King of the Vagabonds (The Baroque Cycle, Vol. 1, Book 2)King of the Vagabonds by Neal Stephenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To do justice to Neal Stephenson at his best is inevitably doomed to some form of stylistic copying or more ponderously yet, outright quotation. Instead I'll try to be brief. This book is very well written, in a tone I'll describe as Pratchett-Wallaceian, with humor you'll laugh over, poetic description you'll admire and innumerable sly historical tie-ins you'll catch delightfully, but only you're a nerd and that makes it even better.

Yes history: it's historical fiction, although the emphasis is on the fiction. Suffice it to say there is somehow, in reformation-era Europe, a dose of science, and even heroes thereof, and love and swashbuckling and fantastical romps through labyrinths. You can't beat it, really. Can I even describe it? Here goes:

Elizabethan era 007 makes reluctant rescues and demonstrates unintentional heroism, saving the future we now know as the past and vanishing without a trace, but he gets the girl so who needs a legacy?

Well, Stephenson has now given Jack Shaftoe that too. A fantastic read, and no, you needn't complete the somewhat ponderous precursor "Quicksilver" as prerequisite to your enjoyment.

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