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The Book of Blood and Shadow

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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.

448 pages, Library Binding

First published April 10, 2012

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About the author

Robin Wasserman

114 books1,457 followers
Robin Wasserman is the author of the novels MOTHER DAUGHTER WIDOW WIFE (June 2020) and GIRLS ON FIRE. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and several short story anthologies. A recent MacDowell Colony fellow, she is also the New York Times bestselling author of more than ten novels for young adults and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 949 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
March 30, 2012

I imagine that The Book Of Blood And Shadow will impress most of my friends, it just so happens that this is one of those books that appears on occasion which is well-constructed, well-written, clever and absolutely nothing that I want to read. I've seen this before and will surely see it again in the future, thankfully I'm getting better at spotting them early on - the only reason I finished this book was because it was provided by UK book tours for review purposes.

The story is about Nora who tries to solve the mystery around her friend's death and prove her boyfriend's innocence by travelling to Prague and following the clues from centuries-old manuscripts that lead her into a world of secrets, lies and conspiracies. It's just a shame that, for me, this was nowhere near as exciting as it sounds.

Though the books are nothing alike, the reading experience I had with The Book Of Blood And Shadow was almost identical to the ones I had with The Book Thief and Feed. This could be a good indicator of whether or not you should read this book. If you liked those two I just mentioned - and I know most people did - then you may have more patience with a novel like The Book Of Blood And Shadow. It is equally long-winded and spends a lot of time with the characters and the world before any of the main plot gets going.

Did you enjoy those discussions about politics and occasionally medicine found in Feed? Did you like the numerous flashbacks and stories throughout The Book Thief? Or did you grow tired of them like me? You see, Mira Grant, Markus Zusak and Robin Wasserman are all great writers in the very technical sense but I think they lose something from the story in being so... well, that's just how I see it. It's easy to be drawn in by them at first because you immediately recognise that they are talented at writing, the characters are always well-developed from the start. I like the characters, I like the writing, and I wait and wait for the story to get interesting but I'm often bored.

If you're okay with long sentences, a little too much of the stuff that we don't really care about like translations - or maybe that's also just me? - and the kind of story that doesn't hit you like WOWSHAZAM but creeps in slowly and steadily until you realise "oh yeah, so something seems to be going on now..." then this is your kind of book. Sorry, I'm not selling it too well, am I? I probably shouldn't be too negative as I am confident many of my friends on goodreads will love this kind of story. It's just way too slow and hard-going for me.
Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,366 followers
April 8, 2012
The claims of this being like a YA Da Vinci Code are not false; mysterious documents, coded messages, religion, murder - it easily reminded me of this well loved book by Dan Brown which is a favorite of mine. The Book of Blood and Shadow is cryptic and dangerous, with a phenomenal writing style - I loved every single minute of this novel!

It all starts with the Book. The Voynich manuscript to be exact. This book is, in fact, real, and deemed as the most mysterious book on earth that no one has of yet been able to decipher. This is their assignment. However, Nora is, instead and to her dismay, given 400 year old letters to translate which she doesn't believe is as important, or nearly as interesting as the manuscript. This is where her story begins. Some have mentioned how it took them a while to get into this book due to the slow pace at the start. I can easily see this being the case, but I was completely captivated from its very first sentence: "I should probably start with the blood." From then, I hung on to every word, to every page, to every chapter until I swallowed it whole. Where some may find it slow, I found it increasingly cryptic. It was clearly the beginning of something major. Something very mysterious, and full of peril. There are books that don't need to start with a bang, but rather a thud. This is one of them.

However, if you do have trouble getting into it, page 100 is where you can find the bang, and from then on it's a fast forward until the end. Believe me, you won't even know what hit you. You'll think the story is going one way, only to find yourself completely baffled by the sudden, unexpected turn of events. I could never foresee what was going to happen next, and, for this, I am undoubtedly impressed. Some may find that you have to suspend disbelief in the final chapters, but when it comes to faith and extremely old circumstances, I was definitely fine with it.

The writing: splendid! The narration is extremely intelligent. I was blown away by this girl's way of thinking. Nora's perceptions, analysis, her reflective chain of thought, it was all so smart and put together. I felt connected to her words in a way I've rarely felt before. She took me in her head and made me see who she really was, how SHE saw the world around her. Positively outstanding!

The Book of Blood and Shadow is not your typical YA novel. It's raw and it breaks rules, with an intense insanity that does not stop until you turn that last page. To say it simply: It's nothing short of brilliant!

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,889 followers
May 31, 2012
After a promising start, The Book of Blood and Shadow turned out to be my biggest disappointment in 2012. I never expected to have to struggle to finish this book. In fact, when I ordered a copy, I was pretty certain it would find a place among my favorites, but the more I read, the more disappointed I became. I’ll start with the good…

Characters and relationships are Wasserman’s strong point. I loved getting to know Nora, Chris, Max and Adriane in the first part of the book, loved finding out how their friendship developed, adored reading about Max and Nora and those first months of their relationship. It was all incredibly convincing, the slow falling in love, the realization of differences between a best friend and a boyfriend, Nora’s constant questioning of herself and her place in the group, and that moment when she needed to choose whose number to dial in time of trouble. There were so many layers and complications between these four people, and all of them came from great understanding and experience.

It was easy for me to connect with Nora. She squealed when she got a Latin dictionary for her eleventh birthday; when she was sad or lost, she consoled herself with endless declinations and conjugations… in short, she was a linguist at heart, which made her all the more dear to mine. In addition, both our lives were divided into two periods by a huge event and I was able to recognize how, through Nora’s situation with her brother, Wasserman offered her astute understanding and portrayal of a family devastated by grief.

The premise itself is where it all went wrong. It was just too farfetched – the idea that two college boys and one high school girl could discover something a very determined secret society and hundreds of scholars couldn’t, that the said society was willing to kill for the knowledge, but not research all available texts, Elizabeth’s letters included. The codes were too easy to decipher, the riddles were something a child could solve, everything was just a Google search away and finding the pieces of this precious, mysterious machine proved to be almost effortless. I’m not sure if Wasserman couldn’t do better or if she simply dumbed it down for her targeted young adult audience, but either way, I felt almost insulted by the simplicity of it all.

If I were a Czech citizen, I would be unbelievably angry about the way Wasserman described Prague. What she wrote may very well be true about some god forsaken village in the middle of nowhere, where the communist mindset is indeed still very much alive and hygiene is not high on the list of priorities, but Prague is a beautiful city that combines centuries old culture and modern ways, a city that has moved forward considerably in the last twenty years, and her version of it is simply unfair, or at least outdated. If that’s how she sees Prague, I don’t even dare imagine how she would describe Zagreb, or heaven forbid, Sarajevo. Her words were both inaccurate and rude.

