Lawrence or Abercrombie then chances are you’ll dig The Vagrant, which moves quickly and I often struggled to put it down.

The action is written incredibly well and right from the start you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into with some great sequences that work, feeling very immersive indeed. The fights stand out and it’s clear Newman knows how to write them, and the fact that he can combine this with the strong development of the world pays off in his favour. As a result a powerful novel is created that’s instantly memorable and incredibly gripping. Therefore it’s safe to say that The Vagrant is a definite must read for fans of darker fantasy, kicking off what is hopefully a promising new series from the author whose work I will be returning to for sure.

VERDICT: 8.5/10

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