Lainey's Reviews > The Book of Blood and Shadow

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
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's review
Mar 03, 2012

really liked it

I've been interested in this book since making it to some "Coming in 2012" lists and after reading the PW review. And on the whole, I wasn't disappointed. It was more like The Historian for me than any of Dan Brown's stuff. And I liked The Historian.

Stuff in the book that deserve my stars:
- Nora, the protagonist, is smart and has an actual interest in the world around here. A lot of times when a book is set in a foreign country/major tourist destination like Paris or Prague, all the MC talks about is how it makes her feel and how it compares to all the other places she's been. It's all about her (one of my gripes with Anna and the French Kiss). Nora is interested in Prague's history and heritage not because it has anything to do with her but it's is just interesting. Okay, so they're in Prague on some sort of mission so there's a lot of hiding out involved and sneaking around and following clues to ancient castles but the author manages to get Nora thinking about these places just as they are and not because they're one more step to her mission.

- Prague! Okay between this and The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I have to get me to Prague. In general I like books that involve travel especially places whose stories I'm interested in. By having the major action of the book in Prague, this book automatically gets a star from me.

- The friends. Except Max. So I mentioned how I like Nora but her friends make the whole story better as well. It's not just her who gets brilliant ideas and figures out clues, her friends also lead them to valuable insights.

- The God debate. A couple of times in the book Nora and two guys argue about the existence of God and faith vs. science. I liked that it was there and it felt right that they would argue about something like that as opposed to just something random that the author dropped. Nora doesn't believe in God because of her brother's death. The two guys believe in God (view spoiler) but they also have some difference whether believing is better than knowing.

Things that I wish were done better:
- The letters. The plot is driven by letters written by Elizabeth from the 16th century who is the daughter of an alchemist. Each of her letters lead to a clue. Elizabeth is a dukk narrator and she is forced to make vague references because of the nature of her work so the placing of her letters in the middle of the action gets tedious. Nora and her friends are sneaking off and running around Prague for her letters then suddenly the action stops and we get Elizabeth's narration.

- Max. Ugh, I disliked him the minute Nora says he quotes love poetry to her instead of saying his feelings in his own words. It's so pretentious. I dislike that Nora chooses to stay with him and trust him when there are clearly so many things he's not telling and he just seems like a very suffocating person to be around. I dislike even more that she makes excuses for him. Eli, one of guys in the book, makes a good point when he says that is not what Nora should be doing even if she loves him.
(view spoiler)

- (view spoiler)

- The whole point of the plot. Okay it seems odd that I gave this book four stars when I actually disliked the whole point of their mission. Well yeah it's interesting at first when you're intrigued as to what this great machine they're looking for is. That is until you realize that no matter what it is, it's bound to be a disappointment because everyone in the book has already set some very high expectations. One modern-day character actually thinks the machine will end wars and poverty. Living in the twenty-first century, he should know better. Then we get the reveal of what it actually is and it's a big disappointment. The story of looking for this *thing* and the history associated with it is more interesting than the thing itself. So I've compared this to The Historian and what I liked about that book was the whole journey to the Balkans and finding out the history of the narrator's mother. We know they weren't after some Holy Grail and they just want answers. That's the part I liked about this one too--the quest was better than the "Grail".

- The secret societies. (view spoiler)

- Not an actual drawback but I wish this were a series! I know, another YA trilogy. But a lot of YA trilogies I've been reading lately aren't nearly as good as this one. And Nora is a nice change from the cookie-cutter heroines floating around. Her special skill is Latin and she really does not have boys fall over her, she doesn't have any super-special powers (her being "the chosen one" only happened because she was in the right place at the right time, or wrong place depending on how you look at it). (view spoiler) I'd willingly read more books on Nora.

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