The writing suited me, she has a great feeling for rhythm and punctuation and a talent for using short sentences to emphasize her very dry sense of humor. I do hope that Robin Wasserman’s next project will be a nice contemporary YA (or better yet, New Adult), about growing up, falling in love and finding your place instead of another mystery-adventure-The-Da-Vinci-Code-wannabe novel that simply won’t work, just like this one didn’t. Characters and relationships is where her strengths lie, and everyone should just stick to what they do best.

Also posted at The Nocturnal Library
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews946 followers
October 6, 2011
“Never date a guy who can fit into your jeans- Adriane often warned me- failing to mention that it was because I might someday need him to save me from a secret society of murdering Renaissance Faire rejects.”

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
Sigh…. And we were doing so well.
OK, up until about 80% this book would have been a 5 star book. I was happily ignoring the mental far-fetchedness of the plot because I loved the characters and the setting and the writing. But even I couldn’t suspend my disbelief at the end. More on this later….

High Points.
Boys, boys, boys. Nora. Friendship. European globetrotting. History. Murder. Love. Double crossing. Churches. Prince Charming. Language. Latin. The writing. Letters. Secrets. Blood. Conspiracies. Ninja moves. On the lam. Novelty underpants.

Low Points.
OK, the last 20% were just ridiculous. So much crazy stuff happened that even if I ignored my no spoiler rule… I don’t think I could actually tell you everything that happened. Some of the reveals I had ‘guessed’ (when I say guessed I mean I thought ‘Oh no… that’s not going to happen is it? He’s not… she’s not… Oh god… he is, they are!’ way) and they still confused me. Others were just so random. And then there were the chosen ones and guns and the melting faces.
Also, I’m particularly good at ignoring historical inaccuracies (within reason) and authors bending theories to fit their stories because that kind of thing isn’t my strong point. So I’m not entirely sure, if that is your area of expertise how you’d feel about this book. But I’m just saying… it wasn’t a low point for me but it could be for others.
But other than that… I really did enjoy this book. The story was a bit fanciful and I haven’t been completely sure about religious sects and secret societies and whatnot post-Mr Brown… but the characters, the writing and the narration made up for this.
But…authors: STOP KILLING OFF LOVELY LOVE INTERESTS. Seriously, I have only just got over the fact that I could never be with Charlie and then you throw Chris at me.
No fair, Ms Wasserman. No fair.

Nora, I’m pretty sure we’re the same person. We have the same views on EVERYTHING including religion, school, love and just life in general.
So… that makes me as awesome as you, right?
I loved how, even when the plot booked a ticket to Fruit Loop Town, you stayed extremely normal and you didn’t turn into a crazy person.
I just loved your narration… seriously, I underlined practically everything you said.

“I hated romance novels, romantic comedies, and cheesy love poetry with equal passion- but I wasn’t stupid enough to think I could ignore them, I believed in happily ever after as much as anyone because Jane Austen, Prince Charming, and Hugh Grant promised me it could happen.
But maybe that particular delusion was universal.”

And it didn’t even bother me that you were a bit angsty (because, with everything considered, you deserved it!) or that there were a lot of boys in love with you.
Because I think I was a little bit in love with you by the end.
There was the bit that I thought you were going to turn out to be Jesus… but it turned out fine so the above statement still stands.

I actually loved the connections between Elizabeth, her story and her letters, and Nora. I was a bit unsure about them at first but they really grew on me. They effortlessly merged together and they never seemed forced. They were also beautifully written and poetic without being too over the top.

“I have discovered what fills the vacuum left by love. It is called necessity, and it will not be denied.”

I’m so so glad that you didn’t turn out to be like that godawful Sabrina film that I watched when I was ill. You know, the one with the locket and a painting and the fact she was her long lost, long dead relative.
You don’t know the one?
Neither do I.
Heh heh.

Best Friend.
I could write an essay on my feelings on Adriane. But I won’t, don’t worry…. Because there are a lot of twisty turns in this book and it’s good not knowing.
Every time I read the name ‘Adriane’ I got that song from The Calling in my head and all I could think of was of the lead singer’s crazy eyebrows and his ridonkulous hair and his rooftop angst.
This has nothing to do with the story or this Adriane …. ALTHOUGH, the lyrics are quite apt.
Anyway… moving on.

Love Interest.
I literally have NO idea where to start with this.
When I pick up a book there is about a 91% chance that I will fancy someone within the creamy pages.
In this book... there were THREE.
(It didn’t stay that way though…. My loyalties were tested in this.)
We first meet Chris, who is quickly dubbed as Prince Charming because he is HOT STUFF and sexy and funny and has curly hair and Nora is instantly in love with him….because she’s human.
Sounds simple, right?
NO. Because he’s dead.
This is not a spoiler because it tells us in the synopsis and it’s also his blood splattered across the walls in the first page.
He’s genuinely dead and buried and it’s very sad but he’s still so cute and he’s not really a love interest but I couldn’t not include him. Because I love him.
BUT WAIT… there’s more.
Then we have Max… awkward, brooding, a little unhinged. Stereotypical love interest? No siree.
He likes history. He quotes poetry. He treats Nora with respect. He wears vintage t-shirts. He likes to travel. Sure.... he has some faults. But I won’t go into them… *cough*
BUT WAIT… I’m not done yet.
Because here comes Eli. Oh Eli. You dark horse with your mystery and your humour and your snarky retorts. And you are cultured, you can speak Czech, you are intelligent and you have ninja moves. I also appreciate your love for wearing novelty t-shirts to bed (Dennis the Menace). Also.. Tweety Bird undercrackers. What girl could resist?
Again…. you have some faults. And again, I won’t go into them.

So, all in all, out of the boys (with a pulse) Eli, you are a WINNER.
Hurrah for you.

Theme Tune
I struggled with this one because there were a lot of feelings and ideas covered. But I kept circling back to Nora and the way she was so guarded with her feelings and was reluctant to move forward and how, even though she pretended to be tough and cynical and whatevz, she was vulnerable and sad inside.
Which, considering the crap she’s had to deal with in her sixteen or so years on this earth, is perfectly understandable.
I loved that the ending was so ambiguous and Ms Wasserman allowed us to fill in the blanks.
So this song is my blank.

The New by Interpol
And I know you don’t believe in happy endings and they are for optimists and dreamers… but I hope you get one, Nora.
It may take a while, but you’ll get there.
And tell him I say hi.

And if not… screw you, Hugh Grant.
*shakes fist*

Boy Angst Level.

Sadness Scale.

I’m skipping these two because it would be impossible to talk about them without ruining everything.

Recommended For.
People who like adventure stories with heaps of mystery. People who like strong and hilarious heroines. People who can read the Da Vinci Code for the entertainment side of things and not get angry and stabby. People who like letters…. FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. People who can’t resist a boy who has a European accent… that isn’t English. People who blame Richard Curtis for all of their love problems. People who want to travel to Prague… without, y’know, all the murder. People who like boys to wear novelty underwear.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers. It will be published early next year.

