Monday, April 23, 2012

Making Latin Translation Sexy & Scary Again: The Book of Blood & Shadow by Robin Wasserman

"I should probably start with the blood." After all, there was so much blood on the night that Nora's suddenly perfect life crumbled and twisted into a nightmare.  Before that night, Nora had two best friends.  She had a fresh new storybook romance of her own.  She was working on a senior year independent Latin project at the local college with a quirky professor and one of her best friends, Chris, now a college freshmen.  Everything in Nora's life was finally falling into place.  Now Chris is dead and  his girlfriend and Nora's other best friend Adrienne has withdrawn into a state of catatonic shock.  Max, Chris'  sweet and nerdy roommate and Nora's new boyfriend, has disappeared and the police are convinced that he's the killer.

Determined to prove that Max is innocent, Nora begin to immerse herself in the strange occurrences and cryptic clues surrounding the Book of Blood and Shadow--the mysterious manuscript at the center of their shared research project.  Nora's search for the truth leads her deep into a dark world of ancient secrets spanning centuries of bloodshed and terror as she traces the clues hidden in another desperate young woman's centuries old letters across the ocean and into the twisting street of Prague.

This new novel has been described as the YA Da Vinci Code and rightfully so.  Full of mysterious documents, hidden history, elaborate codes, secret societies, and thrills & chills galore, The Book of Blood and Shadow has all the necessary pieces for an excellent intellectual thriller.  However, Wasserman goes several steps further than just gathering all the pieces;  she's combined those pieces with interesting characters, rich description, and elegantly built suspense.  It has all the compulsive readability of The Da Vinci Code but with better writing and more sexy, on the spot Latin translation.  Nora is a smart, sarcastic, and fierce narrator.  Her relationships with Chris, Adrienne, and Max are complex; she consistently keeps an emotional distance from both Chris and Adrienne yet remains intensely loyal and somewhat dependent on their threesome's stability--especially after Chris' murder.  Her romance with Max is sweet and thrilling, which makes the confusing web of revelations about him and his potential involvement in the Book's mysteries even more emotionally fraught. Elizabeth Weston, the stepdaughter of a medieval alchemist who devoted his life to decoded the mysteries within the Book, emerges as an equally fascinating character through Nora's revelatory translation of her letters.

I was immediately drawn into the story, both by the appealingly human characters and the ever increasing mystery.  The plot was full of twists and turns that kept me guessing right up to the final page.  I would heartily recommend The Book of Blood and Shadow to readers of intellectual thrillers and mysteries (such as The Da Vinci Code), especially Latin students and Indiana Jones fans.  

4/5 STARS

*review written based on an advanced e-galley obtained from the publisher via Netgalley

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