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King of the Vagabonds Audiobook

King of the Vagabonds: Book Two of The Baroque Cycle

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Publisher's Summary

A chronicle of the breathtaking exploits of "Half-Cocked Jack" Shaftoe - London street urchin turned legendary swashbuckling adventurer - risking life and limb for fortune and love while slowly maddening from the pox - and Eliza, rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem to become spy, confidante, and pawn of royals in order to reinvent a contentious continent through the newborn power of finance.

The Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson's award-winning series, spans the late 17th and early 18th centuries, combining history, adventure, science, invention, piracy, and alchemy into one sweeping tale. It is a gloriously rich, entertaining, and endlessly inventive historical epic populated by the likes of Isaac Newton, William of Orange, Benjamin Franklin, and King Louis XIV, along with some of the most inventive literary characters in modern fiction.

Audible's complete and unabridged presentation of The Baroque Cycle was produced in cooperation with Neal Stephenson. Each volume includes an exclusive introduction read by the author.

Listen to more titles in the Baroque Cycle.

©2003 Neal Stephenson (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Most tales of 'olde' times are replete with castles, robed lords and ladies, and handsome men on horseback. But what about the wretches they pass on the side of the road as they go off to a lively joust? is about those men, the poor, the grifters, whose names are lost to history-the vagabonds. Stephenson's novel tells their story, with the able help of storyteller Simon Prebble. Prebble's witty banter is perfect as the voice of Jack, a knave who is out to prove that even a lowborn can succeed in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe. Prebble even does a great job with the historical characters such as Isaac Newton, Ben Franklin, and others. Equal parts action and adventure, along with a healthy dose of humor, make this a great listen." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (126 )
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4.6 (70 )
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Christopher 24/03/2011
    Christopher 24/03/2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    42
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    12
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    0
    Overall
    "Introducing Jack and Eliza"

    If you have read "Quicksilver" and were not put off by the negative reviews for the first book your efforts will be rewarded and you will soon find the narrative gaining momentum as Jack enters to reak havok across Europe. The sections that relate Jack's adventures are certainly the most fun parts of this excellent novel. Nothing less than 5 stars for this extraordinary and highly entertaining work. See my reviews for the other parts.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim London 24/05/2015
    Jim London 24/05/2015 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    247
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    95
    86
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    26
    1
    Overall
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    Story
    "A deeply smart swashbuckler"

    Stephenson likes ideas, adventure and smart dialogue. In the first volume we got a lot of the history of science at the expense of plot. Having set the scene this volume swings into action from the outset with the introduction of Jack and Eliza, who take us on a brilliantly conceived romp across the Europe of the early 18th century. Not sure this would work if you haven't listened to volume one but if you have reached this far the thing really seems to click into gear.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Taylor 17/03/2015
    Richard Taylor 17/03/2015 Member Since 2013
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "ace"

    I'm utterly in love with these books. Well worth a listen. you won't be disappointed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Dale
    Tucson, AZ, United States
    28/08/10
    Overall
    "Less Math Fiction, More Action"

    This book, although about Half-Cock Jack (no, that is not "half-cocked"), is really a bridge between Book 1 and 3. Jack finds Eliza at the siege of Vienna, and by the end of the book you start to realize that Eliza is going to be more of a character than Jack will.

    Book 1 showed the scientists and mathematicians, and their noble patrons, while this story shifts focus on the poor. So there are vagabonds, soldiers, miners, Satanists, Turks, hareems, the oddities and intrigues of nobles, spies, diplomats, early modern capitalism and more. The action is definitely higher than in book 1. Better yet, Neal Stephenson doesn't shift gears back and forth in time anywhere near as much (or so it seems) as in Book 1, so it is much easier to follow, especially if you are doing something else.

    The section on early modern capitalism - focusing mainly on the trading center in Amsterdam - is very interesting. Well worth sitting still and listening to that section. The section in which Jack gets entangled with the Satanists is a bit hard to follow, requiring you slow down and pay attention. All in all a number of "laugh out loud" moments, which makes this yarn a rollicking one. One cautionary note, however: this book is a little more sexually oriented than Book 1, so if you are listening in the car with others - especially children - you are going to have to turn it off unless you want to answer a lot of interesting questions.

    The narrator, Simon Prebble, shows that the range of his voices is even greater than in Book 1, and continues to keep me engaged.. Hey, you got through Book 1, and if you ignored the reviews there and listened anyway - and found it interesting - trust me that you will enjoy this one too.

