A review of Bryce Moore's VODNIK. In short? Excellent.

My unofficial rating.

Every once in a while, I read a book that ends up being the equivalent to a tall, icy glass of water. Or better yet, Sprite. Just refreshing. I can think of several in my own reading experience (just to name a few): Harry Potter, Fablehaven, and most recently, Vodnik by Bryce Moore. Now don't mistake me, I'm not comparing these books to each other, or even grouping them up under some category, I'm simply saying they all gave me the same sense of excitement; the feeling that I was reading something new. With Harry Potter I was blown away in part because it was one of the first true Urban Fantasies I had read (not to mention a million other things, love that series). Fablehaven was bursting with simple imagination and adventure, something I really needed at the time I read it. Vodnik smacked me in my face and showed me that true wit, sarcasm, earnest story-telling, multi-layered plotting, grit, and fairy tales can all inhabit the same book.

To be released in March 2012
I was truly impressed with Vodnik. If I were to explain it to someone (which I suppose I am, right at this moment), I would say it's a mix of middle-grade teen lit, crossed with Urban Fantasy, crossed with some kind of Societal Awareness piece. While magic is prominent in the book (and quite cool by the way), the story stands on its own as a really interesting tale of a kid who gets plopped down in a far off country, with strange people, weird food, and unfamiliar fairy tales. To me, Urban Fantasy is all about learning to deal with sudden displacement or change, usually because of finding some magic world, getting cursed, or discovering a goblin living under your basement stairs, etc. Vodnik could do all of this without once bringing magic into play, so when it does, it's just icing on the already delicious cake.

One of the things that I most enjoyed was the fact that the book never shies from tough subjects. One of the main themes through the book is the racism aimed at a group of people in Slovakia known as Roma (what we here might know as "Gypsies") While written for a younger audience, it's best to be prepared for some relatively hardcore racism and hate focused at the protagonist, a young kid named Tomas, dished out in a way that most readers will find impactful without crossing the line to cringe-worthy. The way he deals with such a huge change from his (relatively bigotry free) experience as an American is pretty interesting.

Where Vodnik truly shines, however, is in its characters. If I were to bring up one bad thing about, say Fablehaven, it would be that the characters lack depth and interesting development. Not so with Vodnik.  Because it's written in first person past-tense, its very important that the reader identify and recognize the narrator. From page one, I could hear Tomas loud and clear. The secondary characters of Katka, her father Lubos, and all the magical creatures are also well defined, realistic, and likable.

Bryce Moore in front of the
 castle featured in Vodnik.
Unlike many Fantasy novels for younger readers, Bryce did a lot to keep everything moving at a good pace, infusing the story with a lot of details. He doesn't just rely on a simple premise to carry the book through, but places myriad obstacles, pieces of information, and riddles in front of his protagonist. An adult reader can very easily pick up this book and find themselves interested, the same as any 15 year old. The world needs more books like Vodnik, and I for one am glad that people like Bryce keep popping up. 

I highly recommend this book, and pray to the book gods that there are more to come. Here's to a great entry in Urban Fantasy! By the way, stay tuned for an interview with none other than Bryce himself, right here on this very blog. The post date will be announced soon. Stay excited!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds good! I hadn't even heard of it. My son would probably like it too! Thanks for the review :)