Friday, September 21, 2012
Author: Bryce Moore
Genre: YA, paranormal, fantasy, mythology
Publisher: Tu Books, 2012
Source: NetGalley (at the recommendation of the author)
Read for: Review
After a traumatizing house fire where they lost everything they owned, Tomas and his parents decide to move back to Slovakia -- a country they left when Tomas almost drowned and simultaneously got a devastating burn at the age of five. Sound weird? That's because it is -- and weird things start happening to Tomas again almost as soon as he is back in the country. He begins seeing people no one else can see, and soon he finds himself trapped in a deal with Death while two warring creatures from mythology are simultaneously trying to get his help. As if being a teenager wasn't hard enough.
I had mixed feelings before I started Vodnik. The author wrote me an email pitching the book, and while the general plot seemed to not be my cup of tea, Bryce Moore highlighted several aspects of the plot that did appeal to me -- mythology, Eastern Europe, and teenagers dealing with cancer. I decided I might as well give it a try, but to be honest I was still not especially looking forward to the book -- it felt more like an obligation. In that, my friends, I was wrong -- Vodnik was a very enjoyable book that kept my interest through every page.
The plot is pretty difficult to describe accurately, so let me just tell you that there is a lot going on, and it is pretty exciting. Tomas is being bombarded by contradictory messages from different mythological creatures, and because the whole situation is freaking him out, he first of all doesn't even want to acknowledge that it is happening, and second of all doesn't know who to believe. One of my few complaints with the book is that I think the confusion going on is a little too pervasive -- I understand that there were different forces pushing and pulling Tomas, but when everything was a muddle the book was less enjoyable. The only other plot element that I didn't enjoy as much was the fact that most of the mythological creatures, while dangerous, were also kind of silly and comical. At times this seemed to conflict with the otherwise dark atmosphere of the book.
However, the book was written very well and excellently paced. While Tomas is dealing with the different challenges of the mythological creatures, he is also dealing with being a teenager -- awkwardness around girls, being stared at due to his huge burn scar, being bullied, worrying about his best friend. The book was told in the first person, and his voice felt very authentic and was enjoyable to read. The writing also conveyed interesting details, such as the castle where Tomas and his uncle worked and the way post-Communist Slovakia was still severely wanting in creature comforts. I'm not sure what Bryce Moore's backstory is, but it is clear that he has spent time in Slovakia and is well-acquainted with life there, because every detail was legitimate and interesting.
Vodnik ended up being a great gem among my virtual stack of NetGalley TBRs, and I am grateful that the author took the time to pitch his book to me. Readers looking for a unique twist on paranormal, or who have interest in Eastern Europe or mythology, will definitely be satisfied with Vodnik. While the protagonist is a bit older, I think it will also appeal to readers of middle grade fiction, especially boys looking for a male protagonist. I think this is definitely one I will be recommending to my nephews.
Warnings: Brief, mild language, some violence