THE VAGABOND KING, Jodie Bond.
Parthian Books, p/b, £7.19
Reviewed by: Sandra Scholes
Writers come in many shapes and sizes with, at first look everyday jobs they have to pay the bills. Newcomer, Jodie Bond has done a great deal in her life before turning to writing; dancer, worked for a circus, a burlesque artist and worked in a gin distillery, but still wanted more than anything else to be a writer and show us what she can accomplish. The Vagabond King is her accomplishment, the first in a trilogy of novels.
Threon is a former prince who had a life of privilege and honour, now he lives on the streets, a vagabond who decides to form a team with a witch, rebel soldier and a woman who has been touched by a god. In the first chapter, we are rushed through Threon’s escape from his home, being saved by what we at first think are strangers to him, and the realisation that he can’t regain what he had lost, but keeps longing for. Five years later, Threon returns home where he has become almost unrecognizable as a prince, instead he now has a disguise as a vagabond, instrument on his back he will play for those who will listen to his story about being a prince only to become a beggar, down on his luck. Little do the people know it is his true story, not one woven for coin. We know only too well from reading early on that his life is a far cry from what it was. Jodie paints him as an arrogant prince who strutted down the palace halls in his finery, but as readers will see, there is a side to his character that has readers endearing to him.
Unlike other novels of this type, Jodie creates a story laden with dark times after the empress had taken over the land. Instead of the people working the land and getting a fair share of what it produced, the people have to make do with scraps, many starving while the meat and best produce is sent to the empress and her men. Most are half-starved, including Threon who, like everyone else has to kill whatever he could find and feed on berries; inns and restaurants that used to serve good, wholesome food charge much higher prices for even the most basic meals, forcing others to go elsewhere for being poor. Threon’s return brings a question to mind; could he help the people if he rallied others to his cause? Maybe, but the empress has the might now and it would be unlikely Threon could take back his title rather than be the vagabond king as everyone has come to know him from his kestro playing. Staying at an inn, he earns a living as a smuggler for a woman who owns the place who knows exactly who he is and intends to get him back on the throne. The book seems like a pipe dream for Threon as through the story you hope he can pull it off and take back what is rightfully his, all the while he continues to live in squalor thinking of the opulent lifestyle he used to have and wishing he had more understanding of his people back then. you get to feel as though he is the sort of man you could trust to stand by you and help you out, he hopes for a better future for him and his people after so much loss and grief. Jodie Bond is an interesting new author and wouldn’t mind reading more from her in the future.