You can read this review and other fun things on my blog here.
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
858 reviews3,759 followers
July 26, 2018
Hmmm... I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It's okay but in the end I feel unfulfilled? I never waned to DNF it though.

The boyfriend was a complete douchekabob. The plot was drawn out and honestly I didn't know what was happening a lot of the time. Audiobook narrator was good. A bit reminiscent of The Conspiracy of Us and The Da Vinci Code.

Not much rep (a couple of racially diverse side characters) and lots of triggers that I can't remember all of (death of sibling and friends are the main ones).
Profile Image for ♥Rachel♥.
1,856 reviews846 followers
March 30, 2012
This was an exciting read with a murder mystery, suspense, romance, and betrayal.

Nora lives with her fractured family, still reeling over the loss of their son, Andy. Andy drank and then drove, killing him and one of the most popular students in their high-school. This in turn caused Nora to become a social leper in school. Nora was able to transfer to a more prestigious school, on a Latin scholarship. Her father was a teacher of Latin and instilled in his daughter a love of the language from an early age. The transfer is the best thing for Nora because she meets her best friend (crush, at first), Chris, and soon Adriane, Chris's girlfriend is added to their clique. Often Nora feels like the third wheel. This changes when Max, Chris's college roommate, enters into the equation. Nora is no longer a third wheel.

Max, Nora, and Chris start working as research assistants, to an eccentric and obsessed professor, trying to crack the code of ancient symbols in an old Latin manuscript. Nora is assigned to translate letters written by Elizabeth Weston, the daughter of a man the professor suspects solved the code of their manuscript. The more Nora translates and reads of these letters, the more Nora feels connected and parallel to the author, Elizabeth. Things take a violent turn as the professor is attacked, has a stroke, and the manuscript, along with all the letters are stolen. All letters, except for one Nora couldn't help but take. Nora is so nervous at taking this valuable letter that she confesses to Chris. This leads to disastrous events ending with Nora discovering Chris brutally murdered with Adriane sitting in his blood, catatonic. Add to that, Max is the prime suspect in the murder.

I had so much fun trying to figure out who was the murderer in this story, and solve the mystery of this manuscript, and why cracking its code was so important. There are many clues that leave you suspicious. You're led to believe one thing, and then something else happens that blows your theory out of the water. The relationships were also a puzzle to be solved. You'll end up going back to piece a few things together. I don't want to say too much because I think it's best to go into this without having prior conceptions. I will say my heart went out to Nora on several occasions. Read the book and get back to me. We can have some discussions. Trust me, you'll want to talk about a few things when you're done!

My only complaint about this story is that in the middle, the plot seems to be weighed down by some very wordy descriptions. I'm all for descriptions to set mood and atmosphere, but this was too much for me. I felt that it interrupted the pace of the story and slowed the plot down. Other than this small drawback, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I ended up staying up late because I had to finish this! (I paid the next day at work!)

Thank you to Netgalley and Alfred A. Knopf for allowing me to read this.
Profile Image for Jasprit.
527 reviews748 followers
April 26, 2012
4.5 stars

“Better to be slain by an arrow than
by the words of the one I most trusted”

When I received a galley for The Book of Blood and Shadow I was quite pumped as there had been some great reviews for it. But I was also quite worried as I only received the galley a few days prior to its publication date; I’m not the fastest reader and I had not been having much luck lately with books, a lot I found a struggle to get into or ended up being disappointments. But I’d hoped this would not be the case with The Book of Blood and Shadow.

Nora, Chris and Max had volunteered to be research assistants to the former talented and respected professor Hoff to translate and decipher the codes within the 700 year old copy of the Voynich book and letters written in Latin left by Elizabeth Weston. For years many had tried to decipher the code, but had failed to do so. So three evenings a week Nora, Chris and Max at Hoff’s office tried to make sense of the book which so far has outwitted everyone. After spending a fair amount of time with Elizabeth’s letters, Nora seemed to be making a huge amount of progress, what initially had started off as a means of escape from the silence that filled her house, her broken parents with their forlorn expressions, Nora found herself wanting to spend every opportunity she got with the letters. She seemed to be getting a better understanding of just who Elizabeth was, what her life back then was like, her connection with her became stronger and she felt protective of a woman who has been dead for over 400 years and her letters. When Nora thinks she’s getting closer to unravelling the mystery of the Voynich manuscripts, things suddenly go downhill with unsuspected attacks and the letters and transcriptions of the book going missing. It seems like somebody else is in a hurry to decipher the code too, someone with no care about who gets hurt in the process. Nora is forced to make a decision; does she want to solve the mystery for Elizabeth? Continue down a dark and dangerous path, who knows where it may lead her? Or try and forget the last couple of days of hell and everything about it like it never happened?

The Book of Blood and Shadow I found extremely difficult to get into, I remember sitting there with a bewildered expression thinking what is going on? At times I seriously felt like giving up. I probably would have had it not been for Giselle who told me the pace picks up after a 100 pages or so. So I stuck it out and I’m glad I did because the pace picked up to a whole another level. I found myself gripping my kindle in terror until the early hours of the morning. I wanted to know what was going to happen but at the same time I was so afraid to read anymore just in case it caused my heart to rip into further tiny shreds.

Nora was a character I felt an immediate pull towards, you would think that with all the heartache she’d been through and everything life had thrown her way, she would be fragile, curled up in a corner and given up on life. But I truly admire her for the amount of heart she put into her research, her gusto and fierceness she displayed as the book progressed. Her character development was admirable. This book couldn’t have been the same without Adriane (Nora’s best friend) Max, Chris and Eli (Chris’s cousin). Rarely ever do I come across a book where all the characters have a massive impact on me, (I think the last time this happened was with Courtney Summers This is Not a Test). They all in their unique ways managed to wheedle their way into my heart and left an unforgettable imprint in their wake.

What I loved most about The Book of Blood and Shadow was the mystery about everything; you thought you had a grasp on reality; the clues and letters were slowly bringing you closer to providing answers to all the unanswered questions. But then when you least expect it, you’re thrown something so unexpected, so out of the blue, I literally felt like a lifeless ragdoll thrown about after finishing this book.

This book has also left me this huge urge to learn as many languages as possible. If someone was to ask me how many languages I could speak, my lame response would be two; (English and Punjabi). I think I may have to make it my priority to learn some Czech, so if someone asked me a question I could just give a response back in rapid fire Czech! And also to visit Prague one day, the descriptions in this book were so beautiful and enticing and I’d never really given it any thought, but this book made Prague sound to be such an enchanting place that I’d be a total nutter if I didn’t go!

It’s been a long time coming since I felt this pumped and excited about reading a book, so thank you
Robin Wasserman for creating this epic masterpiece!

