The Secret of the Water Knight
by Rusalka Reh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Secret of the Water Knight / 1611090067
Kat can't swim and she's afraid of the water, so her parents take her to the ocean on a summer holiday so she can learn to swim far away from the teasing jibes of her friends. Yet when Kat gets to the lovely island paradise where they will spend their vacation, she learns that a terrible curse has been plaguing the island residents, and that *she* is expected to swim on the night of the full moon and do battle for all their lives. No pressure!
I had heard that this short story suffered from translation issues, but I had no problem whipping through it in a single night -- for myself, the text flowed well and the story was gripping. There are perhaps a few sentences where the sentence structure is different from what an English reader might be used to, but the meaning was still clear to me and the unique phrasing added to the poetic feel of the novella.
The plot itself is very gripping: this story puts me in mind of a collaboration effort between Gabriel Marquez (for the magical realism) and H.P. Lovecraft (for the intense body horror) to create a kids' novel about learning to swim and embracing and overcoming your fears. Since I'm a huge fan of magical realism and body horror, I suppose it was inevitable that I would enjoy this book, but I'm not sure how many young children will love this story, just because there are several quite intensely scary moments, including: (spoilers) humans having their body parts replaced with fish parts; a sad, wounded, bleeding dolphin; and a grown man tying up and gagging a young girl and leaving her alone in the dark.
I really enjoyed the magical realism in this book -- animals speak to our young protagonist without a lot of buildup or explanation, and Kat runs into people curses with changed bodies on a regular basis without batting much of an eye. The body horror is gripping and the frightening plot juxtaposes very nicely with the child-like narration and the vivid depictions of an island paradise. I'm not sure this book is for everyone, but I can definitely attest that I enjoyed it and recommend it as well worth a look.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine, though I did end up buying the ebook version as well.
~ Ana Mardoll
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