Robin Wasserman's The Book of Blood and Shadow was already on my short stack when I read this at Chasing Ray:
"If you're looking for a great escape this summer, you absolutely have to pick up Robin Wasserman's recent thriller The Book of Blood and Shadow. Comparisons have abounded to Dan Brown's juggernaut The Da Vinci Code (I would also make the case for The Eight by Katherine Neville) ..."
There was more, of course, but those two comparisons from Colleen Mondor were enough for me to decide to read it next. And I'm glad that I did. The Book of Blood and Shadow is an intelligent, suspenseful thriller that happens to feature a teen protagonist. Honestly, it didn't feel much like a young adult novel to me - I think that it could easily have been published for adults, and that it holds plenty of adult crossover appeal. It certainly kept me reading late into the night (no small feat these days!).
The Book of Blood and Shadow begins with the grief of high school senior Nora over the murder of her best friend, Chris. Nora's tale then moves backward, to the events leading up to Chris' death, and then forward, as Nora embarks on a quest for understanding. The plot hinges on a 700 year old coded book, a series of four hundred year old letters (written in Latin), two secret societies, and multiple alchemists. The first part of the book is set in New England, the later part in Prague. There's a compelling mix of careful research and desperate action.
Nora is a well-developed character. Her parents were broken by the death or her reckless brother six years earlier. Chris and his girlfriend Adriane form a substitute family of sorts for her (to which Chris' roommate Max is eventually added). She bears the scars of her family trauma, but still wants to see the best in the people she loves. She is wryly witty, with realistically low self-esteem. Like this:
"I'd never understood girls like her--as in literally couldn't comprehend how they achieved perfection by seven a.m., hair sleek and dry, lip gloss and mascara and foundation and the variety of cosmetics of whose existence I remained unaware masterfully applied, accessories matched to sartorial selection matched to freshly polished nails. Whereas I inevitably showed up to school late, with tangled, wet, and, several months of the year, frozen hair tucked into a lopsided bun, my socks mismatched, and, on truly special occasions, some hastily applied drugstore foundation that couldn't disguise the fact that my nose was slightly too big for my face." (Page 15-16)
"It's not often you get the opportunity to casually destroy something of value. When you're a kid, there's always a new tower of blocks to knock over, another Barbie to microwave. When you grow up, they take away your toys." (Page 18)
"This is how it happens, I thought as the doctor slid the clipboard into its holster and escaped. You don't even realize you're living in a before until you wake up one day and find yourself in an after." (Page 86)
As you can see from the passages above, The Book of Blood and Stone does have a certain maturity of grammar and vocabulary. It is not a quick, light read. The plot moves back and forth in time (not literally, but via letters), requiring readers to pay close attention to multiple strands of story. The tone is generally dark. But for those willing to invest some time and mental effort, it's a rewarding book (and a fascinating window into modern day and historic Prague). I recommend The Book of Blood and Shadow for teens and adults who are looking for a well-written thriller that will make them think, and take them away to new places.
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: April 10, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).