Author: Robin Wasserman
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Published: 10 April 2012
Format: Netgalley eARC* 448 pages
It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.My Review:
But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead. His girlfriend Adriane, Nora’s best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.
Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.
Nora has been living with parents who barely acknowledge her presence since the faithful day her older brother died in a horrible car accident. It’s been rough on Nora, but she tries to keep living on despite her own feelings about the death of her brother. Now, Nora spends her time with her best friend Chris, his girlfriend Adriane and his roommate Max. Nora, Chris and Max become research assistants for an obsessive professor bent on translating the cryptic symbols of the Voynich manuscript, which Nora calls the Book. While Chris and Max are assigned to the Book, Nora is stuck reading and translating 400 year old letters from a woman named Elizabeth Weston. As Nora translates these letters, she starts feeling this connection with Elizabeth. The more letters she reads, the more Nora becomes intrigued and the more she learns about Elizabeth, her father, the Book and the Lumen Dei. However, innocent as this school project may seem, something dark and sinister is behind the Book and the Lumen Dei. It isn’t long before someone winds up dead, one in a state of shock, and another accused of the crime all the while leaving Nora and a handsome boy to uncover the truth. But sometimes the truth is not what we want to hear and in the end, lives are lost, trust is broken and secrets unveil.
The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman was definitely a different read for me. It dealt with aspects that I wasn’t usually interested in, but this only made it a more enticing read. The story really grabbed me from the first page and then tossed me into this whirlwind of deep mystery that involved menacing secret societies that I couldn’t get enough of.
The whole plot and storyline of this book is intricately detailed and highly complex. It’s not an easy read because this book really makes you stop and think. Robin Wasserman brings in the history, religion and cult aspects and weaves it into a complicated, highly intriguing and creepy story that deals with immense amount of secrets, lies and betrayals that are seemingly endless and unpredictable. With the addition of a murder mystery and sweet romance, The Book of Blood and Shadow really shines.
Wasserman managed to take me on this crazy journey with Nora as she discovers the hidden truths within the letters belonging to Elizabeth Weston. At first, I wasn’t able to connect with Nora. She was bitter and sad, and though I understood her circumstances, it took me awhile to open myself up to her. I did appreciate her intelligence and her sense of humor. I also loved that she was able to translate Latin. I never gave Latin a second thought, but reading this book and getting to know Nora made me want to know the language. It made me want to be able to do what Nora could do. I also enjoyed the fact that Nora pushed on with life despite everything that was thrown at her family. I did feel anger towards her parents, but at the same time this made me see how independent Nora had become. She got her own life and she’s doing the best she can with her neglecting parents. I loved how I learned with Nora. I, too, got caught up into Elizabeth’s letters and I wanted nothing more to uncover what was all about this mysterious and elusive machine, known as the Lumen Dei. When things started to go bad for Nora, I really felt for her. I thought she was pretty strong and she handled things with grace. I admired her determination to clear Max’s name, traveling all the way to Prague to do so.
The other characters in the book were very wonderfully developed. I loved Nora’s relationship with Chris. They were truly best friends who seemed like they were attached to the hip. I loved how they shared the same interests and secrets and I love their companionship with one another. It was a mistake to get attached to Chris, knowing his fate from the start, but I couldn’t help myself. He was charming, sweet, funny and caring. He made me laugh and smile even when most parts of the book put me in a dark mood. His ending was tragic and it broke my heart. With Adriane, she is probably the only character in this whole book that I couldn’t come to terms with. She was dry, bland and had no personality to me what so ever. I didn’t like her from the beginning and I didn’t like her in the end. She never redeemed herself in my eyes, but I tolerated her for Nora’s sake. I may be biased a little because I felt that Adriane was just in the way between my fantasies of Chris and Nora getting together. My favorite character had to be Max and then Eli. Max plays such a pivotal part of the book. His relationship with Nora was strange, but sweet. I liked them together. They just fit. With Eli, I loved his sarcasm and the way he ignited this fire within Nora. He challenged her and ultimately kept her safe. He really surprised me and I must say that I was rooting for him at the end.
I must confess that the beginning of the book is quite slow compared to the pace I’m comfortable with. Once I pushed through that, everything started to move quickly. All the lies and secrets were starting to be revealed and I was completely riveted and consumed entirely. The truth about the Book, the letters, the Lumen Dei and the underground societies took me by surprise in the best possible way. With this kind of story, you just never knew what to expect, you never know who to trust, who is lying, and who is lurking behind the corner. Also, I did have trouble understanding some of the writing/language of the book. Wasserman has a way with words. She’s descriptive, detailed, inventive and vivid, but there is plenty of sentences that run on and on without a pause. This is intentional, of course, because of Nora’s voice. However, I wasn’t used to this type of writing style, but I appreciated it, nonetheless. It was still gripping and still enjoyable.
Overall, The Book of Blood and Shadow was a terrific read. It’s full of deceit, creepy moments and eye-popping revelations that never cease to entertain.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
*Many thanks to Netgalley and Random House for allowing me to read this book
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