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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Vango: A Prince Without a Kingdom - Book Two
by Timothee de Fombelle
Age Range: 14+
Vango has been in danger for as long as he can remember. He has spent most of his adult life constantly on the run, fleeing from unknown forces that have been chasing him and abandoning those he loves in order to protect them.
In this sequel to Vango: Between Sky and Earth, master storyteller Timothée de Fombelle weaves an intricate tale. It is now 1936 and Vango finds himself in New York where he meets up with his friend, Padre Zefiro, abbot of the invisible monastery on the island of Arkudah who, some months earlier had mysteriously abandoned his monks to undertake a perilous mission to eliminate Voloy Viktor, the dangerous and elusive arms dealer, whose aliases include Vincent Valpa and Madam Victoria.
Vango realises that he cannot run for ever because the mystery of his identity is beginning to unravel. He assists Padre Zefiro in his stakeout in an unfinished skyscraper, undertakes his own mission to track down the slippery Giovanni Caferello and witnesses the catastrophic Hindenburg disaster.
As with the first book this novel works on so many different levels. The non-chronological narrative continues to span Europe, taking in the Aeolian Islands north of Sicily where Vango grew up, France, Russia and Scotland. As war looms ever closer Vango returns to occupied France where he gets caught up with the Resistance, while still at the same time following his own trail to unlock his past and continue his quest to finally to discover his true identity.
Set against the historical backdrop of the Second World War there are significant references to it throughout from the ‘quiet opposition’ to the Nazi regime of Hugo Eckener, the roundup and deportation of Emilie’s parents, the destruction of Guernica and the Spanish Civil War as well as the work of the French Resistance. Coupled with this, there is the new flying monster, the Hindenburg from the Zeppelin Air Company.
Fombelle uses the Hindenburg disaster on 6th May 1937 in Lakehurst, New Jersey and the ‘sabotage hypothesis’ that has surrounded the disaster, to great effect for his fictional story. Hugo Eckener, commander of the Graf Zepplin, Heinrich Kubis, Chief Steward and Ernst Lehmann, Captain were all real people; (as were Svetlana Stalin and ‘Weeping Willow’ - Grand Duke George Alexandrovich of Russia).
Many of the familiar characters are present including the mysterious Cat girl – Emilie Atlas, Mademoiselle, Vango’s nanny, Superintendent Boulard, the Scottish heiress Ethel and Padre Zefiro. Other characters introduced in the first book take on a more prominent role such as Voloy Victor, Lieutenant Augustin Avignon and Giovanni Caferello.
The reader will have to wait until the last few pages to find out how all the parts of the jig-saw fit into place which make up Vango’s complicated life. Eloquently translated from French by Sarah Ardizzone, Vango: A Prince Without a Kingdom is another mystery full of intrigue and adventure that you will not be able to put down.