The Book of Blood and Shadow
Published April 10, 2012 by Random House Children's Books
Review copy from NetGalley
Think The Da Vinci Code with teenagers: mysterious artifacts, ancient writings, codes, murder, secret societies, and international travel. Only where I was slightly bored by Dan Brown's novel, I loved Robin Wasserman's. The writing was excellent, the story enthralling, and the characters individual and believable.
Nora, our narrator, is not really a typical teenager. For one thing, she knows more Latin than your average Latin teacher thanks to her father the Latin professor. It's how she got the research assistant job at the local college despite the fact that she was a senior in high school. For another, her brother is dead. After his car accident, Nora's parents retreated to their own corners of the world, and she would have done just about anything to escape her family and her old school. And that's how she ended up at a new school, best friends with Chris and later his girlfriend Adriane.
The way Nora reacts to everything that happens to her is very real and very Nora. The writing matched perfectly with her personality, and with her as a narrator, I was never bored or distracted. The supporting cast was also very good, and they seemed like real people rather than characters.
I also particularly loved the way this book handled faith. It was a necessary component of the story, considering they were searching for a device called the "Light of God," but the book came across as neither pro- nor anti-religion. The characters' discussions on the subject came to no real conclusion, but they brought up many good points on both sides.
Now would be the point where I could talk about the plot, but I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say that it was suspenseful as well as both surprising and inevitable. If you think this book might appeal to you, I highly recommend you read it. If you're put off by the YA aspect, don't be – the characters and the writing are mature and the book deals with complex and difficult issues. Overall a great book, and I'll be hunting down the rest of Robin Wasserman's works in the near future.
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