Published 10 years ago, the Caves of Buda by Leah R. Cutter is a fine mix of horror, fantasy and family drama that should still appeal to today’s readers. During World War II, Hungary was a place of fear and danger. But there was a danger more terrible than the Nazis buried in the caves near the city. The demon Belusz has been cursed as stone but his malevolence was able to influence other creatures, especially humans with the ability to do magic.
A boy, Laci, stumbled upon it, struggled with it, and thanks to gypsy magic taught by his grandmother, he escaped, but in so doing, he tied the demon’s death to his own. Fast forward to the 21st century, Laci is an old man living in Arizona with his beloved granddaughter, Zita. Belusz has sent his minions to plague Laci and Zita, driving Laci to return to Hungary for the final confrontation. Zita follows. Another character, a magician-in-denial, Ephraim, crossed path with the couple. As it would turn out, it was their combined passion, compassion and abilities that could defeat the demon.
Judging from the three pages of bibliography, the author seemed to have done much research to write this book. I felt like I was truly getting a glimpse of Hungary during the Soviet occupation. The author just gave enough details to give the story a foothold in reality.She also added mythological elements that sadly became pawns in the demon’s quest to escape his prison.
The author’s thoughtfulness also showed in the character studies. Each of the characters were struggling with inner demons, flavoring every interaction and influencing motivations. Laci was guilty over fleeing Hungary, protecting his family but deserting his country. Zita was guilty of being a failure, completely turning her back on her partying days but also turning her back on her own uniqueness. Ephraim was guilty of falling into habit, afraid of trying something new and afraid to truly love.
In the caves of Buda, not only was the demon Belusz vanquished but also inner demons preventing the characters from living life to the fullest. A good read, not epic maybe but it’s what I needed now.