Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow - Robin Wasserman

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
Genre: YA, adventure, mystery
Published on April 10, 2012
Published by Knopf Books
Pages: 432
Read From: 2.1.13 - 2.9.13

Nora's best friend, Chris, is dead. His girlfriend, Adriane, is catatonic. And Max, Nora's sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, is gone. He is 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, wherever 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 - and 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.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? No. There’s a leering face - a very big leering face, I might add. The title of the book is what got me to pick it up.

Characters: Nora has good humor and for a modern girl, seems to appreciate history and antiquities. But I didn’t really care about her. I didn’t dislike her, and I didn’t wish her dead, but I just didn’t care. Adriane was okay, but she was way too much of a modern girl, and she always acted like she was only friends with Nora because Nora was friends with Chris, Adriane’ boyfriend, so she kind of had to put up with Nora. For about five seconds, I liked Max, but then something about him began to bother me, and then for the rest of the book, I didn’t trust him. But I did like Eli. To Nora, his treatment of Max was rude and uncalled-for, but I happened to share Eli’s suspicion of Max, so I didn’t fault him for his behavior. I didn’t get irritated at Nora’s continued distrust of Eli (he was a stranger, after all), but after a certain point, I did want to tell her, “Look, he’s trying to help; he had good reasons for not telling you.”

The Romance: Max and Nora are dating. Then Nora meets Eli. And while Nora doesn’t immediately go head-over-heels for him, she does begin to feel a little confused about how she feels about Max, and can’t help but notice Eli’s good looks, and then Max gets all jealous and starts acting like a jerk, and Adriane doesn’t help matters, either. Surprisingly, though, all of this doesn’t get in the way of the adventure as much as one might think.

Plot: Finally, a plot that promised secret societies - and actually delivered! The story begins slow - very slow, - and doesn’t pick up until 100 pages in. But I can’t say that I would advise the Author to get rid of the first 100 pages, because she uses that time to introduce character relationships and how this led to that, and it’s all important to the plot. So bear with the first 100 pages, and then the exciting stuff begins: murders, cryptic messages, secret societies, an ancient artifact, chases, and the mysterious city of Prague. My only real complaint about the storyline is that it took place in the wrong era. It ought to have taken place in the 1940s, so there could be Nazis. Every adventure story that has ancient artifacts rumored to have supernatural powers needs Nazis. Then it would have been perfect. Putting my idealistic opinions of what adventure stories need, I do understand how some aspects of the story would not have worked if it had been put in the 1940s. I did enjoy the plot. Some of the surprises are predictable, but they are still good twists, and it’s just hard not to like an adventure story with codes and clues and secret societies.

Believability: With an ancient artifact rumored to have supernatural powers, one might expect things to get a little weird. But it actually doesn’t. While the machine - the Lumen Dei - does something, it’s never explained if what happens is due to supernatural powers, or was just the result of a bunch of dangerous chemicals mixing together. And it worked.

Writing Style: For once, I am complaining about long sentences. It’s very difficult to pull off successful long sentences. Unfortunately, this Author didn’t manage it too well, and the initial point is lost. There’s a ton of Latin and Czech used in this book, with no glossary or pronunciation guide. But the Author does a very good job with in-text translations, and she translates most of what is said in Czech. That is, I’ll admit that after a while, I got a little tired of having to skip entire sentences because it was written in a language that I didn’t even know where to begin with proper pronunciation. At least with Spanish and Italian - and sometimes German - you can kind of guess at how it’s pronounced.

Content: 3 s-words

Conclusion: I always hate it in adventure stories when either the artifact everyone is after is never found, or they find it and then it does nothing. There is no such disappointment in this book, and it still somehow manages to not take a weird turn. Some of the events in the end are, perhaps, a little convenient, but you can’t have too many complications in an adventure story. The end, actually, is rather bittersweet, and if Adriane hadn’t deserved what she got, I might have felt a little sorry for her. Overall, The Book of Blood and Shadow was an entertaining enough adventure story. I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters, except Eli, but the plot was engaging enough that I didn’t mind too much. The only thing missing was Nazis.

Recommended Audience: Guy-and-girl read, fifteen and up. Readers who like adventure stories similar to Indiana Jones (only without the Nazis) and Tintin will enjoy it.

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