Prague is currently a popular setting. Or maybe it has always been and I never noticed? Whatever the case, The Book of Blood and Shadow is the third book in a row I’ve read in the past month that has dealt with Prague. Let’s just say while I think Prague is a fascinating city, I’m a little hesitant about booking a trip to such a haunting city anytime soon. That probably wouldn’t delight a Czech tourism committee, but should make the authors, particularly Robin Wasserman, happy since she effectively brings modern and sixteenth century Prague simultaneously to life while weaving a thrilling story full of mystery, history and intrigue.
The Book of Blood and Shadow follows Nora, a high school senior, whose best friend, Chris, convinces her to join his research group for a likely senile professor to earn some college credits. The group is there to translate some letters from Latin into English, in order to better understand a mysterious manuscript that for centuries scholars have been trying to figure out. There she meets Max, Chris’ sort of weird roommate; and immediately they take a liking to each other. However, a tragic event occurs that completely shakes up Nora’s world, and it’s apparently linked to the very research they’ve been working on. Nora’s search for understanding and justice leads her across the Atlantic to find the answers and the truth in the city of Prague.
The book begins with Nora talking vaguely about the tragedy and then backtracks so we can see what events led to it. That gave the beginning a slow start, only because I really wanted to know what happened. Yet, the leisure pace did give us a chance to know Nora and the other characters, especially Max. Post-tragedy, the story picks up the pace, and the characters are finally in Prague, trying to find answers. The faster pace kept it engaging, despite the fact that I was waiting for certain things to happen. A couple things were predictable; usually that’s something that makes me feel restless. There are points that I did a little restless, and I kept thinking “Come on, Nora! It’s SO obvious.” But as I said, the pacing really helped me forward and away from feeling restless. Also, the majority of it was veiled in mystery. Figuring out the characters’ real motives was pretty impossible. Not only was Nora in a rather complicated and unbelieving situation in a completely foreign country, but she’s not sure who to even to trust. On top of that, the whole historical fiction aspect of it was so well-fleshed out and integrated into Nora’s story, it’s impossible to not become engrossed with a story like this.
The Book of Blood and Shadow definitely gets you thinking. The ending is just so distinctly Nora, and I find it a bit rare when an ending reflects the main character so well. I mean, I feel like many stories tack on an end that is quite out of character (or out of nowhere) just to give us a happy ending or huge (and unnecessary) cliffhanger. This book ends at the right moment. You can’t tell if there will a sequel or if this is just a standalone book. I feel whatever the answer is to that, I’ll feel both relieved and disappointed, which I find awesome because I’m kind of a weirdo like that.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Publisher: Random House Children Books (April 10, 2012)
Length: 448 pages, Hardcover
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Mystery, History, Thriller, Romance
Completed: April 2012