To say that The Book of Blood and Shadow is a YA version of The Da Vinci Code is a fairly apt comparison: puzzles within historical documents, intrigue, and murder are definitely important pieces of this story. And though I wasn't crazy about The Da Vinci Code, I absolutely loved the adventure that The Book of Blood and Shadow took me on.
From the opening line, "I should probably start with the blood," I was instantly drawn into the story. Although the majority of the action didn't start until a quarter of the way through the book, Wasserman excelled at building enough intrigue and dread that I hung on to every word. Once the pace picked up, it really got going -- betrayals, twists, and turns kept me wondering just where the story would head next and, more often than not, proved my predictions to be wrong time and time again.
Easily my favourite portions of the story involved reading Elizabeth's letters and how they tied into the Voynich manuscript, which I was surprised to learn actually does exist. There was enough overlap between Elizabeth's letters and the occurrences in Nora's life to transition between them nicely, while giving Elizabeth a distinct and compelling enough voice to leave me just as enthralled by her as Nora was. And, thankfully, my prediction that Elizabeth was Nora's ancestor was incorrect -- there are more than enough of those plotlines out there, and this provided a much more satisfying explanation of why Nora felt such a connection with her.
I found myself equally drawn to the main cast of characters. Nora was incredibly easy to relate to, despite the fact that she's put through hell and back again in this book. She's intelligent, both academically and in terms of how she views the world. And Nora knows how to translate Latin, which is impressive and something that I hadn't seen in a YA protagonist before.
I made the unfortunate mistake of falling for Nora's best friend Chris, despite knowing how his story would end. His relationship with Nora was sweet to read about, and his endearing, heart-warming personality made it even more heartbreaking when the events from the synopsis came to fruition. I wasn't quite sure how to feel about the other boys in Nora's life: Max and Eli. They were certainly mysterious, charming at times and slightly creepy at others, so it was a lot of fun trying to determine if they would be guilty or not.
Overall, The Book of Blood and Shadow was a slow-building, captivating read that kept me guessing until the very end.