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I Belong

Early Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Title: The Book of Blood and Shadow

Author: Robin Wasserman

Genre: YA Paranormal

Series: N/A

Publication Date: April 10, 2012

Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages

ISBN-10: 0375968768 (Random House)

ISBN-13: 978-0375868764 (Random House)

Reviewed by: Emmy


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.

Quick & Dirty: A young adult Da Vinci Code that kept me turning pages as Nora tries to clear the name of Max, her fairy tale Prince Charming. This book has an understated beginning that fills the reader with tension because you know something major is just around the corner.

Opening Sentence: I should probably start with the blood.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

There’s a difference between slow and cryptic. The very first sentence of this book is what keeps the first few sections (I hesitate to use the word chapters) from being boring. You read the first page and immediately know the middle of the book. Who’s dead, who’s not, but what you don’t know if why Nora is covered in blood.  Why they were in a position to be killed in the first place.  So Nora takes you back to her senior year of high school at Chapman Prep, to her broken family as they grieve for her dead brother Andy, and to the first time Nora learns about The Book.

The Book (Always Said In Capitals) is the Voynich manuscript.  Professor Hoffpauer, who was supposed to be the perfect teacher for her easy senior year, is obsessed with deciphering this manuscript as much as with keeping it a secret.  Despite her expert skills in Latin translating–her father was once a professor in Latin–The Hoff puts her in charge of letters from Elizabeth Weston. The daughter of Edward Kelley, who may have authored The Book, her letters may not even be significant.  These 400 year old letters are nearly as exciting as the manuscript, or as important.  Nora is furious that the Hoff has written off her skills, and this is where her story really begins. Because the more Nora translates, the more parallels between Elizabeth’s life and her own become clear. Then the Hoff is attacked, has a stroke and the letters disappear along with the manuscript.  Except for the one Nora had to take with her, couldn’t stop herself from taking.  But if she tells Chris she has it, then it’s not so bad. Then it’s not a secret. Except telling Chris will set in motion a series of disastrous events that end with Chris brutally murdered, Adriane sitting in a pool of his blood and her boyfriend Max suspected of murder.

I said this book starts out cryptic, but if cryptic begins to feel slow for you then around page 100 you will be rewarded.  This book runs full-tilt until the very end, so quickly you barely have time to realize what hit you! There are so many twists and turns that even as an experienced reader and mystery lover I couldn’t see where it was going or what would happen next. The ending required a suspension of disbelief, but not so much that I was pulled from the story.  In fact, it completely fit within the set up Wasserman’s mystery created, which relies on faith and archaic circumstances.

The writing was wonderful.  I absolutely loved the way the narration was broken up, the fact that the sections, in lieu of chapters, were all varied in length.  Nora is an intelligent, perceptive teenager who has been thrust into a mystery that people have died trying to solve. Everything she said sounded put together and well thought out. Part of that, I think, comes from the first part of this book being a flashback–to the time before all the blood–but the sense of integrity in the writing continues beyond that.

Notable Scene:

“Why’d you do that?”

Because I’d wanted to kiss someone.  Because my two best friends were best friends with each other, a seamless unit who probably spent the majority of their time together waiting for me to go away. Because his eyes were brown in one light and green in another, magnetic in both. Because I’d worked a miracle–or maybe because I’d done so only by imagining I was someone else, someone intrepid and intense and long dead, and I wasn’t ready to go back to being me. “I don’t know.”

He laughed.  Now I wanted to kill him–then die.

“That’s a terrible reason,” he said.

“Yeah? You’ve got a better one?”

He leaned forward. He cupped his hands around my face, one warm hand over each cheek.  He kissed me.

“Because I wanted to,” he said when he let go. “That would have sufficed.”

FTC Advisory: Random House Children’s Books provided me with a copy of The Book of Blood and Shadow.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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