Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review: The Vagabond King by James Conway

Title: The Vagabond King
Author: James Conway
Publisher: Self-published
Publish Date: September 10, 2011
Source: I received a copy from the author. This did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a fiction fan.
  • You like coming of age stories.
What's the Story?:

Synopsis: "When his mother dies and he discovers the man he believed was his father is not, sixteen year old Chris is haunted by a mysterious apparition that forces him to question his pampered existence and embark upon a quest to find himself. Hoping she will “make a man of him”, he seeks sanctuary in the home of Magda, a middle aged waitress with a penchant for sex, only to discover she lives with her father, a cigarette smoking, beer swilling immigrant.

Chris hates his shabby new surroundings at the end of the street and the shabby old man at the end of his life who spends his days listening to old blues records and making Chris fetch him fresh cans of beer. But, when the old man tells tales of Communism, torture, escape and the mysterious medallion he wears, Chris learns that, like the old man’s skipping records, history repeats itself and the roles we play have been played many times before. "

My Two Cents:

This is the story of a teenager, Chris, who turns his own life upside down after the death of his mother and the uncovering of a family secret. Although Chris is 16 years old in the book, I wouldn't consider this book a young adult book as it deals with some pretty adult topics.

Chris lives a fairly pampered lifestyle with his parents before his mother's death. He's spoiled. He doesn't seem to understand how things work in the real world. He doesn't understand why everything and everyone doesn't simply bend down to his will. It's more than just being a typical teenager. He just seems to have no real concept on how must or should act in order to be treated the way that Chris feels he should be treated. He pretty much just invites himself into the lives of Magda and his father when Magda is trying to work in order to just maintain their meager lifestyle. He believes that they should do everything to help him since his life is soooo bad (he runs away from his father under his own volition). It's a bit of an overkill maybe. Chris finally does grow a little bit and becomes a lot more tolerable throughout the book.

On the other hand, I really liked Magda's father, the Old Man (as Chris calls him). He's grumpy but he really tries to teach Chris about the way that the world really works and that it's not too early to try and grow up a little bit if Chris so badly wants to be out on his own. The Old Man's stories about his life back in Hungary are what really pulled me in.

I also liked all of the mythology in the book and how Chris is able to take all the stories that Magda and the Old Man tell him in order to bring his own life into perspective. Some of the mythology I was familiar with and some was new to me, which was very cool.

This is definitely a coming of age story with some great smaller interwoven story lines.


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