Teen literature is overflowing with dystopia, vampires and werewolves, so needless to say a book being touted as The Da Vinci Code read alike is a welcome change. The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman hooks the reader from the beginning with a dead body. Nora Kane finds her best friend murdered and his girlfriend unresponsive next to his body. As the story backtracks to what happened before the violent night we find out Nora, because of her Latin skills, is part of a team deciphering an old manuscript and letters that hold the code to the “secrets to the universe” with the help of a device called the Lumen Dei. She is given the lesser task of translating the letters of Elizabeth Weston, whose alchemist stepfather claimed to have broken the code. Chris, Nora’s best friend, and his roommate Max are also part of this team led by crabby old Professor Huffpauer. During this internship with the professor, Nora and Max fall in love and start a relationship. When Max disappears and is accused of murdering Chris, Nora is devastated. The story jumps back and forth between the 16th century, through Elizabeth’s letters, and present day, paralleling the lives of Nora and Elizabeth. Reading the letters helps Nora sort through some of her issues. The letters also send her to Prague to decode some of the hidden clues regarding the Lumen Dei and in the hopes of clearing Max of the murder. Along with Chris’ girlfriend Adriane and his cousin Eli, Nora heads to Prague to find the device and the murderer.
Elizabeth’s letters and the plot in general tend to be a bit long, but the excellent character development and writing keeps the reader engaged and wanting to know what happens next in the story and to the characters. It’s definitely not a quick read and the ending seems abrupt, but overall the book is a fascinating read. In our library system it can be found on the Older Teen shelves.