Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Title: The Book of Blood and Shadow
Author: Robin Wasserman
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Release Date: April 10, 2012
Pages: 432 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher through Edelweiss
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

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.


The power of a good mystery caper through history and literature that takes intrepid investigators around the world and forces them to hide from secret societies that want them dead or otherwise stopped cannot be denied. The Da Vinci Code is evidence enough of this. The Book of Blood and Shadow is easily comparable to the famous novel and will find an audience in the people who love those kinds of stories. Me? Not so much.

It all starts with Nora's night of blood: the night she finds her best friend murdered and his girlfriend practically catatonic next to his body. An exciting novel seems to await the reader, but then the narrative backtracks to a few months before the murders--back when it was Nora, Chris, and Max working with a professor on the mysterious Voynich manuscript.

The hundred or so pages spent just on what happened before the night of blood establish the main players and their personalities, but the effect this backtracking has on the pacing is like dropping a person into a hole two miles deep and telling them to use some kitchen utensils to get out. It takes the novel just as long to get going as it does for the person to climb out of the hole because of the lengthy detour. Is it necessary? I think so. Does that better the pacing of the novel or make the sluggish pacing okay? Not at all.

It's when the plot kicks in and Nora sets off for Prague--which unfortunately takes about half the novel--that Blood and Shadow hits its stride. The intricacies of the Lumen Dei mystery and two societies formed around it, one dedicated to finding it and the other to destroying it, are well-plotted and the novel itself is well-written, if a little bloated. The length was once again necessary for all the ideas and twists going into the novel, but it felt twice as large as it was. Few twists couldn't be seen coming one way or another; fewer still packed the punch that all good twists do. As compelling as Nora found the mystery, I can't say I felt the same way.

I found the story of Elizabeth Weston, the poet whose letters and accounts of her work on the Lumen Dei lead the way for Nora and company, more interesting than Nora's own story. More intelligent, more compelling, more lively despite the whole "being dead" misfortune--she's overall more interesting than Nora was ever able to be. I became impatient for Nora to get back to Elizabeth's letters and reveal more of the original search for the Lumen Dei.

The Book of Blood and Shadow is best suited for adventurous readers with a taste for the mysteries of the past and an endless amount of patience for novels that take a while to get where they're going. A quick read this is not, but a fascinating read it most certainly is.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: Dark Kiss by Michelle Rowen


  1. Hahaha, sorry, I keep commenting because we seem to have the exact same rating for a lot of books, and I'm like "YAY, LIKE-MINDEDNESS!" And now there's this one, where I gave it the same rating but for the opposite reason XD

    I really like the first part! I thought it was very intelligent and mysterious and intriguing, I loved that we got to go back and learn about the characters, and see them interact and come together over this mystery. I never wanted that part to end - or, at least, I wanted the second part to be less of an abrupt switch in style and tone?

    The second half was the more cliche and problematic, to me. The twists are so obvious, Nora wanders in to TSTL territory for not noticing, and it's just such a twist-for-twist DaVinci Code knock-off! The writing seems to get a little worse, too.

    Ah, well, at least part of it was good, huh?

    1. Oh, I don't mind a bit! People rarely comment on my reviews and your comments all of a sudden make me feel loved. <3

      I liked the first part and how the characters interacted in it, but as fun as it was, it made the pacing suffer in my eyes. I vaguely registered Nora's TSTL moments. I think my desire to get the book over with (my galley of it had one day left on it and I wanted to finish it since I was so close to the end) kept me from really recognizing them, though.

      At least part of it was good, yes. It could have been much worse. It could always be worse.

  2. Really interesting review, sounds like this is a book I would really enjoy.


I love hearing what others have to say about books and it makes me feel less like I'm talking to an empty auditorium, so comment away. Thank you for reading my blog post!