Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

Professor Hoffpauer is obsessed with decoding the mysterious Voynich manuscript that supposedly explains how to create the Lumen Dei, a device that would let some communicate directly with God.  Nora, her best friends Chris and Adriane and her boyfriend Max work with the professor doing Latin translations.  Nora's job is to translate the letters of a girl from the late 1500s, Elizabeth, whose father may have cracked the Voynich manuscript.  Soon Nora begins to realize that Elizabeth is the key to it all.  But there are those who would stop at nothing to get this information, and they're ruthless.  Now Chris is dead, Max is missing and Adriane is catatonic.  With the help of mysterious Eli, Nora makes her way to Prague, where Elizabeth spent much of her life, and begins to put the pieces of the Lumen Dei together.  Literally.

It took a really long time to for this book to get where it was going, and it didn't have to.  I think I would have liked this a lot better if there had been less...I'm not even completely sure.  Just less.  This did not have to be a 352-page book.  Long before the end, I started skimming in places just to get through it.  I was interested in what was happening, and uncovering all the clues and who was going to betray who, but it just took so long for anything of consequence to happen.

There's a lot of drama and betrayal.  Lots of betrayal.  I understood very early on, way before Nora, who's suppose to be pretty smart, that Nora's life was mirroring Elizabeth's letters.  This made sense since she was supposed to be Elizabeth reborn and that's why all the crazy people were after her.  Nora was doomed to be betrayed by the one she loved!  And so she was.  Like, three separate times.  Fool me once etc, etc. And then there was Eli.  Eli, the random guy who randomly gets introduce after Chris is killed and starts following her around everywhere and follows her to Prague and oh,  hmm, speaks Czech and WHY AREN'T YOU ASKING MORE QUESTIONS NORA?

Something that confused me: how did Elizabeth get all her letters back to hide them in various places around Prague?  She didn't know her brother (who she's writing all these letters to) had died until December, but all the letters Nora found hidden were dated before that.  So she must have sent them.  How did she get them back to hide so that we could all learn the story piece by painstaking piece?  That was bothering me the whole time.

Something else that confused me: If Eli's job was to make sure the pieces of the Lumen Dei never are found and put together than why did he want Nora to come to Prague?  Why did he plant the letters to peak her interest?  Why did he insinuate that it was his organizations money not the schools that allowed her to take the school trip that allowed her to slip away to Prague?  Why wouldn't he have wanted to keep her as far away from Prague as possible?  And above all WHY ARE ALL THESE KIDS SO STUPID THAT NO ONE EVER GOES TO THE POLICE?  I know that's an important point in many books.  If you go to the police, where's the story?  But some books do much better jobs at creating legitimate reasons why they don't go to the police.  I was not convinced in this case.  It just felt like they were all being stupid.

Something that pissed me off: of course the legend of the Golem of Prague was going to play a part.  But the version of the legend that was told was like none I had ever heard before.  In this book, the Golem was made by Rabbi Judah Loew to do menial tasks like mopping floors, until the Golem got out of control and almost destroyed the ghetto.  What?  Where the hell did Wasserman get that version from?  The Golem was created for sacred tasks only, and that primarily was protecting the Jewish people from those that wanted to kill them for practicing their religion.  If you'd like a very complete version of the story, you can read it on Google Books: Golem: Legends of the Ghetto of Prague by Chayim Block (the actual story starts on page 64).  You can also just look at Wikipedia for the abridge version.  It's way more accurate than The Book of Blood and Shadow.  I know it's a very small piece of the story, but no one like their religion or culture to be misrepresented, even if it's a legend.

While this isn't going on my top ten list of anything, it was a decent mystery.  Definitely for older YA, as it's a bit dark.

The Book of Blood and Shadow comes out April 10.


  1. Awesome review! I'm reading this one at the moment and liking it so far.

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