Vango: A Prince Without a Kingdom
By Timothee de Fombelle
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 978 1 4063 3150
Vango Romano has lived most of his life on the run from danger. He has grown up fleeing from mysterious islands, running across rooftops one step ahead of assassins, and abandoning anyone who gets close to him - he's learned that his friendship brings danger and death. But Vango can't run for ever.
All he wants to do is unravel the mystery of his identity and live a trouble-free life. It is now 1936, and Vango finds himself in New York on the trail of the assassin who killed his parents when he was a baby. The net is closing in, and Vango is getting close to discovering who he really is.
A Prince Without a Kingdom is the very welcome sequel to Vango: Between Sky And Earth, Timothée de Fombelle's outstanding 2013 YA masterpiece. Vango should be better known than he is because, quite simply, he is terrific.
Set over a period of several years, A Prince Without a Kingdom is a long book with flashbacks to past pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, with the main action moving between America and Europe in the years before, and the first years of, the second world war.
The settings that de Fombelle conjures up are brilliant. For example, in New York, Vango and his friend Father Zefiro, move in to a half-built skyscraper; later on, a flight onboard the doomed German airship The Hindenburg plays an important part.
The non-chronological narrative adds much to the telling of Vango's story, which is so fascinating that the jumping around in time can't detract from its focus. As war looks increasingly likely in Europe, Vango's attempts to unlock his past become more difficult.
De Fombelle skilfully mixes actual events from history, such as the French Resistance, the German occupation of France and the fate of the Russian royal family, into Vango's fascinating tale. Fictional characters interact with real historical figures, but the seams are invisible. Readers have to wait until the final section of the book to discover how all the intricate pieces of Vango's complicated past fit together, but by this point they are likely to have become so involved that they won't notice the time passing.
Like its predecessor, Vango: A Prince Without A Kingdom is an outstanding and thrilling piece of YA fiction. Do read it!
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com.