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The Shadow Cipher

(York #1)

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  4,134 ratings  ·  829 reviews
It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining ...more
Kindle Edition, 496 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by Walden Pond Press
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Amanda Reeves I have a couple of topic suggestions:
1. The proposed destruction of historical buildings and what it means to the people who live/work in them.
2. The …more
I have a couple of topic suggestions:
1. The proposed destruction of historical buildings and what it means to the people who live/work in them.
2. The journey to solve the cipher has the protagonists researching some of history's unsung heroes. Did this inspire a curiosity in the reader to find out more about those people?
Hope this helps a little.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.95  · 
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 ·  4,134 ratings  ·  829 reviews

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A wise bookseller friend of mine once said (and I’m paraphrasing here because she bloody tweets too often to locate the precise words), “If you work in a bookstore you are only allowed to invoke The Westing Game three times. The first time I did it for Greenglass House by Kate Milford. The second time will go to Laura Ruby’s York." Naturally a librarian reads something like that and their radar starts beeping like mad. A Westing Game invocation is no small matter. And as luck would have it I had ...more
Ashley Nuckles
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was so so so so so good! The pacing overall was pretty slow, but the story was so interesting that I didn't have any problems with it! Middle grade meets National Treasure: ITS ALL I'VE EVER WANTED!

Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a pretty fun adventure. I loved that Laura Ruby put in a lot of little facts about New York with a combination of fantasy and made up stuff also. It made for a good read with three very likeable three main characters.
rachel ☾
May 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2-star, rep-bipoc
The Shadow Cipher was just… meh. I went into this expecting the National Treasure-like puzzle hunt the synopsis promised - which is one of my all-time favourite tropes, just FYI - but I was completely underwhelmed. It did not tap into its potential. At all! The plot left me desperately wanting more… but not in a good way. The puzzles and ciphers were not nearly as exciting as I would have hoped. The story lacked urgency, drive, something to really pull me into the story and never want to leave. ...more
I'm not the sort of person who refers to books at "tales" or calls myself (or other authors) a "storyteller." I'm a writer. You're a writer. We're writers. Authors or writers.

Except for Laura Ruby. Nope, she's a storyteller. This is a wonderful story, unlike anything you've seen before, and she's telling it to you. I feel the same way about her wonderful, award-winning BONE GAP. Years later I still remember that story. Not the words. The story. This is the same. I don't really remember the words
Amy Bruestle
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had never even heard of this book before, but I won the sequel through a giveaway and wanted to read this one first to better understand the one that I won. And I am glad that I did!

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Awesome book! I actually really enjoyed reading this! Even though it is a young adult book, which I typically stay away from, it was a nice and appreciated change of pace from my normal reading! The characters really came to life in this! I listened to the audiobook version because it was all I had a
First half of this book was eh. Second half was a step up from eh.

The Shadow Cipher is one of those books that has an awesome cover. That's it. The story was interesting but it ended up being a disappointment. I feel like the story building was good, information dumping was eh, and the characters were a bit forgettable. Honestly, I just kept zoning in and out of this book which broke my heart because I was so psyched for this book.

The kids in this book are probably smarter than I am and they a
Jul 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I desperately wanted to be in love with this book. Instead I was just in like with it. (EXCEPT FOR CRICKET. Cricket rocks. I'd read a whole book about the adventures of Cricket and her raccoon-cat. NO LIE.) This book had great world-building and a killer premise. For me though, it had some pacing problems. The cypher search seemed really random, far-fetched, and slow paced for me in the beginning (I would have liked a bit deeper look into the characters in place of the "so then we went here, and ...more
Jul 30, 2019 marked it as to-read
I want to read the book because of this cover... so beautiful <3
May regret (I hope not) my decision later :/
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Absolutely, awestruck WOW.

Middle grade, contemporary, but not our timeline, not steam-punk, but other science, verging on the magical.

Characters were awesome and real, with foibles and strengths. Diverse.

First "real" book I've read in a while. That may have colored my reading of it slightly in the positive. EBooks are great and all, but nothing beats turning real pages and needing an actual bookmark.

Despite wanting to skip to the end to see what happened, I did not, as I wanted to travel
A thrilling start to an epic series! I can't wait to see the final edition with maps!
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Tess and Theo Biederman and friend, Jaime Cruz, live in a Morningstar building in New York City. The Morningstar twins came to New York City in the 1800’s and revolutionized the city with engineering feats, such as solar energy, servant robots, skyscrapers, elevators that don’t just go up and down, but sideways, beetle-machines that clean, and an expansive subway system. Then, they vanished, leaving behind a trail of clues to inherit their secrets. Great world-building, and the three feel compel ...more
Abby Johnson
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book!!
Set in an alternate New York City, three kids race against the clock to solve a cipher designed by the city's greatest architects and inventors, the Morningstarrs. Though it's a hefty tome, this mystery is full of twists and turns as three kids discover a new clue that takes them down a path of alternate clues to solve the cipher. I am not normally a big mystery fan, but I loved the details in the setting - the interesting inventions from the Morningstarrs that resulted in an alternat
Fun and funny and mysterious.
I love the story elements:
-A pair of rich, genius twins, the Morningstars, who created cyphers in the past, many of which remain unsolved
-An alternate world that exists thanks to the Morningstars and all the technologies they created
-the present day Biederman twins Tess
And Theo, who are really smart, and Jaime Cruz, artist and lover of architecture and superheroes
-The evil real estate developer who gets approval from the city to buy the Morningstars buildings, and w
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was fantastic! Great page turner with enough drudgery between to slow down your brain in anticipation of the next clue.

The story revolves around a set of twins and their neighbor trying to solve a riddle to save their apartment building. My summary pales in comparison to the actual novel: the clues, the characters, the magic within. I’m certainly glad there is a sequel.
First a note on the audiobook: the narrator's voice really didn't work for me, and almost turned me off the story completely. I managed by speeding the voice up, which made it far more tolerable. :)

The premise of this middle-grade novel sounded really interesting - if also rather similar to Ready Player One - but opens up into more of a conspiracy magiteck story than a straightforward competition to solve a puzzle for cash. I found the beginning _really_ hard to get into, in part from a feeling
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
SAVE ME FROM SERIES WITH CLIFFHANGER ENDINGS, SOMEONE. I'm knocking off a star just for that.

Otherwise, this is a good fit for anyone who likes The Westing Game (though this isn't quite as smart) or the Kate Milfords: it's a story about kids solving puzzles. There are good motivations in place and appropriately slimy villains; the kids actually run into obstacles, get scared, and find themselves constrained by their parents; a timeline is established and adhered to, so there are real consequenc
Cori Reed
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much fun! I just love Laura Ruby's writing. In this book she makes a lot of changes to New York, but it retains the essence of the city. An awesome middle grade that's definitely worth your while!
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There is a special type of agony in reading a book that you are increasingly enchanted with, with the knowledge that you're not going to get your hands on the sequel for another year, at least.

Such was the case with Laura Ruby's exceptional York: The Shadow Cipher. Ruby has created a fantastic steampunk version of New York, where inventions from the fabled Morningstarr twins, have dominated and ruled the city since 1792. But in 2017, the legacy of the twins - including a cipher, allegedly promis
Renee Godding
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.5 stars

I wish this book would have been around when I was middlegrade age. This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved at that time. This series is a steampunky fantasy story about three kids who embark on a journey through an alternate version of New York, to decipher a century-old puzzle, left by the architects of the city.

Not only does this sound like a very interesting premise, the execution, in my opinion, is pretty great. The characters are exactly the kind that I woul
This was a sweet mystery about three children who want to try and save there apartment. And so Tess, Theo, Jamie, and a big cat go around New York looking for answers. Where no 7th graders should go alone but hey this is there city so who knows.

This book was told in each of the children POV which was easy to get because it was changed for each chapter. The narrator was done by Adam Verner and he did a wonderful job putting a difference between each voice. For a 10 hour audio this one went fas
Brandy Painter
This is an excellent choice for any and all readers who love puzzles, ciphers, and strategic solving of things. As I am not so much a fan of those, the book took me longer to get through than it normally would. The writing is excellent. Ruby knows how to draw in an audience, develop characters, and create meaningful, layered relationships. All of that was definitely my thing. Theo, Tess, and Jaime are all excellent characters and their friendship along with the relationships with their wider fam ...more
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
2nd time reading
This is so much fun to read. I feel like middle grade mysteries are so much fun because the young main characters believe easier in strange things and are more willing to take the next step. There's no romance and kids have an uncanny ability to see through lies, even if adults think they're ignorant. The story plays out well, giving little clues that build up to something bigger. It's exciting and also shows a range of emotions from the kids that I loved. The ending makes me wan
SUSAN   *Nevertheless,she persisted*
This book started out very strong but sort of fizzled out at the midway mark. I wish the author had focused more on the back story,especially Ava's character and her history.
I may read the second book in the series but I will borrow it from the library instead of purchasing it.
Lauren Stoolfire
The Shadow Cipher (York #1) by Laura Ruby is a solid middle grade mystery adventure. The steampunk elements of the story are also quite delightful. My only main issue is that the longer I read, the more I began to lose interest in the overall story. This book definitely didn't need to be almost 500 pages. I think quite a bit of could have been trimmed and the story would have been all the better for it.
I'm putting this aside for now. It could be my mood, but this just seems slow and doesn't really grab me.
Oda Renate
Jan 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-i-own
I had high hopes for this book, but they were not met.
I have read much better mystery books and much better middle grade books.
May 21, 2018 marked it as dnf
I think it's fair to say I won't be picking this up again any day soon. I didn't even dislike it, I just lost interest...
Dude, what fun. And what surprisingly good writing. I love stuff with puzzles and main characters who are siblings and themes of home and cool world-building that is more concerned with telling an intriguing story than making sure absolutely element is detailed and described (if that makes sense).

And I mean. It's an AU New York. OBVIOUSLY I loved it.

Also, just the characters were lovely and realistic and endearing, and it felt really diverse without being forced (the New York City setting help
Completely Melanie
I give this 4.5 stars. I enjoyed this so much that I immediately ordered the next book in the series and I can't wait to read it!
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Raised in the wilds of suburban New Jersey, Laura Ruby now lives in Chicago with her family. Her short fiction for adults has appeared in various literary magazines, including Other Voices, The Florida Review, Sycamore Review and Nimrod. A collection of these stories, I'M NOT JULIA ROBERTS, was published by Warner Books in January 2007. Called "hilarious and heart-wrenching" by People and "a knowi ...more

Other books in the series

York (3 books)
  • The Clockwork Ghost (York, #2)
  • The Map of Stars (York #3)

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“The therapist her parents brought her to see liked Tess to do a lot of drawings. . . . He said, "It's interesting that you drew yourself with this little golden crown on your head. What does the crown mean to you?"

"That's not a crown," she'd told him. "That's a nimbus of outrage.”
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