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A Reader of Fictions: Agnus Dei - Rufus Wainwright

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Agnus Dei - Rufus Wainwright

The Book of Blood and Shadow 

Author: Robin Wasserman
Pages: 434
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers via NetGalley

Description from Goodreads:
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.

First Sentence: "I should probably start with the blood."

Whoa! Talk about a hook! The Book of Blood and Shadowstarts off with a bang. From that first sentence, I definitely knew something creepy was going on and that I needed to know more about it. Let me tell you right now: the hook was not a trap. Every bit of this book is so good. Two five star reads in a row = I'm getting spoiled!

Robin Wasserman has managed to write an original YA story, by which I mean one that's not remotely like the standard YA book. Nora, for example, is not your standard YA heroine. She's not absurdly clutzy, but she is incredibly intelligent, as in a genius at Latin. Nor is Nora particularly attractive; she's kind of average looking. Her hair is mousy brown, her nose too large for her face and she doesn't wear makeup almost ever. In short, she looks like a lot of girls, rather than some super shiny-haired YA cover girl. This makes her so much easier to relate to.

Then there's her storybook love. Well, he's not your usual guy fare either. The perfect-ish guy is her best friend, Chris, who's dating her other best friend. Her boyfriend is Max, who she thought was creepy for quite a while after first meeting at him. Apparently, he stares a lot, perhaps to a Maureen Johnson-esque degree. Max wears glasses and is totally socially awkward, very much not your usual YA hero.

Actually, this book has a lot more in common with novels like The Rule of Four. Both focus on academic research of an old text about which very little is known. Where Caldwell and Thomason's book is solely historical fiction though, Wasserman has added a paranormal element. In some books, paranormal is overdone and melodramatic. Here it creates the perfect creepy, gothic atmosphere. For most of the book, you don't even know what the paranormal is; you just sense its presence lurking just off screen, creating serious suspense.

As Nora's story progresses, so does her research into the letters of Elizabeth, which could possibly provide insight into The Book her group is researching for Hoff (crotchety professor in search of glory). Although the individual letters are fairly short, I found myself getting just as sucked into Elizabeth's tale as into Nora's. In some historical fiction with this setup, the 'historical documents' are the weak point. Wasserman deftly avoids that trap with the grace of the dancing hippo from Fantasia.

The book is dark, unrelenting, soul-breakingly, fabulously, perfectly dark. Everything in Nora's life has pretty much already fallen apart, leaving her bruised, even before the book has begun. Well, things are just getting started for poor Nora. Her world gets shaken on its foundations. Robin Wasserman definitely goes on the list of awesome YA authors not afraid to do terrible things to their heroines/heroes. I love this, because, well, have you met life?

In undergrad, I was a theology minor, despite having been an agnostic all of my life, leaning much closer to the atheist side of things than the religious. The reason for my study of theology is that, simply put, I find belief fascinating, both on a global and individual scale. Certainly, it's interesting as a historian to look at how the religions themselves developed from a single person or group to a massive organized thing. Even more so, though, I love hearing the stories of individuals, of how they came to subscribe to their particular faith (or lack thereof). The theology in this book is wonderful, and, if you have any interest in that, I highly recommend this. Again, I think Wasserman was very daring to write this, and I applaud her for it. My favorite quote was one that pretty much sums up my opinions on the idea of God.

The story of The Book of Blood and Shadow is also incredibly intricate. I have so much respect for Robin Wasserman for having pulled off a book of this scope.  She did so much research, both into Prague's history, into ancient languages, and into secret codes. To sum up this review into just a few words: Robin Wasserman is BRILLIANT, and so is her book. It's out now, so what the heck are you waiting for? GO GET IT!

This was my first foray into Robin Wasserman's books, although I have checked out Skinned from the library at least three times and then not had time to read it, but it will by no means be my last. In fact, I'm pretty sure Skinned is getting bumped up the TBR list. There might be a review of it in August, as I'm planning dystopian awesome!

Rating: 5/5

Favorite Quote: "'And you know what? If there is a God, and it's that same God who's so eager to have temples built in honor of his greatness, and wars fought over him, and people dropping to their knees telling him what a wonderful, magnificent being he is? If this all-powerful, all-knowing creature for some reason just can't get by without my worship? Then let him give me some proof. Or at least get over himself if I decide to go out and get some.'"

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Blogger Heather said...

I want to read this like whoa!

April 15, 2012 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger Nori said...

I second what Heather said. You make it sound wonderful!

May 1, 2012 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Sarah Elizabeth said...

Wow, I love that hook too! I love that Nora is an average girl, I'm getting sick of reading books that keep going on about how beautiful the main character is. Not everybody can be model beautiful! I can't believe she is going out with a boy who she originally thought was creepy! That is so funny!
I am really looking forward to reading this book!

May 9, 2012 at 11:55 AM  

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