Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman



The Book of Blood and ShadowThe 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.





15 comments:

  1. Even though I enjoyed this more than you, I completely understand what you mean about the plot. It was a little far-fetched... But I think I adored the writing and the characters too much to care. I loved Nora's voice and am glad to hear you were able to connect with her. Great review, Maja! :)

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  2. Lol yeah I agree it may be a bit far fetched but I really loved this one. It reminded me a lot of the Da Vinci code. I also have no idea about Prague so I didn'T know she had it wrong. Huh. I love all The-Da-Vinci-Code-wannabes! :P Love your face, Maja!

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  3. Oh so sorry you didn't enjoy this one as much as you'd hoped, I conpletely understand why this one didn't work out for you, but atleast youy gave it a shot! Great honest review!

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  4. I'm sorry you didn't love this one, Maja! But your review kinda makes me want to read it. The characters sound fascinating, especially the tiny complexities between them and the writing style sounds so good!! It's too bad that the premise was a bit far fetched! Believability is important in a book... otherwise I keep questioning how it could happen or how is it so simple or whatever and if I can't come up with a satisfactory explanation it kinda bugs me and makes the book a bit of a let down. But it sounds like it has a lot of potential in spite of its flaws! Great honest review, Maja :)

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  5. Yes, as you know I agree with you very much about this book! And I had no idea how off her descriptions of Prague were. I think we ignorant Americans need you around to educate us because otherwise we'll just live our whole lives picturing Europe as some sort of quaint little slum. It's such a shame that that tends to be the stereotype. Great review!

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  6. Hah, I wouldn't go that far! I guess we tend to be a bit sensitive about these things. :(

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  7. The biggest disappointment of the year...wow! I am so glad I didn't request this, I was tempted but refrained. Sucks that you bought it...I would hate the descriptions of Prague after reading Laini Taylor I adore Prague and I would hate to read this inadequate view. Oh well live and learn.

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  8. Oh, Maja! I don't hate many books (partly because I stalk Goodreads enough to know which ones to avoid LOL), but it's definitely the ones that are hard to finish that pull disappointment, and it's too bad that it was this way with you! But still, despite the setting and unbelievable factor, Nora sounds like my kind of linguistic girl! And the romance sounds absolutely sweet, which is always a selling factor for me :)

    Beautiful honest & helpful review, Maja! It's so funny how you can give a book two stars and still make me want to read it haha! x) <3

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  9. Hmm.. so when you say a child could have solved the mystery that dozens of scholars failed to solve, does that include even me? Because I'm incredibly dense so I have my doubts. LOL!

    I often feel the way people think of/describe Mexico is outdated too. Yes, I know the violence is at an all time high, but the same could be said about dozens of other places. And it's not all bad. I could go on and on, but I don't want to get all ranty.

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  10. Oh, I am so unsure if to pick it up or not. It seems that this is that kind a book that one might love or not at all and I hate it when I am the one not liking it, LOL.
    After the last 2 books that I couldn't finish it is so hard for me to find something that could grab my attention (and keep it!)

    Anyways, thanks for the honest review (I've seen only positive ones and it is good to 'watch' it from another perspective)

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  11. Aww, I'm sorry you didn't like this one. I was looking forward to it too! D: I might not pick it up anymore unless I get really bored or if it's really heap. Great review. Thanks for your honesty.

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  12. I felt pretty much the same way about this one as you did, only with less ability to connect with the characters. After reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, that I felt did Prague RIGHT, this was really a downer for me, and I agree that it was too far-fetched. Still, it did have some good points, and I found the writing lyrical. Great review!

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  13. Sorry this didn't click for you Maja. Like I said I glossed over the lengthy local descriptions because I wouldn't have been able to get through the book otherwise, so I didn't catch some of the negative portrayal of Prague. (or it could be because I read it a while ago and just don't remember anymore! lol!!) Anyhow, I always thought Prague was beautiful. I saw a piece on the travel channel (Samantha Brown Passport to Europe) and I was in love! Well now that I'm finished writing my novella here, I'll move on. ;)

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  14. i'm loving how thorough this review is

    it really lets me see whether or not this one is for me (in this case, i think not :))

    xx

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  15. Oh, I'm sorry this one was a disappointment! Such an amazing review, though! Nora really seems like a likable character - I love a linguist at heart! It saddens me that the author wrote such an inaccurate and critical description of Prague. Thank you for such a great review!

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