Title: The Book of Blood and Shadow
Author: Robin Wasserman
Genre: YA fiction, thriller
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Emily Janice Card
Audiobook length: 14 hours and 17 minutes
First line: It should probably start with the blood.
Goodreads blurb: 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.
I’ve never read The Da Vinci Code, but I did see the movie, and I have a feeling that this book fits into that genre. It’s got a great book-related, mystical cult mystery at its heart, but it also has fantastic characterization, page-turning action, and a couple of twists that kept me guessing.
The reader starts the book knowing that Chris is dead. Nora, our narrator, then goes back to tell the story of her friendship with Chris and Adriane, and the events that lead up to his murder. We learn about Nora’s translation of the Elizabeth Weston letters, letters that draw her deep into a tangled web involving ancient cults and mystical devices. None of the students working on the translation have any idea of how valuable their work is – until one of them ends up dead, another catatonic, and the third, Max, Nora’s boyfriend, a fugitive.
Nora’s determination to prove Max’s innocence – and find Chris’s true killer – lead her to the historic streets of Prague, in the company of Chris’s cousin, Eli, who may or may not be what he seems. I loved the slow build of learning about Nora’s relationships with Chris, Adriane, and Max, but the arrival in Prague marks the point when I had a hard time turning this audiobook off. As they search from clue to clue, they also find themselves in danger from fanatical members of not one, but two, religious cults – and each clue leads them farther into danger.
The Book of Blood and Shadow is told in first person in Nora’s voice, and Emily Janice Card became Nora as she read. Not only did she bring Nora to life, but she was adept at pronouncing all the Czech words and giving the Czech characters perfect accents.
I have no idea what any of Wasserman’s other books are like, but I will definitely be finding out – and if they’re on audio, read by Emily Janice Card, then that’s even better.