Thursday, November 19, 2015

Vango Book 2: A Prince Without a Kingdom by Timothee de Fombelle, translated by Sarah Ardizzone

Timothee de Fombelle
Translated by Sarah Ardizzone (French)
First published 2014, I read 2015
443 pages, adventure, young adult

Many thanks to Walker Books UK for providing a review copy of this book!

This is the second volume in a 2-volume work (you can read my review of the first volume here). I’m not sure how I feel about a 2-volume story; it almost seems like the author should have published it in one volume. I suppose that would have made it over 800 pages, which may have seemed too big for a YA book (not that that stopped Harry Potter!).

At the end of the last volume, Vango had discovered the treasure that had been stolen from his parents on the night he had washed ashore as a child, and had learned the identity of the man who had killed his parents. He had not, however, found out the identity of his parents. Meanwhile, Father Zefiro had run off to protect his monastery by killing an infamous arms dealer who is a master of disguise. 

Now, in this volume, Vango is out for revenge on the man who killed his parents. He also wants to interrogate the murderer, to find out who he actually is. Leaving Ethel again, Vango has gone to America in the attempt to trace the murderer down. He runs into Zefiro and helps him stalk the arms dealer, who may have some connection with Vango's own search. But are either of these men meant to accomplish the revenge that they have set out to do?


I was disappointed in the developments in Ethel's character and her relationship with Vango in this volume. Again Vango disappears and breaks off all contact with his love interest, without much thought for how it will affect her. It seems that she cannot do anything to stop this, because supposedly he is doing it for her own good. Ethel ends up feeling impotent and falls into an endless depression again. Obviously this is not how relationships should work. And it is very disappointing that Ethel is stripped of whatever agency she had in the last volume, to be again left impotent on her empty estate in Scotland. 

But it is more than Ethel - while there are many strong female characters in this book, none of them really do anything important! The only real exception is Marie, formerly known as the Cat, who delivers messages for the French resistance during World War II. Despite the fairly large number of interesting female characters, it is the men who take an active role in shaping the plot. 

Not like the Count of Monte Cristo

In my review of the first volume, I wrote that Vango reminded me of The Count of Monte Cristo. The biggest different between the two is that Vango does not achieve revenge in the end. And while this volume does not really talk about forgiveness, it does emphasize the importance of moving on with your life, regardless of what has happened in the past. Of course, Vango is able to do this and Ethel is not. 

There were a few instances in which the characters did or thought something incredibly stupid, that even a small child would find bizarre. I know that this is YA novel, but you have to make it more intelligent than that. I can’t support a main character who, while I’m being told that he’s incredibly smart, makes really dumb mistakes. I would much rather he make smart mistakes.

Overall, I did enjoy this series. It is a fun, adventurous story of incredible feats of derring-do, set in the 1930s and early 1940s. It brings in everything from the Soviet military to strapping, powerful nuns to early airplanes. It has everything. I would recommend it if you want a fun, upbeat story to read that involves incredible adventures. And I would recommend it for young adults, because they would have fun. But I think it would be better to just read the first volume, which can mostly stand alone. 

Vango Book 2 is available in the US from Amazon and Indiebound, in the UK from Amazon and Hive, in India from Amazon and flipkart, and worldwide from Wordery and Book Depository

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