Author: Edmond Manning
Publisher: Pickwick Ink Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 245 Pages
At a Glance: Every second with this story is a second well spent.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: English attorney Alistair Robertson can’t quite believe an astonishing tale of kingship and transformation he hears at Burning Man, the annual counter-culture art festival in the Black Rock.
Who are the Found Kings? Is “being kinged” as magical as it sounds?
Determined to find the mysterious garage mechanic named Vin who helps men “remember who they were always meant to be,” Alistair catches his quarry amid the extravagant sculptures, fire worshipers, mutant cars, and lavish costumes. After searching for three years, he’ll finally get to ask the question burning inside him: “Will you king me?”
Wandering together through the desert, Vin Vanbly and Alistair explore Burning Man’s gifting culture and exotic traditions, where they meet the best and worst of their fellow burners. Alistair’s overconfidence in Vin’s manipulative power collides with Vin’s obsessive need to save a sixteen-year-old runaway from a nightmarish fate, and the two men spiral into uncontrollable, explosive directions.
In this fourth adventure of The Lost and Founds, beneath the sweltering summer sun and the six billion midnight stars, one truth emerges, searing itself on their hearts: in the desert, everything burns.
Review: I must admit–I am not very clever, not when it comes to riddles or subtle clues. For some reason, while I can often suss out who the bad guy is in a mystery novel, I really do very poorly at picking up clues in any other form of writing. For this reason, I hesitated to review the latest novel in Edmond Manning’s Lost and Founds series, King John. I was afraid I could not do it justice–not give it the credit it deserved as being a clever and multi-layered work of fiction. With these thoughts in the back of my mind I moved on, knowing full well I would read this lyrically beautiful piece of fiction–whether for the purposes of reviewing it or not. There is a good reason for this. You see, I am a “kingite”, a hardcore fan of this series and this author. And, yes, I just made that title “kingite” up, and I rather like it!
So, here would be the place I attempt to provide a succinct synopsis of this incredible tome that spans a mere few days but feels as though it has exposed more raw emotional material than ever before. Returning to the place where he has truly felt at home for the only time in his life, Vin partakes of the Burning Man festival held in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, a seven day exploration of self expression that has few boundaries and is geared toward inclusion, self-reliance, and the idea that they will leave no trace of themselves after the end of their time in the desert. Everything that can burns in the end, including the gigantic man who is built to herald in the event and mark its closing.
Vin meets all manner of people, but as in the past with this man, there is always an edge of worry—for you see, this is not his first year, and he has a reputation that precedes him—he has made an enemy. A ranger discovered Vin many years before when he broke the law and jumped the barrier that keeps the burning man participants safe from wandering off and getting lost in the desert. The fence is also a way to contain those who attend the festival so that there can be some stability in what appears to be well established chaos. The rangers do not like rule breakers, and poor Vin is a veteran rule breaker
So he moves about the festival, happy in many ways and yet cautious, for this is the Vin we know from previous novels: controlled, careful, self-critical and condemning, lost while still being the near perfect guide for men in need of rediscovering their kingship. While this was not meant to be a king weekend, Vin will be approached by a man desperate to become just that—a found king. Alistair is an enigma, a British lawyer on American soil, who has met one of Vin’s success stories, another Found King, Liam.
Alistair is positive he knows it all—has got a fix on Vin and his many bags of tricks—his “magic”. Alistair pursues Vin, who almost grudgingly gives in and sets the wheels in motion for this Lost King to find his way to cross over and return to his destiny. But Alistair is full of questions and resists Vin’s best attempts to guide him on the right path. In fact, Alistair will be the linchpin to cracking wide open a time in Vin’s past that he has kept hidden for so long. Vin will be forced to share a memory that, to this day, still has the power to gut his soul and remind him of the failure he is so certain he is—a Lost King who will never be found.
King John begins slowly, unwrapping the festival and establishing its background, setting the scene for us. Even when Alistair arrives to make Vin’s final days at Burning Man a frantic scramble for setting up a king weekend, the story almost lazily takes on the challenge set before Vin. Then something happens. I am not sure at what point this story became so intense, but the moment it did, I could not put this book down. So much was at stake, suddenly, lives in peril, a dredged up past threatening to destroy the fragile equilibrium that Vin clings to in order to not see how horribly he does not belong. All of a sudden this is not about Alistair, but rather, about survival…and not only Vin’s.
This was perhaps the most gut wrenching King novel to date. In previous books, we had been privy to Vin’s great moments of self-doubt and frantic worry that he was not going to do right by his Lost King—that he would be the thing to prevent a king from crossing over due to his fumbling, heavy handed acts that were meant to aid his king rather than hinder. This was the Vin we had grown used to—the one that we would shout at again and again to stop berating himself, stop worrying, stop running away from his own destiny. In this novel, author Edmond Manning has done the unthinkable—he has lulled us into this false sense of security. He’s come along side us and, with a nudge and a wink, assured us that Vin was just doing that “Vin stuff” he does and all would work out in the end. Till now. Till King John. Till an ending so shocking that I actually dropped my Kindle. No, say it is not so, Mr. Manning—say it is all just another elaborate clue that will lead to a happy-ever-after for our Vin–our Lost King who surely will get found.
Instead, we got… I am afraid you will have to read this novel to complete that sentence for yourself. Is this long trek into madness and mayhem in the desert worth the emotional wreckage it might leave you with? I must say, dear reader, it is. There are such wonderful moments in this story, and there are such heart breaking times as well. However, it is the journey—as always it is the journey that will make you race through this novel and, once again, recognize a piece of your own humanity within its pages. I bid you calm winds and cooler days as you traverse this desert with Vin. Every second with this story is a second well spent.
You can buy King John here: