Author: Robin Wasserman
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery
Release Date: April 10, 2012
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository (Hardcover) | Bookdepository (Paperback)
Read from April 9 - 16, 2012
Summary: It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and a boyfriend she adored. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands. Chris was dead. Adriane couldn’t speak. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer. Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.
I should probably start with the blood.
The Book of Blood and Shadow is a love/hate for me. I'm going to be extremely honest here because that's the only way I know to write a review. I hated it, folks, but I also really liked it. It was a struggle for what seems like half the book. A lot of struggle, in fact. It took me a week to finish it, if that's any indication. The first five days reading it were a torture, and I was desperate to give up. You might wonder why I didn't abandon it for good. Well, the reason as to why I held on for so long was because I'm a chronic book finisher, not because I believed something good would come out of this book. I rarely ever give up on books. I persevered. I pushed myself, forced myself to go on, and at the same time whined about how bad it was. I was ready to write an extremely negative review.
However, the second half came as a huge blow. It was so good I couldn't put it down. It kept me up until dawn and kept me on the edge of my seat. Se mysterious, so exciting. So full of suspense! I don't understand why the first half has to be so bad when the second half is this good. I asked myself whether I could forgive that. The answer is no. It's totally not cool to write a book that's a torture to read, even only half of it, for that matter. Books should always be enjoyable. It shouldn't have to make readers push that far in order to get to the good parts. This I cannot forgive.
I can't tell you how glad I was to discover that it wasn't just me. I've seen quite a few readers give up on this book because of exactly the same reasons. I'm going to tell you now, so that you can decide for yourself whether you'd want to read it or not, in case you haven't yet. Please note that these are my personal honest opinions and a lot of readers don't necessarily feel this way about the book. Here we go. The first half of the book (200 something pages) was a torture for me for these reasons. First, nothing is really happening. I swear, it's true. How can it be that nothing happens in 200 something pages, right? Well it turns out it can. Nora Kane, the main character, talks about her being assigned to translate a dead girl's letters from Latin to English and complains that she deserves a much more exciting assignment than that, blah blah blah. She talks about her dead brother whose significance I still can't see, about her dysfunctional family, about things that don't add up to the story and I wondered why she even tells, about her best friends Chris and Adriane and their getting together, and about Max and her. She annoyingly repeats and reminds me that Chris is dead. I mean, girl, I get it the first time you mention it, now stop. Her translation of the letters is the only thing significant in the first half of the book. Hmm... It really shouldn't have taken that many pages.
Second, I didn't feel connected to the characters. What's more, I couldn't even keep track of who's who! It was frustrating! At first I thought Chris was Nora's brother, and then I thought he was her boyfriend. It didn't make sense. The author presents you with characters but doesn't tell you about them when the name first comes up. It's like: Chris is dead. And then the narration moves on. I was like, what? Who the hell is Chris? And then Nora talks about her brother and that led me to thinking Chris was her brother. Ugh. I had to go back to page one, guys, to reread. It was that confusing. Not only Chris, but other characters as well, like the Hoff. You had no idea how many times I pulled my hair and wanted to scream. Although I don't remember it very clearly, I think too little background information about each character is provided. That's why I felt like they were kept at arm's length away from me. I couldn't get to them. Man, I didn't even like Nora. I'm not even sure if I like her now. I didn't care about any of them. Okay, maybe I cared about Chris, but it didn't last long, 'cause as Nora often reminds me one too many times: He's dead.
The last infuriating thing about the first half of the book is the writing (it is much better in the second half). So many things I didn't like about it. 1) As you might have guessed, the first half is tremendously slow-paced, if not no-paced at all. I found myself bored out of my mind and put it down far too many times than I cared to count. It was that boring as nothing's really happening. 2) The sentences are pointlessly long. Like, REALLY long. Friggin' I-forgot-how-it-started-and-I'm-so-lost-I-wonder-where-it's-gonna-take-me long. Much longer than they really need to be. There are a lot of dashes interrupting a sentence and when the interruption ends I forgot how the sentence started out and therefore the part after the dash made no sense to me. There's also the issue with the commas. Can't they be written in a new sentence or something? Having to re-read can be very frustrating. 3) What's with all these dependent clauses floating alone? Annoying. 4) Some chapters seem never-ending, while some only contain no more than three lines. WHY? Weird huh.
Wow. I don't know what came over me hahahaha. That's long. Anyway, despite these long harsh complaints aka the hate, there are also good things about this book aka the love. Funny how I spent the first five days hating it only to spend the last two days on the edge of my seat. I won't take back what I said because it's true, I really hated it, but you have to know that I really liked it at the same time too. There is only one reason as to why: The second half of the book is EXTREMELY EXCITING, as opposed to the first half. Guys, I am serious. I don't recall with which incident things started looking up, but it was on page 222 that I first realized it was getting better.
I'm clueless how to define my EXTREMELY EXCITING... Um... Let's say it's full of mystery and suspense. You don't know what's going to happen next. The thrilling adventure in Prague might just be the only good thing about this book, but it suffices. There are a lot of unexpected turns of events. The discovery of new clues only make the story more unpredictable. The action-packed plot is complicated and I have to admit I don't always understand it and catch up with it, but the excitement makes up for that.
I guess this is the end of this review. As I said earlier, it's a love/hate for me. Although it looks like I'm better at saying negative things than positive, and I suppose it's true, I assure you that the good part is definitely worth reading. However, I can't say if it's worth it to push through the bad part just to get there. You have to decide that yourselves. ;) It's such a shame that The Book of Blood and Shadow doesn't start off well. I wish I could say the good part makes up for all of the bad one, but I really can't. The torture was really too much. If I were to recommend this book to anyone, it would be the second half of the book that I would want them to read.