Minutes from joining the priesthood in 1934, Vango, who was found washed ashore on a tiny Italian island as a toddler, must suddenly avoid both arrest and a simultaneous assassination attempt.
Establishing his innocence while on
the run across Europe requires untangling his mysterious past. The story’s got
all the classic elements of swashbuckling adventure tales like The Count of Monte Cristo—except pistols
replace swords, and the villains include men who would become leaders of the
Axis powers. Flashbacks to Vango’s childhood demonstrate that his heroism is
innate—such as when, at 10, he drops from a cliff into a sinking boat to save a
neighbor. But fate doesn’t always reward valor, and de Fombelle notes that by
saving his neighbor, the youngster “was embarking on a stormy life ahead.” But
Vango’s gentleness and caring earn him loyalty (and potentially romance) from those
who help him along his journey. These characters, like Vango, are inherently
brave but also shaped by tragedy. Their courage is tested by war and their
frustrating inability to counteract the growing power of the Nazi regime.
Tension escalates when readers begin to suspect that Vango’s story is more
closely interwoven with the conflicts of World War II than either he or his
Beautiful writing, intricate plotting, and breathless reveals—plus several plucky female leads—make this a must-read. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)