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The Shadow Cipher

(York #1)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  3,323 ratings  ·  710 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…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 3.94  · 
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 ·  3,323 ratings  ·  710 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 a copy of Laura Ru ...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.
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
rachel ☾
May 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2-star, rep-poc
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. I think this may ha ...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 rememb
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 are 12.
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 want
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 al
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, alle
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 fro
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 consequences.<
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!
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
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
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.
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...
Dec 19, 2018 marked it as dnf
Recommends it for: Me? Recommend this book? HECK NO.
DNF at 54%

It's rant time


I just....I can't.

I can't do it.

Okay, I DNFed this for two reasons.
1. The loan ended in the electronic library and I couldn't renew it.

Just from #1, I know what you're thinking. You're probably like, "Yasmeena, why couldn't you have put it on hold and continued it later? Or just returned it and borrowed it again?"

I thought the same thing at first. But after thinking abo/>1.
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another book finished within a day... So happy I'm finally able to do a lot of reading again!:) This one was a lot more suspenseful than I expected it to be, and I really enjoyed it. I love when books are centered around some sort of a race to solve a puzzle, especially when that puzzle is embedded in history, and this story, set in the city of New York in some parallel universe, was especially intriguing. I really loved the characters - the main characters' family was so eccentric and quirky, a ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Oh man... this has been a book I’ve been saving as a reward for finishing other books. I really wanted this to be SO cool! The description and word “cipher” led me to believe lots of puzzles for the reader to participate in would be part of the joy of this book, but that just didn’t play out like I had hoped.

I actually thought the setting was very unique but I often found myself confused. The overall idea and writing style was memorable, but I was disappointed by the details along th
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was a very good read. It is about two twins who live in a altered reality of New York. In this world there is robots roaming the streets. An "evil" real estate manager decides to destroy there very old home that there family has lived in for generations. In there insane grandpas old apartment they found a clue to a very old cipher with treasure at the end. The rest of the book they try and find the answer to this mystery. doing so they learn secrets and travel the city with fabulous a ...more
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a brilliant adventure mystery which had me hooked right from the start. I liked all the characters as well as the plot. The setting is great (admittedly I may be biased as I have been to New York a few times and it is one of my favourite cities to visit) and I liked the mystery aspect a lot. It was never too easy to guess and in some cases things were a complete surprise. I am looking forward to the next book.

I gave this one 4 and a half stars.
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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)
“Is your work finished or is it just due?” 2 likes
“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.”
More quotes…