My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was hesitant to try this one, afraid it might just be a vampire book in disguise. What a dark and delightful surprise it was to step between these pages, and to follow Tomas, our mysterious hero, on a series of adventures we never would have expected. Tomas is Romany, and as a storyteller, he does a pretty fine job. Because he’s our narrator, it takes a while to understand that he has survived a drowning. And that it left him with terrible burn scars… That’s where the story starts to get interesting. It almost feels as if this contrast, this dichotomy, echoes throughout the book in other polar opposites ; water vs. fire, life vs. death, good vs. evil. But not vampires. Thankfully, not vampires. There is wonderful characterization, wonderful dialogue which feels true, whether it’s Tomas and his cousin, or Tomas and the mythological beings who turn up in the story too. The blend of contemporary and ancient is skillful ,and one is drawn into Tomas’ reality, as different from normal as could be. Add to this engaging story the layers and undercurrent of tensions between the Romany people and the Slovaks who share Tomas’ new home in Slovakia, and you have a real winner. This is a great MG and YA offering with twists to keep it fresh.