    26 of 27 people found this review helpful
  • Michael L
    17/09/10
    Overall
    "Fun, action packed and nontheless interesting"

    In Book 2 of The Baroque Cycle is set in the same time period as Book 1, but concerns an entirely different set of characters and wholly different viewpoint than Book 1. The protagonist is Jack, a vagabond, a perfect rouge who could only be compared to the likes of Falstaff or Harry Flashman. Jack sees an entirely different view of the late 17th century than that provided by the moneyed, puritan of Book 1. This is a London where enterprising young boys can make money by clinging to the legs of hanging men (to hasten their deaths), a Paris where the rat catcher is a man of great influence and an Amsterdam so incredibly rich and free from petty corruption that a man like Jack can hardly find a place for himself. This is a viewpoint rarely found in historical novels, that of the least regarded, the poor, peasants, vagabonds, wretches, slaves, and prostitutes. In this book, Stephenson also introduces his most compelling female character. An intelligent, capable and witty young woman, sold into slavery at a young age and determined to both succeed and to gain her revenge. This volume is much more focused on fun, adventure and humor than Book 1. Nonetheless it is brimming with descriptions of the social, political, religious and commercial changes that were transforming Europe at that time.

    I strongly recommend this to anyone who enjoys Stephenson or good historical novels.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Tim
    United States
    21/02/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Have Nots"

    In "Quicksilver" it was all about learning the elitist and the upper class, but in "King of the Vagabonds" it's all about understanding the have nots. I will keep this review short just because I cannot wait to continue with the series. In this book there is a lot more action than intellectual conversation between the classes. The best way to describe the Baroque Cycle series so far, think Ken Folliet and historical fiction, but from a cyber punk, Neal Stephenson.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • L. A. Loman
    St. Louis, MO
    29/09/10
    Overall
    "Wonderful books"

    Too bad the first book (Quicksilver) turned off so many Audible listeners. If they had continued on to this book and the rest of the series many of them would have changed their minds. The books combine a history of an interesting period in Europe, the origins of mechanics and calculus, the development of modern money, markets and banking, and a look at Cairo and India in the late 17th Century with great adventure yarns. Neal Stephenson is amazing and these books are some of his best.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • David
    Halifax, NS, Canada
    01/02/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Swashbuckling and rambling"

    Book 2 of the Baroque Cycle is a lot more fun than Book 1.

    That doesn't mean it doesn't have the same flaws. There is still very little approaching a plot. The narrative is still merely an device that enables Stephenson to describe at great length the politics, economics and science of 17th century Europe. There are only the vaguest gestures toward narrative progression, there are numerous entirely extraneous incidents, and the novel stops rather than ends.

    But as long as you can tolerate the above, this is an enjoyable work. Jack and Eliza are extremely entertaining protagonists - seeing the glories and horrors of baroque Europe through the eyes of a cheeky cockney vagabond and a hyper-intelligent courtesan is a lot more fun than the rather anonymous protagonist of Book 1. And unlike the previous novel, this one has an astonishing geographic and social range, spanning the muddy slums of London, the silver mines of Germany, the wars between the Turks and the Austrians, the banking cities of the Netherlands, the palaces of France, and the slave galleys of North Africa.

    And while there is verbiage aplenty and the usual ridiculously detailed explanations and descriptions from Stephenson, some of them are absolutely wonderful - I particularly enjoyed his surreal, dreamlike description of the siege of Vienna and of Eliza's byzantine plotting with various crowned heads of Europe.

    These novels are not for everyone but this one requires considerably less patience and its charms are more immediately evident to the reader interested in a turning point in world history.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Julie W. Capell
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    16/11/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Memorable for introducing a great female character"

    This book I found considerably less interesting than Quicksilver, dealing as it does primarily with the decidedly picaresque adventures of a vagabond. He hooks up with Eliza, the only female character of the book, who quickly establishes herself as the brains of their partnership. Once she gets to Amsterdam and begins to manipulate both men and their money, she becomes one of the most interesting female characters I have come across in quite some time.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • BRADLEY
    MONTICELLO, GA, United States
    14/08/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "great story"
    Where does King of the Vagabonds rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    near the top


    What did you like best about this story?

    the characters, more of a story than the first installment.


    Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    yes, Simon Preble was great reading 1984.


    If you could rename King of the Vagabonds, what would you call it?

    ?


    Any additional comments?

    no

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Kelly
    Durham, NC, United States
    28/07/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An epic story about the turn of the 18th century."

    This part of the story takes place at the same time as "Quicksilver," but follows the amusing beginnings of the character of Jack Shaftoe, a professional vagabond, as he travels the globe always in search of the next thing to make him rich. We also meet Eliza, the infamous beauty and terrifyingly intelligent woman who starts as a concubine, and will eventually rise to duchess.

    Highly detailed, and sometimes slow moving, the entire story will span over 50 years, the reign of many different kings and queens across europe, several trips to America and back, pirates, african queens, and the Philosopher's Stone. Well worth slogging through the slow points to find out what happens in the end.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Keith
    LIVERMORE, CA, United States
    18/11/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Just Meh"

    I thought about giving it one star but at least parts of it were interesting. This story has no direction. No plot. Nothing. I started this series because I heard it was good and it is rated well but so far it is seriously lacking.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Bram Blenk
    19/10/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Awesome book"

    One of the greatest series ever written. A masterpiece. It's even better as an audio book than as a paper book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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