My rating: 5 of 5 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.
There are a number of reasons why I immersed myself into this book and finished satisfied. The story itself is well written and planned out. Although it is a fantastic jump from a suburban household to Paris to Prague, it doesn't feel forced or contrived.
I loved the writing style. The beginning sentence grabs the attention of the reader immediately. It begins with blood. Nora is covered in her best friend's blood as he lays in a puddle, dead. Her other best friend is catatonic, also covered in blood. Her boyfriend is missing. But then, she explains, it always starts with blood but that's not really true. That's the middle; the gravitational pull, the vortex. That's the event that signifies BEFORE and AFTER. Then she backs up and tells the reader what led up to the events of Chris' death. Then the book continues as Nora's senior trip to Paris turns into sneaking off to Prague to find her boyfriend. It could happen.
Nora is a great protagonist. Although not perfect and sometimes a little stupid (like why even like Max?), she is intelligent and articulate inside her head. That is the other part of the writing style that I loved. Wasserman is a collector of words. She uses them in beautiful sentences that articulate feelings I have had but only with her articulation do I understand them. She also uses descriptive words that feel delicious saying inside my mouth. I'm kind of weird about words. Still, it isn't WHAT she says but HOW she says it that had wowed. It clicked and felt right.
Back to the story, the reader and Nora don't know who to trust, although Nora trusts Max far past what I, as the reader, would have trusted Max. Nora feels alone at many points in the book and succinctly describes those feelings. To add interest to the book, the author juxtaposes a historical figure and writes letters from the figure to her brother describing her struggles and secrets - much of it mirroring Nora's experiences although not in obvious ways.
Swearing and language: Mild and mostly in Czech