The first official review of Vodnik is in, and I'm allowed to share it with you today! Funnily enough, the thought that actual breathing book reviewers would be tearing my book to pieces hadn't crossed my mind until my editor sent me this review from Kirkus. In hindsight, this is a really good thing: knowing how much I like to worry about things, I'm sure I would have lost sleep over it.
There are a few "big" book reviewers out there these days: Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Horn Book, Kirkus, and others--each typically has a different slant to their reviews. Kirkus prides itself in being "The World's Toughest Book Critics." A review from Kirkus can be demeaning and downright nasty. In other words, they're not afraid to say just how bad they thought a book was. At the same time, if you get a good review from Kirkus, the contrast is that much more clear.
And of course, Kirkus was the first review released for the book. See what I mean when I say I'm glad I wasn't thinking about reviews in advance of actually getting one?
Enough with the suspense. Here's the review (you'll be able to read it on Kirkus's site in a week or two):
An American teen encounters monsters both fantastical and human in the land of his birth.
After a fire destroys their home, Tomas and his parents move to Slovakia, a country Tomas hasn't seen since he was 5 years old. He's unconcerned about the move; scarred from a childhood fire and painfully shy, Tomas hasn't got any friends to leave behind. Trencín, at first, seems wonderful. There's a truly fabulous castle, and he's made his first real friend: his cousin Katka. But Katka is dangerously ill, and Tomas' attempts to help are complicated by his first experiences with racism. In the United States, Tomas is white; in Slovakia, the olive skin he inherited from his Roma grandfather marks him as a Gypsy and a valid target for abuse. Nothing can help Tomas—and more importantly, Katka—except the mythical creatures Tomas started seeing almost as soon as he landed in Slovakia. It's unclear whether he can trust the watery vodník or the fire víla, but they both promised to help. A first encounter with racism blends well with a compelling fantasy adventure (although Tomas's family, lacking any Romani culture or traditions, reiterates some of racism themselves; his mother explains how they are worthy of praise because they are "not like other Roma").
A shy boy blossoms in this surprisingly witty debut. (author's note, further reading) (Fantasy. 11-16)
You see that? There's nary a negative comment to be found! "Compelling fantasy adventure" and "surprisingly witty debut." I'll take those compliments any day. :-)
Needless to say, I'm tremendously happy and relieved to have this first review out of the way. I know that what reviewers say doesn't matter--that my book is still mine, and who cares what the critics think. But you know what? For a first book from a new author? The reviews do matter, because you're trying to generate any bit of positive buzz you can get.
Anyway--there's my good news for you for the day. The release date is getting closer all the time. I'll have more news for you soon--release party and ordering signed copies. Stay tuned!