"But things don't just fall apart. People break them."
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.
The title really jumped out to me. Just enough vague creepiness in it to interest me, I guess. And now that I've read it, I don't think the author could have picked a better name for the book.
I'll probably sound clichéd saying this—I know I've heard it myself numerous times—but this was a book that had my full attention from the very first sentence. I don't think there's any other reaction when you're started off with a book like this:
"I should probably start with the blood."
Possibly my favorite opening line—ever. It definitely started the book off with the creepiness I was looking for. And the book keeps the horrific aspect up throughout the story; not through means of ghosts or other haunting creatures, but through real life horrors: death, betrayal, distrust, loss. This isn't any old lighthearted read.
The Book of Blood and Shadow1 has a good deal of history woven into the plot, and unlike most of the stuff I learn in school, these are really interesting topics. The Voynich Manuscript for one: a book completely written in unknown language and script that not a single expert in dozens of years of trying has been able to crack. I actually stopped reading the book at parts so I could google things brought up in the story.
I have to comment on the characters, too—because this is an intensely complex cast we're given. I can't remember the last time I judged a character from the first scene they appeared in, and didn't have them follow my expectations for them the rest of the book. Max, Adriane, Chris, Eli: I never knew who was out to get Nora and who was watching her back. It was insanely infuriating, and, I would suspect, completely the reaction the author was looking for. You're along with Nora for the ride; and you're freakishly paranoid that everyone is out to get you right along with her.
But don't take this review to mean it's all drama and paranoia. Because this book falls into multiple categories, dipping into both action and adventure, a healthy dose of comedy and a romantic aspect that isn't sappy, but as much of a mystery as the rest of the book. It's got intrigue; it's got history. There's literally something in it for everyone.
I don't think the length fit the book. Which isn't the same as disliking when books are long, because a good portion of my favorite books are those five-hundred page (and up) mammoths, as my poor bookshelf would tell you. I just felt that, for this book specifically, it would've been better if it had lost a couple of pages.
There was always stuff going on, so it's not that it got boring, but it got to the point where I was ready for answers. I was ready for the plot to reach its climax, for the characters to make it to the grand finale...and I still had had over two-hundred pages to go. So it wasn't that I got bored as much as that I got impatient for the conclusion and to see how it would all work out in the end.
Read this book if you've got a long afternoon ahead of you and you need something that's going to keep you busy. Read it if you're one of those historical fanatics that loves seeing the past incorporated into the present. Read it if you want to be transported to a whole new situation, or if you're dying for some fiction with a good amount of kidnapping, life-threatening situations, murders, and kick-ass ninja skills. I could go on listing the reasons, but I think it's safe to just say that this is a book that should be added to your TBR list, and one you probably won't forget.
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