I highly recommend if you haven’t read this book yet, that you do so as soon as possible.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House for giving me this amazing opportunity chance to read this book.

Favourite quote:
“He was a freshman at some small school in
Maryland, he knew three languages and counting
he had whimsical taste in boxer shorts and...
and that was about it”

This review and more can also be found on my blog: The Readers Den
Profile Image for Jason.
796 reviews46 followers
January 24, 2021
The half of it set in Prague, where all the ostensible action takes place, kinda sucks. The protagonist loses her positive personality traits and the writing becomes far less clever and witty. The second quarter keeps interest alive by stalling/hinting at what’s to come and the protagonist isn’t on her way to irritating the ish out of me yet. I think what this book shows is that Wasserman can write with great wit about family, friendship, and loss – but not particularly well about romance, intrigue, religion, or fully realized characters. I also cut the author some slack because of her barbs about pop culture – so knowing in the first part, while later they become gratuitous and kind of rote.
I'm religious, yet the constant religion talk bored me. The whole thing feels silly and inconsequential – it’s technically possible parody’s the point, but either way as a whole the reading isn’t that enjoyable. The riddles are meh – in The Da Vinci Code (It is entertaining, okay?) they felt right as you breathlessly followed along. I don’t like Adriane, and our heroine’s sappy lovesickness is annoying, and she becomes a lame, angry, bitter, unsympathetic shrew. The second half of the book is largely contrived, unengaging stupidity with an especially anticlimactic, inorganic ending.

Under the best of circumstances, middle school is a sixth-circle-of-hell situation, sandwiched somewhere between flaming tombs and flesh-eating harpies.
A right and wrong side of the tracks, although in this case, the tracks are a Walmart.
It would call for substantially more than luck to thrust me into one of those narratives where plain-Jane new girl catches the eye of inexplicably single Prince Charming, because somehow the new school has revealed her wild, irresistible beauty, of which she was never before aware.
A Shakespearean tragedy or at least—if you threw in a lonely stable boy or trustworthy prison guard—a trashy romance novel.
It helped to cultivate a linguistic superiority complex. Or maybe the language without a people just appealed to the girl without a home.
Every time you invite me over here, you give me your implied consent to bore you with the details of my mundane little life.
They somehow still didn’t understand what it meant to never have enough, and I was content leaving them in the dark, because I had no need for their understanding and no use for the pity that would accompany it.
“Look, I’m not the one always whining about not having a boyfriend,” she said.
“No, you’re the one always whining about me not having a boyfriend.”
reason is the last and best weapon of the powerless man. He taught me well the many uses of emotion, the blade that can so easily be turned against its wielder.
I have discovered what fills the vacuum left by love. It is called necessity, and it will not be denied.
“You know, if this were a movie,” Chris said, “we’d probably decide to ditch those ungrateful fools and start making out.”
Profile Image for Isamlq.
1,578 reviews709 followers
October 27, 2011

I’d split this book in several parts and love each for different reasons. There’s the part with her laying down her history AND that ending (all on its own) that was awesome. The way things start one would think that one knows how thing turn up. You’d be wrong. That she took her time explaining who she was and who they were assured that I see her story through. And that ending? NOT BAD! I love how things went because it dealt with that long, twisted, complicated ride Nora had found herself part of. If there be a fly anywhere in it, it’d be when things were beginning to click in to place. I just wondered would a wrapping up of things, a tying together of sorts be possible? Again, given the nature and number of things being included.

Look it’s a mystery, but while I was thoroughly engaged by that part and even had a couple “Oh no!” moments, it was the first third that made sure I’d finish this. She’s linguistically gifted and those she surrounds herself with likewise~ unlikely, but incredibly entertaining. HOWEVER, it’s her relationships with them that hooked me. How she described who she was to which one and who another was to her, read complicated. As with her and Chris, theirs was a friendship that went deep. As with her and Adrienne’s, theirs was one that was unlikely. As with her and Max… and I’m still not sure what to say on that aspect *O.o*

But again there’s a mystery to unravel, a couple in fact. And when several secret societies are thrown in, one might think that things got a bit over the top. But honestly? They all tie together. And when one thing leads to another, across oceans in fact, I had to follow. Even when there’s the too conveniently present helpful person or seemingly too -easily deciphered clue, things just all tied in nicely.

And of course there’s that vital part of Elizabeth and her letters whose life seems to be mirror for Nora’s own. That the same fact is seen as fanciful by one level headed charry but regarded (albeit hesitantly) as something more, just upped Book some more in my esteem. And color me surprised, even their discussions on faith were good. Oh Gosh, I need a copy of this this.


Profile Image for Jay G.
1,235 reviews464 followers
October 24, 2019
Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfer...

Nora, her bestfriend Chris and boyfriend Max, stumbled across some shocking discoveries while working as Professor Huffman's assistants searching through old letters and manuscripts from 500 years ago. Then Chris is murdered, sending Nora and Chris' girlfriend, Adriane, to Prague in search of answers revolving around a strange machine called the Lumen Dei in the hopes of proving Max's innocence. They quickly realize that their are other people searching for this machine and the answers it holds, and they will stop at nothing to retrieve them.

I was left wanting more from this book. Although entertaining at times, it was a bit slow at some points that left me bored and unengaged with the story. It takes around 100 pages to fully get into the mystery and action of the book, which in my opinion was too long. There was a lot of set up and world building that needed to be done before hand, which I understand, but I was still bored. I liked most of the characters, but I honestly didn't care much for what was happening to them or the hardships they were going through. It was just a very average read for me.
299 reviews139 followers
May 31, 2012
The Book of Blood and Shadow is not an easy read. It's complicated and intricately woven, perhaps even a little convoluted in places. It's not all action and takes its time. There are a lot of scenes where Nora is simply translating and decoding Latin manuscripts and a few parts I raised my eyebrows at. The old lady in me was quite distressed for the poor teachers who have three of their students run away during a school trip abroad. Several times I wondered why no one just went to the police. Then there's the ending, which is little insane.

But I still enjoyed this book.

Nora, Max and Chris are earning extra credit by helping a grumpy, ill-humoured, professor translate a historically important manuscript, one that purportedly holds the secrets of the Lumen Dei, a device that is said to communicate directly with God. Nora has been saddled translating the less important, but nevertheless, fascinating, diary of a 16th Century girl, Elizabeth. As Nora begins to form an emotional connection to her, a girl who perhaps knows more about the Lumen Dei than anyone else, she starts to care more about keeping Elizabeth's secrets then sharing them. But there are dangerous people out there who will do anything to know the secrets of the Lumen Dei, and others still who would kill to keep it a mystery.

