Saturday, July 7, 2012

Book Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow

I won this book in a twitter contest hosted by Random Buzzers (one of your standard, retweet this tweet and we'll choose winners from that pool) which was rather nice since I've read Robin Wasserman's Skinned trilogy and, since one of my big problems was that it went on too long, I was curious to see how she would do with a one book story instead. With that in mind, onto the review!

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
  I actually didn't have this cover on my copy, it was an ARC with a plain black cover with the title in a red script, and while this cover isn't exactly to my taste it's certainly a good and very interesting cover. I love the detail in her eye and it's rather eye-catching.

Summary: When Nora is assigned to translate some old letters instead of the rare book her classmates are working on she's initially rather unhappy, although any chance to be away from her parents who aren't stay together "for the sake of the children" but for the memory of her dead brother is welcomed. And then she discovers that while the book talks about a mysterious, mystical device called the Lumen Dei, her writer actually dealt with the machine and are much more valuable. So valuable in fact that centuries later there are still groups of people out there willing to do anything to get their hands on them and while some of them view Nora to just be in the way others want to capture her as well.

The Good: This is a very tightly plotted book and pulls off the remarkable task of making it not only believable that Nora is able to find and translate all of the letters, most of which have been hidden for at least four centuries, but also that the letters have remained hidden for so long. It's very hard to make that set-up look natural, and considering the story rests upon that it's critical to the story at large, and it's pulled off perfectly at here and never once did one of those revelations jolt me out of the story. And, despite my nitpicks later, the story felt well paced with no revelation coming too quickly or taking too long. Nora wasn't the most memorable lead I've seen but she was strong and well-fleshed out so I certainly liked her, I just don't know how much I'll remember about her (as opposed to the story itself) in a few years time.

The Bad: As I had been afraid, this book still felt too long by the end, my copy clocks in at 430 pages, but again I'm not really sure where to cut it down. It's both long and dense, I felt rather exhausted by the end of the story and feeling like I would have liked it to be a little shorter. Other than that there weren't many problems with it and certainly no major problems that stood out to me. It was a little exasperating at times that Nora had no idea she was about to be betrayed, which was clearly obvious to me as a reader, and likewise it was also frustrating to see that none of the characters seem to realize they were being manipulated at certain points, especially since none of them were portrayed as dumb. I felt like Adriane's characterization was a little flat compared to some of the other side characters but again that wasn't a major issue in the end.

I really liked this story a lot more than I was expecting to and I plan on buying a copy of the book for myself in the future (I'll donate the ARC to the free basket at my library's bookstore, since book has already been out for over six months I don't feel like that'll be a problem and since you can't sell an ARC there's not much else I can do with it). A very strong story and one of my favorite books of 2012 so far (mind you I haven't read many but that doesn't stop it from being a favorite within the category).