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Monday, 6 August 2012

Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Author: Robin Wasserman
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 432 pages, Hardcover (I read an ARC)
Date Published: April 10th 2012
Find it on Goodreads: The Book of Blood and Shadow
Source: A copy was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review as a part of the Ambuzzador program on randombuzzers.com.
Rating:  3.5/5
Goodreads Blurb:
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.

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.

My Thoughts: Cryptic (I think that's maybe my word of the week...) and exciting.

I received this book for review as a part of the RandomBuzzer's Ambuzzador Summer 2012 program. I was so excited about it, because I LOVED Robin Wasserman's Chasing Yesterday books when I was in elementary school! This book sounded so amazing and freaky and really interesting. And it was! But it also took me a long time to get through it, and it had a pretty slow start.

I think most people will agree with me when I say that the book began to pick up its pace around page 100. Before that there was a lot of background to know about the characters and their relationships and how they interacted, as well as their knowledge of the history and origins of things related to the Lumen Dei. We meet Nora, Adriane, Chris and Max, who are all best friends, except Max and Adriane hate each other. Nora, Max and Chris are all studying history with a professor they call the Hoff, and are all extremely intelligent. But then the Hoff gets attacked, the offices are all ransacked and Chris is killed, and the story takes off. We then meet Eli, who is Chris's cousin. He wants to find out who murdered Chris and follows Nora and Adriane to Prague on a whirlwind adventure filled with mysterious men in cloaks, old churches and dark graveyards, as well as tons of mysterious letters from a girl who lived 400 years ago. And possibly knows the answer to all their troubles. The group is also trying to prove Max's innocence  and figure out who really killed Chris. And Nora might just unknowingly hold the key to the mysterious Lumen Dei, a machine that might not even exist, but there are secret societies who will do anything to make it work.

There have been quite a few claims saying this is like a teen version of the Da Vinci Code, and those claims  hold truth. This book is filled with so many similar things, like religion, cryptic messages, murder, etc. I really enjoyed the book, but it was so complicated and mind blowing that it took me a while to finish it. There were so many things going on at the same time and it was all in a pretty short timeline after they reach Prague. But the long letters and translations, no matter how important they were to the story, began to seem excessive. At one point I just started to skim through Elizabeth's letters, because I didn't feel the need to know exactly what was happening with her. Nora would explain it all on the next page anyways! I think Wasserman is a very talented author when it comes to the technical side, but she's also very long-winded and draws things out, at least in this book. I'm kind of at a crossroads with my feelings for this book, because on one hand, I really struggled to finish it, what with the long sentences and drawn out translations, etc. But on the other hand, it was filled with mystery and suspense and had a way of making you think one thing was going to happen and then the COMPLETE OPPOSITE DOES!!!

I have conflicting emotions about all of the characters as well. I liked Nora enough, but I thought she was a little bland at times. But then I was also really impressed with her intelligence and her way of being able to think rationally and clearly even in a time of panic. Then there was Adriane who I found very interesting. She was a super smart girl, but hated showing that side of herself. She was catatonic after Chris died and when she suddenly got better, it was as if she was herself again. But there was a lot of emotion and confusion within her, and she really wanted someone she could trust and someone who would make her feel better. Then there was Max. At first I really liked him, but then he just became terrible. But that was all a part of the plot which I won't give away so I won't talk about Max. I'll talk about Eli. I really liked Eli. He was funny and sarcastic, as well as protective and smart. He was probably my favorite character. There was a bit of romance in this book, but it couldn't compete with anything else in the story. It never overshadowed the rest of what was happening, and that was a really nice change. There was also a bit of humour in the story. My favorite part of the entire book was probably when Nora and Eli pretended to be an engaged couple to get into some old, private papers. The only other thing I will mention that didn't impress me too much was Wasserman's portrayal of Prague. I've wanted to go there my entire life and have studied it a lot. That's one of the reason's I was so excited to read this book. But I felt like the author could have done a better job in making the city sound as incredible as it really is. The city has modernized and combines both old and new culture. We get a lot of its history from this book but I think her impression of it was a bit outdated to say the least.

When I look back at reading this book, I think the story and adventure won me over and so I ended up liking the book a lot more than I thought I would while reading it. There was a lot of character development and that was really strong. I loved how crazy everything was and how the author could fling stuff at us and it would come as a total shock. But I wish it hadn't taken so long to get to the real story. If you're looking for something that you'd like to invest some time into reading, this book would be a great choice. It is something that is filled with detail and mystery.

Oh and by the way, I did add a rating to this book. I think I'm going to figure out a rating system again, so I'll just be testing it out in the next few reviews, see what I like! Please disregard any random little changes you see to them!

Happy reading!


  1. Fantastic review :) I just couldn't get through this one though, so we have opposite opinions. I agree, it was so drawn out and boring I just struggles. Plus, I hated Adriane and Max even more later in the book for reasons you know) and that bit was pretty obvious.

    Jade @ Ink Scratchers

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  2. Great review! I really liked the Da Vinci Code a lot and I like things that are cryptic and mysterious. I won this book in a giveaway recently, so I look forward to reading it.

  3. That is a great cover. Thanks for the post and the history lesson!

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