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Author: Robin Wasserman
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication Date: April 10, 2012
I’m going to be honest. This is going to be a hard review to write. Not because I didn’t like the book – I LOVED IT – but because I’m so afraid of accidentally spoiling something. I didn’t read a single review before plunging into this book, and I can honestly say I was pleasantly shocked at the direction the novel took at times, throwing me for loop after loop. I respect and admire a book that can keep me guessing, and The Book of Blood and Shadow did just that.
Robin Wasserman expertly weaves a beguiling tale, full of rich history and the menace of an unseen threat. It’s clear in the writing and in the story that the author did extensive research in preparation for this book, and she even discusses it briefly in the afterword. Though much of the story is based on actual events, much more is based on a fabled device that would allow the user to converse directly with God. The knowledge of the very existence of this mythical machine has put the lives of Nora – and her closest friends – in jeopardy.
The first half of the story is set at a leisurely pace, carefully crafting the back-story for our characters, showing how well-developed their friendship was and how they were simply normal teenagers, working on an independent study project for school. The story may develop gradually at first but it never feels bogged down in the history of the study group, nor is it weighed down by the actual history of the subject matter being researched. The author balances each focus well, and the end result is a book shrouded in mystery and secret societies, every bit as intellectually stimulating as The Da Vinci Code, which it will almost inevitably be compared to.
The second half of the book is set at a more rapid pace and really ups the ante for our heroine. Nora and what’s left of her friends – after a devastating blow from those who seek the contraption – are in mortal peril. At this point, I’m just going to say it: TRUST NO ONE.
This book is not all dire situations and fleeing from crazy religious zealots, though. There’s a good bit of humor laced in there, with witty banter and a hilarious episode where two of the characters pretend to be engaged in order to gain access to an off-limits collection of astronomical manuscripts. There’s also the letters Nora translates from Latin that almost come to consume her in her search for answers. I very much enjoyed the correlation between Nora’s translations of Elizabeth’s letters and the situation Nora is currently faced with in the novel.
There is some romance in the book, as well, but it took a back-seat to the real problem at hand, and I appreciate that no matter how the love story was going at any particular time, it never overshadowed the rest of the story. The only thing that could have done that would have been the setting. Prague became a character in its own right. With the author pouring such beautiful and vivid descriptions into the story, it was no trouble envisioning myself as Nora, searching for answers and pieces to a puzzle she didn’t even know existed.
I’m not sure if this is slated to become a series. Though it’s over 400 pages long, I still had doubts that the author could wrap up the story before the book’s end. However, the ending was immensely satisfying and though left slightly open-ended, I would be content to leave things the way they are on the last page. Conversely, I wouldn’t be disappointed to learn that the author was continuing Nora’s story, either.
Book-A-Likes: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, Illuminate by Aimee Agresti