Friday, July 18, 2014

Vodnik--a very different take on vampires

My sister recommended Bryce Moore's Vodnik to me, and I'm very glad she did. This young adult urban fantasy was a refreshing and fun blend of mythology and contemporary culture, set in Slovakia (Trencin, to be exact).

 VodnikTomas isn't sure what to think when his family moves back to Slovakia. He still harbors terrible scars from a fire when he was five (and remembers almost nothing about how he got them), but he's open to a new adventure, particularly when he meets his pretty new cousin, Katka. But he does not expect to find a mythological world come to life: the dapper-yet-creepy Vodnik who lives in the castle well (a Slovak take on a vampire, who drowns victims instead of--usually--biting them), Morena, the female version of Death, a fire vila who claims to have saved his life, an old crone, and a mysteriously disappeared Grandmother whom his mother refuses to discuss.

All of this would be more than enough for the average teen boy to absorb, but Tomas is part Gypsy. And what was only a mildly interesting ethnic background in America makes him the target of bullies and a span of racist prejudice that shocks Tomas. Add to this the fact that his cousin Katka is dying, and the only way to save her might be a bizarre agreement with Morena  (the agent of Death), and you have the basic ingredients for this delightful story.

The story started a little slow and it took a little while for me to get into it, but once I did, I tore through the rest of the book quickly. I loved the funny quirks belonging to the mythological creatures--I also loved that they were nothing like the usual span of paranormal creatures in urban fantasy.  I also liked the many different unexpected twists: that the pretty girl he meets turns out to be his cousin, not his love interest and that we never quite know which of the supernatural creatures to trust, as they all tell different stories. Refreshingly, Tomas has a mostly functional family, and I loved the vivid Eastern European setting. I lived for a year and a half in Hungary, which neighbors Slovakia, and this book transported me back there.

Really, though, all I need to say about this book is that Brandon Sanderson wrote an awesome blurb for it. Given how much I've loved all Sanderson's books (that I've read), his endorsement is all I really need to say.

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