Review: “The Book of Blood and Shadow” by Robin Wasserman

Title: “The Book of Blood & Shadow”

Author: Robin Wasserman

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Thriller

Publication Date: January 2012 (expected)

Synopsis: One girl is determined to find the truth and avenge the dead.
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.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – definitely one of the most “unputdownable” books of 2012 so far!

Review: This one was really, really good, guys. I literally could NOT put it down – well, until I had to pass out for the night, but that was kind of unavoidable. Wasserman, who I know does good work (I’ve read part of the “Cold Awakening” trilogy), really outdid herself in “The Book of Blood and Shadow”. While it had a bit of a slow start, once it really got rolling, it didn’t stop until the very last page. As a translator, this book really is one after my own heart, because I could relate to it in quite a few ways in terms of Nora and how she has to sift through all of the Latin to get to the secrets of Lumen Dei. It’s full of suspense, nerdy geeky dorks, and magic – how could you possibly say no to this book? If you’re going to read a YA thriller this year, make it “The Book of Blood and Shadow”, for sure.

This book loops grief upon grief, betrayal upon betrayal, surprise upon surprise – so full of emotion and action that I was riveted pretty much the entire time. There was never one moment I got bored or my attention strayed. It did slow at some points, but that was appropriate given the frenetic pace of the entire book – it’s a long one (for YA), so you need some areas to sit and catch your breath, as it were, and put all of the pieces of one puzzle together before you start the next. This book is all about puzzles and mysteries, so it only makes sense that there are two main arcs – one, finding out about the Lumen Dei itself, and two, finding out who killed Chris and drugged Adriane that fateful night. There are puzzles for both, but they intertwine so completely that you’re having to put together pieces the entire time – you just have to figure out which piece goes where, and when.

What I also love is how Wasserman really dove into the art and science of translation. I’d generally say that it’s hard to understand the practice and why so many people fall in love with it (like I did), but the way she asks the reader to understand was fabulous – very simply, and very quietly. I admit I totally geeked out on these parts of the book, when Nora had to and was translating the Elizabeth letters, or more clues leading to the Lumen Dei. It made me fall in love with translation all over again, and Wasserman really works to show the reader how much energy and love/dedication it takes to keep translating something (especially something as serious as what Nora gets herself into), to keep putting someone else’s words in your mouth and hope that they roll correctly off of your tongue.

Wasserman really kept me guessing the whole time. There was nothing I really saw coming in terms of plot twists or sudden betrayals. I think many will liken “The Da Vinci Code” to this book, except this one had way more substance emotionally, and far more to connect to personally. I won’t spoil you, but all I can say about the characters is this: don’t make any of them your favorites, because you don’t know who’s going to die (or go catatonic) next. Wasserman really isn’t afraid to kill her darlings for her craft, and I love it when authors are completely unafraid to do that. She sacrifices one after the other in the insane quest for the truth of this “divine machine”, and the payoff is huge.

Best of all? This book is a standalone and kind of a breath of fresh air in the YA canon right now, especially considering its sub-genres.

Final verdict? The book starts slow, but stay with it because the ending is so explosive you won’t know what hit you. One of the best of 2012 so far to be sure and definitely worth the read! “The Book of Blood and Shadow” is out now through Random House in North America. You definitely can’t miss this release, so go out and find a copy and check it out!


One thought on “Review: “The Book of Blood and Shadow” by Robin Wasserman

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! « birth of a new witch.

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