The Book of Blood and Shadows by Robin Wasserman
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.
Nora, her best friend Chris, and her newly minted loverboy, Max have all been working for a crotchety old professor translating a mysterious manuscript and some very old letters. After the professor falls ill, it becomes clear that there are outside forces who want these documents. Unfortunately, Nora doesn’t realize how desperate the situation is until Chris is murdered. The numero uno suspect is Max, who has now disappeared without a word, a call, or any form of communication.
Nora is desperate to find Max, to prove his innocence, and to find the secrets behind these letters she’s been researching, letters which are now beginning to look like clues that lead to long-forgotten societies and beliefs. The main issue here deals with God and His very existence, and the groups who seek to find such answers or to hide them. Nora doesn’t know that she is now in danger and when she and Chris’s girlfriend, Adriane, jet off to Prague tailed by Eli (Chris’s cousin who is searching for his killer. I know! Holy Moley there’s a lot happening here!), it seems she may be walking into a trap laid out by the very people she’s trying to avoid.
All in all, the story is great. Because of some of the religious overtones (they’re light) and the ancient societies duking it out through history over their dogmatic views, the main idea reminded me of Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (despite what many think of him, I found that to be a really fun book). Of course, all of this is weighed out with the angst and swoon of teenage love and with, you know, thinking your boyfriend could have possibly killed your best friend. Le Sigh….not. The author does a great job a lacing the book with letters from days gone by, all offering shrouded clues as to the whereabouts of the answers Nora needs. I don’t know that Nora’s even certain why she needs them, but she urgently pursues them.
All of the characters were fantastic. I particularly liked Adriane and Nora’s relationship, which had that loyal sweetness of girl besties, balanced with a fair share of moodiness, all of which felt authentic given the situation. The early moments with Max are worthy of a mini sigh (although after his reappearance he left a bad taste in my mouth) and there was enough lovely tension between Eli and Nora to keep me interested.
Overall, I really liked this book. I have to admit, I skimmed through some of the letters because at times they felt long, but I thought the story was wonderfully creative. It wasn’t as fast-paced as I’d hoped, but otherwise I liked Wasserman’s style.
Crush Intensity: 3.5/5 It’s a good read. It was very well plotted and thoughtfully done.Totally different from any YA I’ve recently read.