Okay, so before I get into the actual review of this book I have to do a little happy dance (figuratively, of course) because this book is a milestone for me. This is the first book I have had the honor of reading and reviewing as an ARC (advanced reader’s copy)! I was super excited about this, and would have had this up sooner if school hadn’t gotten in the way. Anyways, here it is!
Vagabond is the story of a young girl living outside of the society she grew up in. Tragedy has sent Niko fleeing from all that she knows to the unknown wilderness of the Tracks. There she discovers a completely different way of living, different values, and different people, all struggling to survive in the midst of a morally-questionable totalitarian society. In the society, genetics is the most important quality a person has. On the tracks, it’s all about personal survival.
I really liked this book. It took a little while for me to get drawn in and connect with Niko, but as the story went on I grew to like her more and more. In a way, there are two stories being told at the same time. In order to reveal Niko’s past to the reader little by little, there are frequent flashbacks that give just enough information to be relevant to Niko’s present and at the same time let us know her background. This really is a unique and well-used tool that I have not seen done so thoroughly before. It adds depth to the story which could not have been gotten had everything been told in chronological order, and pulls everything together. The issues Niko struggles with are not specific to her dystopian world; Brewer has done well in weaving together universal questions with a possible futuristic situation. No matter what is happening to Niko, she is constantly searching for the truth. It gets pretty tricky to know which of the supporting characters are ‘the good guys’ for a while, but there is never any question about Niko.
One thing that really stands out about this is the fact that most of the characters have Greek names. There are undercurrents of Greek myths throughout the story, and I liked that connection. They were cleverly worked in, so as not to be annoyingly blunt and the story would be just as good to someone who has not read as many Greek myths as I have. I like when authors include references to major works within their own this way; not with obvious “hey I’m copying them” statements but rather with subtle reminders.
I do wish that there had been more of a definite ending to the story, as there were still quite a few loose ends. There have to be so many more stories that could be told from this world, and the struggle that is not completed by the time the book ends. There is resolution enough for Niko and a few of the main characters, but I’m left wondering what happened to so many other people. Perhaps a sequel will come about, and explain more of this?
Overall, this was a good book. J. D. Brewer has provided an intriguing character, a unique perspective, and a thoroughly enjoyable story.