Wasserman develops her characters with a sophistication that is not often found in YA. After an opening chapter that begins with death and blood, The Book of Blood and Shadow jumps back in time and slows right down, as Wasserman takes the time to introduce her characters and carefully build up their messy, complicated, enviable relationships. I loved the centuries-old mystery, the atmosphere of the book, the setting, the sense of history, alchemy and religion, the conspiracies, secret societies with hidden agendas, the five hundred year old diary of Elizabeth Weston. But it was the characters that made this book for me That you were never quite certain who to trust, or who was lying, made the story all the more compelling.

Nora is exactly the type of heroine I love. Ordinary, down to earth, intelligent, funny. The raw pain over loosing Chris, even before we know and mourn the character ourselves, was on every page. Max, quiet and studious, was the perfect match for Nora, despite his (irritating) tendency to quote poetry and his sullen mood-swings. Their relationship is sweet and grounded, and nicely built up, so that we believe in his innocence, along with Nora. And Chris! Even now, my heart aches a little whenever I think about him and what should have been. Chris is dead. It's his blood all over the walls and Nora's hands in the opening chapter. And yet, I loved him the most. I was devastated at his death, even though I knew it was coming.

The Book of Blood and Shadow is an intelligent, on the whole, well-crafted story by a skilled writer. It won't be for everyone. And it's not perfect. To enjoy this you'll have to suspend belief and look past the unlikelihood of no one discovering the (poorly) hidden pages in Elizabeth's diary before now, that a young school girl could decipher an ancient manuscript where scholars have failed, the ease in which Nora figures out the code, how important clues and artifacts have remained safely hidden and untouched throughout Prague over the centuries etc. The ending suddenly became a bit too Raiders of the Lost Ark for my liking, but the closing chapter was poignant and perfect.

For readers who love a rich setting, a historical feel and a centuries-old mystery, this is an interesting mixture of truth and fiction.

Things don't just fall apart. People break them.

~ page 1

*Many thanks to Atom and UK Book Tours for making this available for review*
Profile Image for Crystal.
449 reviews91 followers
March 15, 2012
This book is essentially The Da Vinci Code for Young Adults. It has everything that you would expect, adventure, intrigue, puzzles, religion, and murder. Even though my brain is still trying to catch up, I really did enjoy the wild ride.
Nora is a high school senior and wanting to add something exciting to her college applications she agrees to work with her friends who are in college transcribing old letters. What she doesn’t expect is to have her senior year plagued with murder and overseas run for our life adventures.
I felt like the story dragged a little in the middle and I did get lost with all the knowledge that was thrown at you. I am not a history buff so most of all that sadly went over my head. That is why I have such a low rating for this book. I enjoyed it but for me personally this was not a me book. I honestly wasn’t invested in Elizabeth’s story or the whole search for the “very important item”. I enjoyed the puzzles and mystery but Nora and Eli were the only reason why I kept reading. I wanted to know what happened with them and I also wanted to make sure I was right about the bad guys. I am very happy to say that I was! The clues were there and even though I wasn’t completely sure I am proud of myself that I picked up on them early on. My heart did break for Chris and I kept hoping that certain events would have been righted. I think I have read too much paranormal because I really did wait until the very last sentence lol.
I think the author did a fantastic job with the story as a whole and fans of The Da Vinci Code will devour this one.
Profile Image for Em.
111 reviews
March 13, 2012
I honestly cannot bring myself to give this book a rating...out of fairness for not finishing or ability to express my disappointment.

I could not finish this book. The writing style grated my personal preference. The sentences were too long with too many commas and breaks. Some sentences were 10 lines long and had so many commas that I had to re-read many pages and paragraphs 3 times. I got lost in what the author was trying to say.

I think what has taken me so long is that the story line is still being built at 123 pages, nothing has really happened. Nothing unless you count two of the characters getting together and stuff going missing and old letters being translated from Latin. Honestly, I studied Latin in high school, I have an appreciation for it, but I absolutely cannot get in to this book.

It reminds me of a YA version of the DaVinci code so far. This book is 448 pages long, and it shouldn't take a quarter of the book to get to the "good stuff". This is my justification for abandoning it. I thought the book itself and the author both an explanation since I know they had to have put a lot of time and effort into writing this book.
Profile Image for April.
2,101 reviews950 followers
October 14, 2012
I’m kind of ashamed to admit this, but I really liked The Da Vinci Code when it came out. So much so that I read Foucault’s Pendulum and Holy Blood, Holy Grail and even wrote a college paper on the Knights Templar. To say that I enjoy conspiracy theory is an understatement. You guys, I am SO glad that The Book Of Blood And Shadow by Robin Wasserman is published in 2012 and not 2003 because with how deftly Robin Wasserman handles secret societies, I would have inevitably been disappointed in the aforementioned books. Since you know, a really great book can ruin other similar books for you.

Read the rest of my review here
Profile Image for Carlos.
588 reviews289 followers
September 27, 2017
If you liked Indiana Jones when he goes to look for the ark of the covenant and he fights Nazis and religious nutcases then you will love this book. It is about 4 friends who along their teacher stumble upon a mystery hidden in a book that has been dormant for almost 500 years , it will destroy some of them and take the rest into a journey where the spiritual and violence love side by side , alongside with historical references to a mysterious poetess who through letters that were written 500 years ago is communicating to the main character, Nora . Before the end these friends will find out that these links go so deep into what they thought they knew , that they’ll realize they didn’t know anything , not even each other . Highly recommend it for anyone looking for a YA thriller.
Profile Image for Experiment BL626.
209 reviews351 followers
June 3, 2012
CAUTION: Long Review.

I decided to read The Book of Blood and Shadow (TBBS) because reviews described it as the YA of The Da Vinci Code (TDVC). I really liked TDVC so I thought TBBS would be exciting too.

It wasn't.

TBBS and TDVC were similar. I could definitely see why the comparison was made. They both have:
+ a death in the beginning
+ characters framed for crimes
+ characters traveling across Europe for answers
+ characters who know esoteric things
+ a mystery from history to solve
+ secret organizations seeking to silence our heroes
+ a convergent theme of science and religion
+ a betrayal for the ultimate twist
Yet unlike TDVC, TBBS had:
+ a slow pace
+ a lack of suspense
+ a stingy amount of action
+ a weak protagonist
+ a love square
+ an overload of betrayals
It was mildly dull.

The Writing

Passages in the book were bipolar. Sometime they were short and straight to the point, other times they were long and starving for paragraph indentations. In the latter, run-on sentences were the norm. I recall a paragraph where one sentence took up 90% of a 10-lines paragraph.

Moreover, the prose was exceedingly passive. When an action scene was happening, it took me a few seconds to realize there was action going on.

Basically, the book was more difficult to read than TDVC and it was a YA.

The Beginning

With under 120,000 words, the novel separated into four parts. The first chapter of the first part started as the blurb said: one character was dead, one catatonic, one missing. What a horrific and wonderful scene it was for a beginning. The first sentence was:
I should probably start with the blood.
Too bad she lied.

