Publisher: Random House
Page Count: 448
Rating: 3 Stars
It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.
But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead. His girlfriend Adriane, Nora’s best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.
Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.
I find myself in the odd place between knowing this is a great book and not enjoying it as much as I wanted to. There is so much that this book has going for it but there are also quite a few things that brought it down for me.
The book starts off rather strong with a great opening line and a seemingly immediate pull into the world, however it slows down significantly after that initial opening. It has a lot to do with the fact that the overall story is one of detail and depth, it requires set up to get to that point the book opens with. I found that my interest waned quite a bit towards the beginning because it took so long to get to the meat of the story. The writing is similar to what you would find in literary fiction, it’s very fluid, with wonderful details and noticeably higher vocabulary…however while this is a good thing it is also a downfall for me. There are moments where things are far too lengthy, for instance there are some sentences that are literally a paragraph long. It felt like I was going no where fast, I’d read for hours and then realize that I’d only managed about 60 pages at most. The overall plot is one of mystery, intrigue, and historical clue finding; much like the DaVinci Code but targeted for the YA audience. I enjoyed seeing the past unravel in an unlikely fashion and I loved seeing real history being incorporated with fiction in a way that other than few points it could have very well been an actual event that occurred. I thought having actual people from history involved in this storyline was a fantastic touch and brings a sense of realism to it.
The characters are interesting in their own rights but I found that i didn’t connect to most of them. Nora, our main character and narrator, is a extremely intelligent high school student who takes classes at the university on scholarship. She knows Latin which is a skill she uses quite frequently throughout the novel as she translates letters from a woman named Elizabeth. She also has a entertaining wit about her, but the company she keeps leads to me dislike her a bit. Chris is likeable but besides his humor he’s fairly forgettable in the overall story, he felt like a plot piece. Adriane has far more personality and it’s one that I simply couldn’t stand, she’s a closet-smart girl and she’s fairly impersonal when it comes to most situations yet she’s friends with Nora. This is actually a subject that comes up in the book and I like that it was acknowledged but I failed to see the point of their continued friendship when it’s obvious there is very little there. Max is interesting and for most of the book I wasn’t exactly fond of him, he has a temper and he seemed too emotional about fairly stupid things but I liked where his character ends up. Then there is Eli, who is the only character in the book I actually liked. He’s funny, sarcastic and one of the only ones capable of thinking things out clearly; I found myself looking forward to the scenes where he was involved.
All of the characters have secrets, and it’s not something they are good at hiding. To me it was obvious when someone didn’t seem right and there are even a few instances where Nora knows she’s being lied to, but it adds a level of intrigue to the story that makes it hard to put down. The ending was a tad disappointing and while most of the story is tied up I found myself wanting more out of the ending.
This is one of those books where I can see why everyone loves it so much and I can completely understand their reasoning. It’s certainly a finely crafted novel with fantastic depth and it’s like an ultimate historical mystery, but due to personal issues with it I couldn’t enjoy it to the fullest.
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