Maja (The Nocturnal Library)'s Reviews > The Book of Blood and Shadow

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
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After a promising start, The Book of Blood and Shadow turned out to be my biggest disappointment in 2012. I never expected to have to struggle to finish this book. In fact, when I ordered a copy, I was pretty certain it would find a place among my favorites, but the more I read, the more disappointed I became. I’ll start with the good…

Characters and relationships are Wasserman’s strong point. I loved getting to know Nora, Chris, Max and Adriane in the first part of the book, loved finding out how their friendship developed, adored reading about Max and Nora and those first months of their relationship. It was all incredibly convincing, the slow falling in love, the realization of differences between a best friend and a boyfriend, Nora’s constant questioning of herself and her place in the group, and that moment when she needed to choose whose number to dial in time of trouble. There were so many layers and complications between these four people, and all of them came from great understanding and experience.

It was easy for me to connect with Nora. She squealed when she got a Latin dictionary for her eleventh birthday; when she was sad or lost, she consoled herself with endless declinations and conjugations… in short, she was a linguist at heart, which made her all the more dear to mine. In addition, both our lives were divided into two periods by a huge event and I was able to recognize how, through Nora’s situation with her brother, Wasserman offered her astute understanding and portrayal of a family devastated by grief.

The premise itself is where it all went wrong. It was just too farfetched – the idea that two college boys and one high school girl could discover something a very determined secret society and hundreds of scholars couldn’t, that the said society was willing to kill for the knowledge, but not research all available texts, Elizabeth’s letters included. The codes were too easy to decipher, the riddles were something a child could solve, everything was just a Google search away and finding the pieces of this precious, mysterious machine proved to be almost effortless. I’m not sure if Wasserman couldn’t do better or if she simply dumbed it down for her targeted young adult audience, but either way, I felt almost insulted by the simplicity of it all.

If I were a Czech citizen, I would be unbelievably angry about the way Wasserman described Prague. What she wrote may very well be true about some god forsaken village in the middle of nowhere, where the communist mindset is indeed still very much alive and hygiene is not high on the list of priorities, but Prague is a beautiful city that combines centuries old culture and modern ways, a city that has moved forward considerably in the last twenty years, and her version of it is simply unfair, or at least outdated. If that’s how she sees Prague, I don’t even dare imagine how she would describe Zagreb, or heaven forbid, Sarajevo. Her words were both inaccurate and rude.

The writing suited me, she has a great feeling for rhythm and punctuation and a talent for using short sentences to emphasize her very dry sense of humor. I do hope that Robin Wasserman’s next project will be a nice contemporary YA (or better yet, New Adult), about growing up, falling in love and finding your place instead of another mystery-adventure-The-Da-Vinci-Code-wannabe novel that simply won’t work, just like this one didn’t. Characters and relationships is where her strengths lie, and everyone should just stick to what they do best.

Also posted at The Nocturnal Library
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Reading Progress

05/28/2012 page 71
16.0% ""I hated romance novels, romantic comedies, and moony love songs with equal passion - but I wasn't stupid enough to think I could ignore them. I believed in happily ever after as much as anyone, because Jane Austen, Prince Charming and Hugh Grant promised me it could happen."" 2 comments
05/29/2012 page 220
50.0% "... aaand this is where I totally lost interest in this story. But I will finish. I will!"

Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by Chelsey (new)

Chelsey Oh no! I just got this one.. looking forward to reading your review though!

Catie Ha! Wasn't the ending just...odd?

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Everything was odd except for the first part, a bit insulting too.

Chels, I'll post it on Thursday, It's already written. :)

message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim Excellent review, Maja! Too bad about the book...

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Thanks so much, Jim! It is too bad, especially since I went in with such high expectations.

message 6: by Aa'Ishah (new) - added it

Aa'Ishah Great review! It's a shame you didn't enjoy it, I've been reading good things about it.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Thanks! The majority of my friends liked it too, so defintiely give it a try if you get a chance.

♥Rachel♥ Oh sorry you didn't enjoy this one Maja! I did end up liking this story because of the characters. The descriptions of the locals is what had me pulling my hair out. It was too much for me and dragged the plot down. I skipped pages of it. I can understand how the descriptions would offend if you know them to be so untrue. I have no idea, as I've never been to Prague (I'm dying to go someday) so I didn't pick up on this. Plus, like I said, I had to skip through some of the descriptions or I would've never finished. Great review, my dear. :)

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Thanks, Rachel! Maybe it was true 20 years ago, but not anymore, not even close. And I guess we tend to be a little sensitive about these things (by 'we' I mean countries that have made considerable progress in recent years).
Even without that, this book just wasn't for me.

message 10: by Jo (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jo (view spoiler)

I can't even remember whether that's a real spoiler or whether I've just been comparing it to Indiana Jones so much I've started to think it's actually what happened.


Great review, Maja.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) After a while, those exploding fanatics all start to look the same. Who can blame you?
Ohhh, Indiana... Harrison.... Preferably bare-chested... What were we talking about again?

message 12: by Maggie (new)

Maggie Fantastic review, Maja.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Thanks, Maggie! :)

message 14: by Emma (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emma And I just wrote a review complimenting the author on the description of Prague! Of course I'm probably biased since the horrible Laini Taylor experience, she glamourized Europe so much that anything feels nuanced in comparison.

message 15: by Yinjian (new)

Yinjian Fang Such a bad luck, I chose this book in June and need to write a report. I read the first few pages and it bores me.

frkvinter This is EXACTLY(!!) what I thought about it aswell! I was so exited when I got it and couldnt stop reading, then everything just became so unbelievable silly and I had to force myself to finish it.

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