The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
Published: paperback July 2013
Genre: young adult, thriller, gothic
One night is all it takes to change Nora Kane’s life forever. Her best friend is dead; her boyfriend has vanished. And the trail of blood leads straight back to her: The person who might be responsible. The person who might be next.
Desperate to save the people she loves and determined to find justice for the ones she’s lost, Nora unearths a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. Something to which Nora herself might hold the key. It turns out her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries—and solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.
On the night Nora’s boyfriend disappears, her best friend is murdered, and his girlfriend is sent to an institution, she realizes the Latin translations of letters and manuscripts they worked on was not their crazy professor’s idea of torture but his truly sane quest to attempt to uncover an ancient, world-changing secret. Nora takes it upon herself to flee to Prague to exact revenge, but soon discovers she is key to centuries-old secrets, lies, and conspiracies.
Deeply intelligent and immensely witty, Nora is quite the protagonist to follow and a pleasure to read. Already a wounded character from the start — dead older brother, workaholic mother, and recluse father — she shares the slow-building and enriching friendship she forges with Chris, Adriane, and Max. They work together to translate Latin manuscripts their strange, presumably insane, professor claims will change the world, and constantly reminds them that someone is watching their progress. None of them believe it till the night all four are ripped apart.
Having been to Prague, I loved the descriptions of Old Town, and the wild history the city endured for centuries. The quest spent there was full of surprises, and it was difficult to know who to trust in this thriller. With two secret societies warring one another over an ancient machine that could potentially speak to God, Nora is dragged into making the discovery and destroying it. I had to remind myself there are no good guys in this story. One society aims to create the machine to speak to God, to know there is a Creator and we can communicate with Him; the other society aims to destroy the machine, to prove that God’s existence is in faith in Him, not in proof. In this sense, the book is quite realistic: there is no way to tell who is good and who is bad, and the decisions to be made have dire consequences either way.
Wasserman’s writing style is artistic, with long descriptive sentences that have the potential to become run-ons till she loops it back to the subject. In these descriptions, we learn Nora’s thoughts and feelings, what she sees and hears, what brings back memories and what can link us to a clue into the future. While overabundant, and some sections unnecessary, it was easy to get pulled into the descriptions and the vast historical references, and fall into the story, making this book incredibly difficult to put down.
3 thoughts on “Book Review: “The Book of Blood and Shadow” by Robin Wasserman”
Sounds like a good read. I’ve always wanted to go to Prague…but have only managed to read books set there so far. Can’t wait to give this one a try. Thanks for the review!
Thanks for the comment! Yes, some people have called this book a YA Da Vinci Code, the thriller aspect and lost manuscripts and hidden societies and strange symbols.
I like books with lost manuscripts and secret societies and a mystery to solve. They’re fun “popcorn” books.