The story actually started with a long flashback that led up to the horrific scene. Part 1 took the readers into the past. Part 2 picked up after the horrific scene, taking the readers back to the present.

I was disappointed. I felt TBBS would have been a stronger story if it began with part 2 and part 1 was told as expositions.

The Characters

+++ Nora, the protagonist

Nora was every bit cliché of a YA protagonist: she was poor, she was plain, she was shy, she was smart. Best of all, she was the chosen one — the "vyvolená."

YA protagonists never have a happy family. Their family are either dead or estranged. In Nora's case it was both. Her brother was dead, her parents grief-stricken, and she estranged from her parents because they're too grief-stricken to care about her. To escape, Nora decided to go to a rich school on a scholarship.

There, Nora immediately caught the attention of the school's prince and princess. The two coolest kids in school soon became the new girl's first friends. The fact that it was the story's different take on the heroine's love interest and rival didn't lessen the cliché. What was prominent was how sudden the friendship occurred. Already, the story began to stretch the limit of its believability.

+++ Chris, love interest #1

He was Nora's love interest #1. She liked him and he liked her but they were incognizant of their feelings for each other. Chris became Adriane's boyfriend instead.

The romance between Chris and Nora should have been done away since nothing ever came out of it. It wasn't used to progress the story or anyone's character development. It only made Nora more Mary Sue-ish.

+++ Adriane, love rival

She was rich; she was pretty; she was popular — she was like Nora's opposite except Adriane was also smart. Adriane was everything Nora wished she could be. She was Nora's only female friend.

The thing that bothered me the most about Adriane was that it took the middle of the story for the reader to find out she was Japanese. I didn't understand why her ethnic background was developed like an afterthought. It almost felt like a lazy way of injecting PoC into a YA.

+++ Max, love interest #2

He was like the male version of Nora because he was shy, he was smart, and he was plain in comparison to Chris. Also like Nora, he never talked about his past. Since the story was told in 1st PoV from Nora's side, Nora wasn't a mysterious character to the reader whereas Max was.

Nora initially saw Max as Chris's creepy roommate because Max stared at her alot and rarely talked. Later, she became his girlfriend which surprised me. I think she only dated him because she need a distraction from thinking about Chris.

Adriane with Chris. Nora with Max. The group of four friends hooked up with each other. It was a bit puke-worthy.

+++ Eli, love interest #3.

He claimed to be Chris's cousin. Similar to love interest #2, love interest #3 was mysterious as well. Chris never mention any cousin and Nora couldn't seen any family resemblance in Eli.

Whereas Max stared at Nora, Eli stalked Nora. It would have been creepy except as Chris's cousin it was expected and sensible that Eli would follow Nora to get his answers. Nora was the only one who knew what happened and wasn't catatonic. Plus she had contact with Max, her boyfriend, the guy suspected of killing Chris.

After part 1, Eli took up Chris's role as the second boy in the group. Though Nora was officially with Max, she was more girlfriend-boyfriend with Eli than with Max. Though Nora never cheated, there was a distinct sentiment that Nora was Max's girlfriend in name.

I didn't understand why Nora just didn't breakup with Max and go be with Eli. Nothing was stopping her.

Ways The Story Sucked

+++ a weak protagonist

For a self-proclaimed smart girl, Nora was kinda stupid. First impressions are generally wrong but Nora's were accurate. The bad part was that she never thought much of them and ignored her instinct.

Nora never asked the questions that should have been asked in the beginning. Not until the obvious smacked her in the face that she finally asked.

+++ over-shadowy antagonists

There were two secret organizations (or cults to put it bluntly): the Hledaci (Seekers) and the Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith). The former wants the Lumen Dei while the latter wants to destroy it.

Though they were the ones who caused all the troubles, they never had a strong presence in the story. Specifically, they didn't feel nefarious as they should have been. The story focused too much on making the cults mysterious than dangerous, hence the lack of suspense.

+++ mystery still mysterious

Everyone wants the Lumen Dei but nobody knows what it does actually. Not even the cults themselves whose existence was all about this object of power. The Hledaci thinks it will bring people closer to God, while the Fidei Defensor thinks it will bring the Apocalypse to the world.

The only thing the two cults shared in belief was that Lumen Dei required Nora because she was the chosen one. But no one knows why exactly. Everything about the matter was based on hearsay and superstition.

The story never described exactly what Lumen Dei was or what it actually did or why Nora was necessary for its operation. This irritated me.

+++ betrayals overkill

TBBS overkilled with the betrayals. It was ridiculous. It showed a lack of creativity for making twist and turn. I desensitized after a few, and their continuous occurrences led me to think less of Nora.

+++ the ending sucked

Nora returned home and that was it. She was back to being lonely, and her family situation probably worsen by her disappearance. There wasn't even the consolation of the extra credit for the dang assignment that set her on the mystery because her professor was incapacitated and their work was stolen.

What pained me was how Nora chose to believe it was over when there was a slight possibility that it wasn't. She didn't learn anything, she didn't grow as a character, and she was back to using denial and avoidance as defense mechanisms.

What was the point of the story then? Oy.

In Conclusion

I rate TBBS 2-stars for it was okay. I recommend reading The Da Vinci Code or any book in that series instead. Even the worst book of that series was better than TBBS.
Profile Image for Books are TARDIS.
165 reviews50 followers
January 17, 2016
“You don't even realize you're living in a before until you wake up one day and find yourself in an after.”

The Book of Blood and Shadow started off as a 5-star read for me. I was won over by our Latin-translating intrepid lead characters. I was equally won over by the mystery of the real-life Voynich Manuscript around which this fiction revolves. I was also in love with the collegiate feel of the first quarter of the story and the quirky friendships between the group.

Once the fantasy mystery thriller part of the story came into focus, my attention started slipping. The plot-twists were kind of over the top. At one point, I was playing this game in my head called: Every Bad Thing that can Possibly Happen will Happen in this Book. Every betrayal and such you can think of will come to pass. This would probably be a great read for fans of "The Da Vinci Code". I was a total black sheep when it came to that book too. Not that the parallels between "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Book of Blood and Shadow" are all that pronounced. It's just the general sense of secret societies and mystery thrillers. I would like to say that I loved the characters. But I wasn't all that convinced by their motivations and reactions, I'm looking at you Adrienne and also at you Nora, for your purposeful ignorance of the things staring right at you. I liked the connection and the parallels between Elizabeth and Nora though. I also loved the descriptions of Prague, it's legends and history. The historical fiction aspect of the book was sufficiently intriguing.

The 450 pages of this book felt too long to me. Like the mystery was taking too long to unravel. As if the characters were just going through the motions of the story. Somehow, something felt missing. But all in all, a very interesting read that had its highs and lows with me. But it was definitely well worth the read.

