Tomas is a sixteen-year-old born in Slovakia, but due to a near-drowning accident when he was five, he and his parents moved to America-where he was raised. Ever since his accident, Tomas has been deathly afraid of water, and because of the mysterious burn scars he wields, he is constantly the recipient of everyone's jokes. A fire burns down their house, and their insurance is inadequate, so the family has no choice but to move back to Trenin, Slovakia. Befriending his cousin, Katka, Tomas learns that it was no accident that he almost drowned and that a vodnik, a mythological creature in Slovak lore, is trying to steal his soul. Together with Katka, Tomas must find a way to kill the vodnik, and along the way, he has to deal with daily racism against his people the Roma (Gypsies), three bullies who absolutely hate him, bizarre visions sent by a water spirit, and a dark-humored woman in black commonly known as the Zubat￡.
This book was a compelling novel full of suspense, humor of various kinds, and, something I truly enjoy, culture awareness; throughout the book, you learn numerous facts about the Slovakian culture, language, and folklore, along with the eye-opening racism the Roma face every day. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a small segment from a tome mentioned in the book called Death in the Modern Day; each caption has a darkly humorous tone to it, along with interesting information about different things throughout the story. One such caption describes vampires in a never-before-thought-of way: instead of being elegant, beautiful, and aristocratic, in this book, they are "a lazy, slovenly lot, prone to long bouts of diarrhea and cursed with some of the worst body odor on this plane of existence."
Overall, this is a wonderful book that I highly recommend for anyone who loves everything previously mentioned. Tomas is very relatable to those who have major issues making friends-so instead spend their time watching movies or TV, or those who are harassed due to race or differences, or if haunted by any creature from Slovakian lore.
Reviewer City, State and Country: Oskaloosa, Iowa USA