Published by Tu Books on 2012
Genres: Young Adult, Other, People & Places, Europe, Fantasy & Magic
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Teacups: great for tea. Really sucky as places-to-live-out-the-rest-of-your-eternal-existence. Very little elbow room, and the internet connection is notoriously slow. Plus, they're a real pain in the butt to get out of, especially when you've gone non-corporeal.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. Ready to drown him again and imprison his soul in a teacup.Then there's the fire víla, the water ghost, the pitchfork-happy city folk, and Death herself who are all after him.All this sounds a bit comical, unless the one haunted by water ghosts and fire vílas or doing time in a cramped, internet-deprived teacup is you.If Tomas wants to survive, he'll have to embrace the meaning behind the Slovak proverb, So smr?ou e?te nik zmluvu neurobil. With Death, nobody makes a pact.
Vodnik has a sort of coarse charm, due mostly to it’s setting. It is the story of a young boy who survives a nasty fire which causes his parents to relocate their family to Slovakia, where they are all originally from. He then proceeds to find out that supernatural Slovakian creatures are real, and he is one of the few people able to interact with them. It was very, very nice to read fantasy not based in traditional fairy tale folklore. I would have preferred, however, simply MORE of that fantasy. It felt like a book that should have been steeped in it, drawing the reader more completely into a different culture. What it did show me was tantalizing, but I could have done with less talk about bullies and more opportunities for Tomas to show his character in a nontraditional setting. Tomas learns medieval fighting from his uncle (who is a fantastic character in his own right, by the way), and uses those abilities plus some others to give them their just desserts at one point. It’s not the main plot of the story, and it could have easily been done away with. Speaking as a guy who remembers what it was like being a teenage boy who read a lot of fantasy growing up, I didn’t need to learn martial arts to take down people who bothered me. What I needed was to be given opportunities to stand up for myself and others regardless of my physical abilities to defend myself. Being able to fight isn’t as important as being willing to. But I digress.
Each chapter has a section heading that gives advice from a book about dealing with various supernatural characters for Deaths in Training, which I found incredibly fascinating, and I wish the book had built more on that premise, although I have no doubt that further installments will do so. The author also has a particular talent with villains, I think. Indeed, all of the most interesting characters were at the very least morally ambiguous. The Vodnik himself was a fascinating, deranged character that I particularly enjoyed, and the big bad Death herself has definite potential for future books. All in all, the book is a tad rough, and I would have preferred being dropped into the supernatural side of the cultural vat, rather than wading in the shallow end, but it was still very enjoyable and should be a decent read for any teenage boy. I give it three and a half stars.
As far as adult content goes, it’s pretty tame. One or two bikinis and references to hot girls, but that’s as far as it goes. The awesome hot girl in the beginning that he drools over for a bit turns out to be his cousin pretty quick. It does, however, deal a lot with the topics of racism and prejudice, although only in a positive, educating way, which was quite nice.