“Things fall apart. But things don't just fall apart. People break them.”
Profile Image for Jackie "the Librarian".
870 reviews260 followers
December 8, 2012
This wants to be The Da Vinci Code*, full of thrills and chills and teenagers, but it flopped for me.
So, college students in NYC start deciphering old medieval letters, and then violence and a trip to Prague. And creepy hooded guys who know martial arts. (How they can get away with running around unremarked in those monk robes, doing mayhem on anyone getting close to their protected secret thingy, I don't know. You think they'd be less conspicuous in jeans.) And the golem... huh? Because of the alchemy doohicky that lets you talk to GOD. I thought God was always listening anyways.
And then big old flash bang ending with special effects and death, so be careful what you wish for, some things are not meant for us mere mortals to know, . Or something.
Pffft. And, boring. Thumbs down.

*I liked The Da Vinci Code. I like puzzles, okay? Okay.
Profile Image for Tanja (Tanychy).
588 reviews252 followers
September 5, 2015
DNF at page 198.

I should probably start with a lie.
If you look at the synopsis it promises you a Prince Charming, aka Max. But he is all but that.

I should probably end with truth.
This book is full of nonsense if you ask me. They are teens and they are left to their own devices. Parents are absent in general. Police is also there, but like it is not. Adriane is a bit crazy, I mean that girl barley survived, her boyfriend was killed and next thing she does is go to Paris?!? Like really?
Then there is writing. It doesn't fit Nora and her age at all.

I also couldn't connect with the characters at all. Nor the writing for that matter.

It does have a nice parts about Prague. It's history and legends. That part was something that made me wish I could go and visit right away.

Anyhow, I might go back to this one, but not right now.
Profile Image for monica kim.
202 reviews6,072 followers
March 12, 2016
3.5 - This was a fun standalone mystery. Basically, a YA Da Vinci code (except I didn't like The Da Vinci Code and actually enjoyed this). I kept thinking I knew how things would play out, but then it'd throw me for a loop. The author also does a good job of making it reasonable that Nora and co would be the ones to be cracking these codes instead of utilizing the Amazing Teen Genius/Savior trope, which I appreciated. I do wish the ending had been more fleshed out.
Profile Image for Erin Downing.
Author 50 books216 followers
October 11, 2010
I have my hands on this manuscript, and it is gooooood!
Profile Image for Lauren.
1,020 reviews101 followers
April 9, 2012
I am going to admit right from the start that I am never going to be able to give this book enough justice in this review, because it was just that spectacular. The Book of Blood and Shadow BLEW me away from start to finish. It had so many good things going for it: descriptive settings, fully developed characters, a mystery that ceaselessly twisted and turned, and smart, talented writing that puts nearly any other book to shame.

One of the things I loved about this book was how it was slow building. Normally, when a book is slow to start, I become a little put off, but Robin Wasserman made it work perfectly with the story, because not only did she take that time to truly build the characters up, but also even in the beginning the mystery was being strung together, the reader nor the characters just didn’t realize it yet. This leads me to the plot.

The plot in this was kick-a##, no lie. It contained so many twists and turns and surprises that I had no idea where the book was going to end, which made me love it even more. I especially enjoyed how well developed everything was. From the mystery behind the book to the letters Nora translated to the romance she had with Max to the friendship she had with Eli, everything was just perfect to the point where I do not even want to talk about any specific point; because this is one you book you just need to experience on your own. Trust me.

The characters in this were another high point. Nora managed to win me over from the start. She was smart and quiet, yet she was daring and relentless. I loved how dedicated she was to her work with the letters as well as to her friends. Best of all, I loved how seemingly ordinary she appeared throughout, because it truly allowed me to sink even more into the story. In addition, to her character a variety of other ones were introduced a well: Chris, Eli, Max, and Adriane. The former two of the four I loved to pieces. Chris was oblivious in ways that I will not mention, and while they made me angry at times, I still adored his character. Eli was wild to tell the truth. I never knew where his character was going, but I did know one thing: he adored Nora. In addition, it did not hurt that him and Nora had great chemistry as well as tension. Max and Adriane, however, where characters I wavered between liking and not liking. They were secretive and always manipulative, but they still managed to bring a lot to the book.

Lastly, I have to say: Robin Wasserman is an INCREDIBLE author! Prior to this, I have never had the chance of reading anything by her, but boy, if her other books are anything like this one, I need to read them ASAP. I loved how descriptive her writing as, and how it managed to pull me into the settings as well as the characters heads. I especially adored how everything in this book was necessary. They were no fill even with the 400 plus pages, which was just awesome, in my opinion.

The only aspect I did not like about the book was the ending, but it was selfish on my part, because I only didn’t like it because I wanted more. However, from the ending, I have a small feeling there will be more. Hopefully book #2 is on its way.

Brilliant as well as well written, The Book of Blood and Shadow was truly magnificent. It’s one book I can’t suggest highly enough, and come its release, I’ll definitely be talking it up at every chance I get.

Grade: A+
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,206 followers
March 26, 2012
So, to begin this review, let me restate the synopsis: Nora, her best friend and his friend are all working with a professor to break the code and decipher the Voynich Manuscript. Then the professor is attacked, her best friend killed and things go south from there. There is a journey to Europe, hopping from city to city, midnight rendezvous, hooded people and lots of scrumptious danger. Throw in betrayal and heartbreak and you’ve got the marvelously addictive The Book of Blood and Shadow.

Got that? The Voynich manuscript actually exists and a little bit of Googling will give you more information about it.

My purpose is to talk about the book and what a book, you guys. This book is like The Da Vinci Code for young adults. It’s well written, well paced and there are no gaping holes in the logic that makes you stop for a moment and scratch your head. Nora’s voice is strong, relatable and her grief, while sincere, is not the kind that overwhelms you entirely. This is a dense book and takes time to read and absorb but the payoff is amazing.

While the pacing is slow, out of necessity since this is a standalone novel (can we please scream gleefully and pump our fists for a rare addition to standalone novels?) and it needs to develop fully, there is never any moment of information dumping that threatens to overwhelm the reader. I like how the history is interspersed perfectly with the narrative. Also, I like the insertion of humour because it would have been so easy to get swamped with the desperation and grief that follows our protagonist.

I think we need more books of this ilk around in the YA genre. It has not sparkly beings or things that go furry. What it has is a lot of history, a lot of imagination and all of it coheres into a fantastic story that you won’t be able to put down. Recommended.
Profile Image for Eustacia Tan.
Author 15 books256 followers
July 15, 2022
This was a book that I didn’t intend to read. I was scrolling through my TBR list in Libby and saw The Book of Blood and Shadow. The title reminded me of a typical YA Fantasy novel, which I wasn’t in the mood for. I was going to remove this book from my TBR shelf when I read the synopsis and something about it convinced me to give the book a try.

