Thursday, May 31, 2012
Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
After a promising start, The Book of Blood and Shadow turned out to be my biggest disappointment in 2012. I never expected to have to struggle to finish this book. In fact, when I ordered a copy, I was pretty certain it would find a place among my favorites, but the more I read, the more disappointed I became. I’ll start with the good…
Characters and relationships are Wasserman’s strong point. I loved getting to know Nora, Chris, Max and Adriane in the first part of the book, loved finding out how their friendship developed, adored reading about Max and Nora and those first months of their relationship. It was all incredibly convincing, the slow falling in love, the realization of differences between a best friend and a boyfriend, Nora’s constant questioning of herself and her place in the group, and that moment when she needed to choose whose number to dial in time of trouble. There were so many layers and complications between these four people, and all of them came from great understanding and experience.
It was easy for me to connect with Nora. She squealed when she got a Latin dictionary for her eleventh birthday; when she was sad or lost, she consoled herself with endless declinations and conjugations… in short, she was a linguist at heart, which made her all the more dear to mine. In addition, both our lives were divided into two periods by a huge event and I was able to recognize how, through Nora’s situation with her brother, Wasserman offered her astute understanding and portrayal of a family devastated by grief.
The premise itself is where it all went wrong. It was just too farfetched – the idea that two college boys and one high school girl could discover something a very determined secret society and hundreds of scholars couldn’t, that the said society was willing to kill for the knowledge, but not research all available texts, Elizabeth’s letters included. The codes were too easy to decipher, the riddles were something a child could solve, everything was just a Google search away and finding the pieces of this precious, mysterious machine proved to be almost effortless. I’m not sure if Wasserman couldn’t do better or if she simply dumbed it down for her targeted young adult audience, but either way, I felt almost insulted by the simplicity of it all.
If I were a Czech citizen, I would be unbelievably angry about the way Wasserman described Prague. What she wrote may very well be true about some god forsaken village in the middle of nowhere, where the communist mindset is indeed still very much alive and hygiene is not high on the list of priorities, but Prague is a beautiful city that combines centuries old culture and modern ways, a city that has moved forward considerably in the last twenty years, and her version of it is simply unfair, or at least outdated. If that’s how she sees Prague, I don’t even dare imagine how she would describe Zagreb, or heaven forbid, Sarajevo. Her words were both inaccurate and rude.
The writing suited me, she has a great feeling for rhythm and punctuation and a talent for using short sentences to emphasize her very dry sense of humor. I do hope that Robin Wasserman’s next project will be a nice contemporary YA (or better yet, New Adult), about growing up, falling in love and finding your place instead of another mystery-adventure-The-Da-Vinci-Code-wannabe novel that simply won’t work, just like this one didn’t. Characters and relationships is where her strengths lie, and everyone should just stick to what they do best.