Released: January 19th 2012
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.
But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead. His girlfriend Adriane, Nora's best friend, was catatonic. 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. (from Goodreads)
The Book of Blood and Shadows was the kind of book that completely messes with your head. I started it not knowing much about the story, and by the end, all I could think was “...”. The mystery was so carefully constructed and layered and cryptic, I had no idea what to expect! There were a lot of twists that I didn’t see coming, and I realised after I finished the book that all the hints were there all along – I just never really noticed while I was reading. After though, I looked back and saw that clues were all cleverly interwoven – in characters’ mannerisms, in the letters – everything was there, waiting to be put together.
From the summary of the book, I knew from the beginning that Chris, the best friend of the main character (Nora), was going to die at some point in the book. Since I knew Chris was going to die from the start, I thought he’d just be in a few memories and things and that I wouldn’t get to know much about him. This was not the case. Chris was my favourite character. He was so funny and likeable – the cheeky, charming type you just can’t help but smile at. I adored him, and I was devastated when I read about his death, despite the fact I knew he’d die. It’s like we were presented with this amazing, loveable character that we immediately get attached to, just to have him taken away! It was so unfair, because he didn’t deserve what happened to him. The worst thing was that I actually tried not to like him too much, just so I wouldn’t be upset when he died. That just didn’t work. It was a smart move on the author’s part though, because I was just as anxious as Nora to find out who murdered Chris, and so I felt a lot more connected with the story. I wanted justice for him! If you decide to read this book (which you definitely should), beware. Because I assure you the same thing will happen to you.
Nora was a great main character. I liked her because she wasn’t perfect. She could be selfish and harsh, and had a tough time dealing with difficult and hurtful situations, but she was determined and a good friend to Chris – willing to go through anything to find out who killed him and why. She didn’t give up easily, and she was always looking out for the people she cared about. At times, she was a little naive, but after everything that she’d gone through, I think she just wanted something good to happen in her life, and so maybe overlooked a few things so she could have that happiness. I could relate to that, and I think it was quite easy to understand and see things through Nora’s eyes. One of the most intriguing parts of the book was actually Nora’s connection to Elizabeth, a girl from the sixteenth century. Nora was in charge of translating some letters written by Elizabeth from Latin into English, and while she was initially reluctant, the more she found out about Elizabeth, the more fascinated she became. There were strange parallels between the two, and Nora found herself becoming more and more concerned with Elizabeth’s life. I loved reading all the letters – they provided a look into life in those times and also played a part in the whole mystery that Nora was trying to unravel.
Eli, the sort-of-love interest, was another excellent character. I kind of loved him from his first appearance, and even though later on it was clear he was hiding something, I still wanted Nora to trust him because he seemed to actually care about her. He always tried to help her, beyond what was necessary, and he listened to her and actually took her opinions into account, unlike Max (Nora’s boyfriend), who I struggled with from the beginning. Eli was also hilarious, and I loved the way he spoke to Max – he was so sarcastic and always managed to annoy Max (yay!), it’s no wonder the two didn’t get along. He was more astute than Nora in some ways, and often saw things she missed, which made him a lot more sceptical. I liked that about him though because it showed he wasn’t easily fooled. His scenes with Nora were also amazing; they could range from funny and witty to serious and moving and I enjoyed every one of them! I do wish there could have been more. Possibly my favourite part of the whole book was an Eli and Nora scene. All I’ll say is look out for Jack Brown and Ella Weston, because they will crack you up.
Max and Adriane (another one of Nora’s friends, and Chris’s girlfriend) were probably my least favourite characters. I didn’t really like Max from the start, though I’m sure he would have appealed to a lot of other people. He was the moody, quiet loner type, but to be honest I found him to be a bit wet and whiny and I don’t know. I just didn’t feel his connection with Nora. Adriane I just found annoying and too persistent. She could be nice at times, but eh.
Plot-wise, whoa. I had no idea what was going on. There were some things that actually shocked me. My mind was just going “WTF” over and over trying to process it all. But it wasn't just random twists thrown in there for the sake of it, everything was cleverly connected, which I liked. I also loved the fact that the story relied on translating a lot of ancient texts. We got to see into a whole other world that most people will never experience, and I personally found that to be really interesting. The writing style really added to this as well; it was a little different to usual but I really enjoyed it and helped up all the emotions and mystery. My only problem was probably the ending, which I felt got a little too far-fetched. There was no real explanation as to what happened and why and I felt a little cheated that I’d gotten that far and never found out the entire truth. However, the book as a whole was enjoyable and I don’t think the ending had too much of an effect on it.
Overall, The Book of Blood and Shadow was a chilling read with a touch of romance and a mystery you don’t want to miss.