When I opened the book, the multiple-page table of contents and the over 500-page count on the kobo was a little intimidating. So I decided, I’ll just read the first few chapters and I’ll give up on the book and return it.

Instead, I read through Part 1 and met Nora, who in an attempt to escape the grief of losing a brother, uses her latin skills to get a scholarship to a fancy school. At school, she meets Chris, who knew her brother and became her best friend, in the process gaining another best friend in Adrianne, Chris’s girlfriend. We experience happiness as Nora falls in love with Max, the other student in a translation project and finally stops feeling like a third wheel.

And then, everything ends.

Chris is found murdered, Adrianne in a catatonic state, and Max is missing. This is when the story swallowed me, or to be more accurate, when I stopped being able to put the book down. I flew through part 2 of the book: when Nora and Adrianne fly to Prague to find Max; as a mysterious cousin of Chris named Eli tags along; and as the four of them start looking for the Lumen Dei, a machine that’s said to hold incredible power.

All along the way, letters from the past accompany us. Nora was initially tasked to translate the letters of Elizabeth Weston instead of working on decoding the Voynich manuscript and she continues to translate these throughout the book. I loved that we had Elizabeth’s voice accompanying us on this journey, and it dropped enough clues that it propelled the plot forward.

Speaking of clues and plots, the book is FULL of them. It’s not just the mysterious machine, there are cyphers, lots of languages to translate, and of course, the Voynich manuscript that started the whole thing. If you’re into puzzles and mysteries, you’ll probably really enjoy this aspect of the book.

For me, I really loved Nora. The book is told from her point of view and her voice is so likeable. Nora has been made a cynic by grief and parents that never recovered from grief, and one thing that endeared her to me was how she took one of Elizabeth’s letters because she felt that it was private. Her ability to empathise across time and space, even if she tried to be cynical about it, was what made me like her and root for her.

Long story short, I LOVED this book! The length intimidated me at first but I loved everything about it – from Nora, our protagonist and narrator, to Elizabeth’s letters, and of course, the mystery behind the Lumen Dei. I checked Goodreads and it’s apparently pretty controversial, but personally, it’s my cup of tea.

This review was first posted at Eustea Reads
Profile Image for I am Bastet.
92 reviews
March 3, 2012
If you liked The Da Vinci Code or National Treasure, you might like this book. It has a lot of the same kind of searching through history to unlock some tantalizing, buried secret. A bit of that journey relies on heavy coincidences (even heavier than in The Da Vinci Code) and a couple of pretty ridiculous paths filled with clues, but once the mystery gets going, it's not a bad one.

Unfortunately, that historical mystery was the only thing I enjoyed about this book. The beginning was long and failed to engage me. It took roughly 200 pages for me to really become interested in the plot. The writing style was good in some parts, and Wasserman used some neat vocab words, but it was marred by pointlessly long sentences, and I do mean long. Some of them took up entire paragraphs.

The main character, Nora, was inconsistent for me. She was supposed to be emotionally closed off because of her brother's death, which she was. However, for someone that emotionally closed off, she sure did trust people easily. I didn't understand her interactions with people, either, especially not with her friend Adriane. I didn't dislike Nora, but I didn't like her either. Overall I was lukewarm about her, and I didn't much care what happened to her by the end of the novel. While certain betrayals made me a little bit angry on her behalf, I felt the trust that allowed them to be possible in the first place made no sense, so I saw these betrayals as more results of her inconsistent character.

Chris was the only interesting supporting character, but as the back of the book says, he's dead for most of the story. I did like how Elizabeth was made into a character, even though she's dead and we know her through Nora translating her letters. Elizabeth was interesting to learn about, and for the kind of character she was, she was developed very well.

These are only my thoughts. I think others will enjoy this more than I did, people who will probably have an easier time connecting with Nora as a narrator. This isn't a book that I would discourage people from picking up just because I wasn't fond of it.
Profile Image for Kerryn (RatherBeReading).
1,499 reviews93 followers
July 31, 2015
3.5 stars

This book was definitely intriguing!

I really enjoy stories where we are told that an event has taken place, in this case the murder of Chris, and then we go back and we see the events leading up to the crime. And I do appreciate when this is done all in one part of the story without constant time jumps as that can sometimes be confusing for the reader.

I will say though that this story, for me, did get a little bit long winded in parts and also a little bit confusing. I was definitely intrigued as to where the story was going though because as we were building up to what I ordinarily would have thought of as the climax of the book we were only about half way through the story.

I will also say that I did find some of the long letters written by Elizabeth a little hard to get through.

There was definitely a part of the ending that left me just going a bit like 'Whaaaaaaat?!' as it was all a bit strange at the end.

I would like to have been given a little more information as to what happened after the events of the story as well.

I read another review that described this book as a Young Adult DaVinci Code and I think that is a really great description. If you enjoy really twisty and sometimes confusing young adult mystery stories then this is definitely a book for you.
Profile Image for AH.
2,005 reviews370 followers
February 1, 2014
3.5 stars

This is a review of the audio book which I enjoyed over a two week period.

This book would definitely appeal to young adult fans of Dan Brown's DaVinci Code or Angels and Demons. It has a similar premise of a mysterious manuscript, secret societies, and some sort of religious doomsday machine called the Lumen Dei. It also takes place in Prague and the city as a backdrop to the story really adds to the intrigue. Picture young Americans abroad for the first time in a foreign country and in danger from black cloaked bad guys - this gets pretty intense.

After the murder of her best friend Chris, Nora, along with Adrienne, Max and the mysterious Eli go off to Prague to follow the clues in Elizabeth's letters. The story is quite engaging and there's a lot going on.

The reader did a wonderful job. She portrayed a fairly convincing Nora. The Czech pronunciations which would have caused me to trip over my tongue were well done. I also liked that she was able to change her voices for each character.

All in all, this was a most engaging audio book. I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoyed the DaVinci Code.
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 6 books72 followers
August 21, 2016
I discovered Robin Wasserman by accident (with the Cold Awakening trilogy) a couple of years ago, when looking for Scott Westerfeld's books. I haven't read anything by her since then, so I'd forgotten what a fantastic writer she is.

Part of my attraction to this book was the setting. I'm fascinated by Prague, and it's near the top of my list for cities I'd visit if I were independently wealthy and could spend my days traveling. Wasserman certainly does the setting justice: the dual storyline, with the parallelism between 16th-century Prague and the present day, added to my enjoyment.

I'm not a big fan of the current trend to stick a romance in every YA book, but in this book it was woven into the story well enough that it was integral to the plot. The characters have surprising depth, again a tribute to Wasserman's skill. I've heard others draw comparisons to certain Dan Brown books, and that's probably apt, except I would add the qualifier that I enjoyed the writing much more--it often has a poetic quality that you don't find in many fast-paced YA books. Highly recommended!
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