Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Nora, her best friend Chris, his girlfriend Adriane and Chris' best friend and roommate Max all  are working on a translation project for a professor. Nora is assigned to translating letters written by Elizabeth Weston over 400 years before. What she discovers is a recipe for a machine that is believed to open up channels to God.

This discovery leads to murder, secret brotherhoods and betrayal. When Chris is found murdered in his home, Adriane catatonic by his side in a pool of blood and Max the last person seen leaving the house, Nora is determined to prove Max's innocence in the murder and to put together the puzzle pieces of where Elizabeth hid the parts of the machine(Lumen Dei).

When Max contacts Nora she and Adriane sneak away from a class trip and head to Prague to meet Max. They are followed by Chris' cousin Eli who has family connections in Prague and also has family secrets he is unwilling to share with Nora. From the time they reach Prague they are faced with those trying to protect the Lumen Dei and others that are trying to find it for their own purposes. Nora soon finds that she doesn't know her friends as well as she thinks she does. Hers and Elizabeth's lives seem to mirror each others and betrayal is around the corner for her just as it was for Elizabeth.

My Thoughts:

I found myself comparing this book to a cross between The DaVinci Code and an Indiana Jones movie. It reminded me of The DaVinci Code with the secret sects protecting a spiritual being/object along with lots of supposedly spiritual connotations. It reminded me of Indiana Jones in the fact that once the object was acquired the greedy person seeking the power suffered a grizzly demise of supernatural dimensions. Not to say that being compared to these is a bad thing, but the fact that this is marketed as a Young Adult book had me scratching my head. The writing was fairly technical and also at times hard for me to slog through. If I had a hard time keeping my attention on the text I cannot imagine a teenager staying with it through to it's ending. I have to say though that I did become invested in the characters and continued to read on just to find out what happened at the end.

Pet Peeve:
Like I said, The Book of Blood and Shadow is marketed for 12 and up. I started seeing very early in the book that the author was peppering the story with words that were not common for most adults not to mention middle school grades or high schoolers. This was frustrating for me, but I began to write down each word that I either didn't know the meaning of or knew from the sentence what the author meant, but wasn't quite sure that a YA student would know the word. I then looked these words up after I finished the book. I probably should have looked them up while reading, but seriously, what Young Adult would stop reading during a story to look up a word? So here is my list of words:
Ameliorated-heard of it, but don't use it!
Iterations-never heard of it
Ensorcelled-huh?
Egalitarian-heard of
Disingenuous-heard of
Caesura-never heard
Karass-couldn't even find it when I looked it up
Vertiginous-heard of
Soporific-heard of
Ethos-heard of
Matrices-plural of matrix!
Defenestration-never heard
Inchoate-never heard

Those are just the words that stood out to me. There were other words such as detritus that I knew the meaning of, but is not really a common word. I understand an author wanting to enlighten and improve our vocabulary, but if I had to stop and look up every word then that to me would detract from the story.  And once again this is a Young Adult book, stick with what they know because the unfamiliar will lose them just as it almost lost me.

I received my copy as an ARC from ALA in January 2012. The Book of Blood and Shadow will be published and available for sale in April 2012.

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