Publication date: 28 March 2012 by Tu Books
ISBN 10/13: 1600608523 | 9781600608520
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Fiction
Keywords: Slovakia, folklore, prejudice, bullying
Source: Sent for review by Lee & Low
When Tomas was six, someone — something — tried to drown him. And burn him to a crisp. Tomas survived, but whatever was trying to kill him freaked out his parents enough to convince them to move from Slovakia to the United States.
Now sixteen-year-old Tomas and his family are back in Slovakia, and that something still lurks somewhere. Nearby. It wants to drown him again and put his soul in a teacup. And that’s not all. There’s also the fire víla, the water ghost, pitchfork-happy city folk, and Death herself who are after him.
If Tomas wants to survive, he'll have to embrace the meaning behind the Slovak proverb, So smrťou ešte nik zmluvu neurobil. With Death, nobody makes a pact.
I will admit, I was a little sidetracked by the cover when I first received this book. There's just something too unreal about Tomas's face and the cutesy reaper logo on his shirt. He's a little too smirky. When I finally started the book, there were all these references to movies and American culture that I felt were a bit gratuitous and designed to draw in the reluctant reader. I put the book down for a while.
When I started it a second time (months later), I couldn't put it down! I could understand the culture shock that Tomas was going through, having gone back to my homeland to live (permanently, or so I thought at the time) after spending a few years in America. I found myself trying to sound out the Slovak as I went along. Vodník definitely gets points for originality--this is pretty uncommon territory for mainstream young adult novels.
I really enjoyed the storytelling and characterization in this novel. After a few chapters it became apparent to me that this was much more than an attempt to be different--Moore really engages the reader not just with geek references and creepy folktales, but also with family dynamics. The way Tomas interacts with his parents, his cousin Katka, and Uncle Lubos grounds this fantastic story and made him relatable despite the far-out mythology surrounding him.
|this part made me LOL|
I wasn't entirely sure what to think about the Gypsy intolerance (due to which Tomas, being quarter-Roma, receives quite a bit of bullying). I felt the messages were really mixed, with "bullying is bad" and "we're better than other, regular Roma" boiling up to the top but dealt with almost as a side issue. (Though frankly, if you've made a date with Death, all your other problems will probably pale in comparison.) If Goodreads has half-stars this would be a 4.5 due to this ambiguity.
All in all, Vodník is a pretty balanced, action-packed, well-researched and intriguing read. This would be a great addition to any classroom or home library, and I hope readers will overlook the ghastly cover.
*I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.
Visit the author online at www.brycemoore.com and follow @bmoorebooks