Wednesday, February 5, 2014

REVIEW: Vodnik by Bryce Moore

Vodník Vodník by Bryce Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book was fun as expected. What attracted me was the non-American setting and an underused mythology. The book delivered Slovakia and Slavic mythology. The mythology portion consisted of a fire spirit, a water spirit, a ghost, and a grim reaper. I admit it sounds generic. But as a big reader of urban fantasy, anything that isn’t vampires and werewolves, Greek/Roman mythos, Celtic mythos, or Norse mythos is a cheery break. Unfortunately, it was a shame that the basis for the Slovakian setting was flimsy.

+ bad parenting

In the beginning of the book, I didn’t think much of Tomas’s family moving back to his mother’s homeland. They moved back because they wanted to maintain their middle class-ish lifestyle. Their money would go further in Slovakia with what little they had left after their home burned down. I was skeptical about his mom becoming a teacher (and thus, the breadwinner) and his dad becoming a writer, but I didn’t think it was particularly impractical.

But as the story unfolded and I learned more about Slovakia, I learned it was a wonderful place to visit but a horrible place to live, especially if you’re Roma, a.k.a. Gypsy. Racism ahoy. Tomas was only a quarter Roma, but he looked Roma enough to be discriminated against. Pretty much, being Roma in modern Slovakia was like being black in the civil rights years of America. Not only that, he was also rejected by the Roma because he was too foreign.

In Slovakia, there is universal healthcare, which seems good... until the reader learns bribery is a way of life. I got eye sore from eyebugging hard at Tomas when he thought going into crippling debt to get healthcare in America was on the same level as needing to bribe unreliable, untrustworthy, racist doctors to get healthcare in Slovakia. As if!

Let me put everything on the table. Tomas was an outcast in school back in America because of his scars. (I believe the isolation had to do more with his being shy, but for the sake of argument let’s take Tomas on his words.) When he moved to Slovakia, he was still an outcast. Only this time instead of just being discriminated against for his scars, he was also being discriminated against for his race by everyone, including his own race. Police treated him like a crook; who gives a fuck if he’s the one needing help, no such thing as a good Roma. The local boys bullied him; just what a shy boy could ever want, being ignored back in America was boring~♫. The doctors would have to be bribed if he get hurt; money does go further in Slovakia, physically into other people’s pocket as bribes. Tell me again why his parents wanted to move back to Slovakia.

Let’s not forget the supernatural things that wanted Tomas dead. But I don’t blame his parents for that. Everything else I do blame on his parents. Oh my gawd, these parents! I don’t doubt they love him, but I seriously question their parenting. They knew these things, but they moved back willingly anyway, and for such flimsy reasons. Had the reason been that a high-paying job forced them to, I wouldn’t have been mad as hell. This leads me to think it’s not so much a case of poor parenting as it is a case of poor writing. To be specific, a poorly thought out reason for the hero to be in Slovakia.

+ the characters

On the bright side, there was no Disappearing Parent Syndrome. Tomas’s family played a big role, especially towards the end. Tomas’s cousin Katarina was kickass despite her illness. It was nice to have strong female sidekick that wasn’t the hero’s love interest. I chuckled when Tomas learned Katarina was his cousin.

I didn’t care much for Tomas in the beginning, but that’s because I don’t care much for self-pitying heroes. There were moments when I didn’t like him, and those were when he got bullied. Logically, I knew he couldn’t fight back, but emotionally, I wished he did, logic be damned. My sense of justice demands satisfaction! It took some while but I eventually liked Tomas as he shed his shell and unleashed his inner fire (figuratively). I liked how his strength came from his self-confidence and how he work hard to build it chapter by chapter. For all the abilities he discovered he always had, they were useless to him if he didn’t have self-confidence. I liked how he overcame his fears and turned them into his source of power, literally in the supernatural sense.

As for the antagonists, the supernatural characters were too wishy-washy for my liking. It was dizzying how one moment they wanted Tomas dead and the next moment they helped him. Good grief, make up your damn mind. There’s a limit to how much a character can be trotted out as a red herring.


I rate Vodnik 3-stars for I like it. The book concluded satisfactorily despite a few loose ends. While it doesn’t take a lot of effort for me to imagine how those loose ends might be resolved thereafter, a second book would be a joy to have. Not only was the book fun, it was meaty. It surprisingly covered a lot of issues: social, youth, health, and family. I really wish there was a second book.

Book Description

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 smrťou ešte nik zmluvu neurobil. With Death, nobody makes a pact.

Goodreads | Amazon

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