Monday, August 20, 2012

The Book of Blood and Shadow

By Robin Wasserman

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.

~Amazon Description~ 

This was a thinking book.  That's not a bad thing.  I just hadn't picked up too many thinking books this summer, books that challenge you and force you to engage.  I can't say I was really ready for it though.  Dude, it took me two weeks to finish.  It was well over 300 pages, and it's dense.  There is a lot going on with the past, in the present, and potentially for the future.  And there are some really heavy questions floating around.  What's the price of faith and knowledge?  How much is truth worth?  Why are men in cloaked robes always wielding wicked scary weapons? It's complicated.

The Awesome:  Wasserman create a scenario with intrigue, mystery, destruction, love, hate, worship, fear...she packs a whole lot into the book in amazing ways.  The story reminds me a lot of The Da Vinci Code.  Love it or hate it, the book was a pure thrill ride.  An ancient text sparks a centuries long feud and an unsuspecting teenage girl (with amazingly strange talents) is smack dab in the middle of it.  And I got to visit Prague.  Not actually visit, but Wasserman's descriptions and details make you feel like you're walking the terrifyingly beautiful older than dirt city.

The Not So Awesome: She kills off the one character I really liked at the very beginning.  Not cool.  Nora is strong-willed, but so naive.  Adriane is obnoxious.  Max is stuffy and detached.  And Eli...well, Eli should probably be in the Awesome section, but despite all of the twists and turns, you end knowing relatively little about anyone.  Some relationships felt terribly forced toward the end, and the only person you really trusted was a woman who lived in the late 1500s.  She had everything to hide, yet revealed everything which was refreshing.

The final analysis:  I'm really glad I picked the book up.  It's smart, and it assumes the reader is smart, which I always appreciate in teen fiction.  It's complicated without being confusing, and it takes you on a ride from page 1 to page 432.  Wasserman has created an adventure story that intricately weaves the past, present, and future together in some seriously creative ways.  If you're a fan of ancient societies, creepy old cities, and the possibility of death lingering around every corner, definitely give The Book of Blood and Shadow a read.

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