I went into this book feeling a little nervous, partly because after reading some reviews my expectations were perhaps a bit too high and partly because because after reading some other reviews my expectations were equally low. I just didn't know what to expect and that's a big doubt to get over when you're about to start a book that's almost 450 pages long in a genre where books are normally at least 100 pages smaller. Because I don't want to write the type of review that will give away more than necessary or leave you hanging, I will be necessarily vague with some of the things I say.
First impressions: From the very beginning of the book, you are sucked into this mystery. From the first sentence, you are told about "the blood", and how that's how the story should start. You know as soon as you pick up the book, that it will be intense and bloody, but you do not realize how many twists and turns the story will take you into.
I fell in love with the main character, Nora, and how strong she had to become to endure everything that was happening around her. All the uncertainty, the backstabbing, the fanaticism. Nora just didn't know who to trust most of the time. Everyone was a suspect in this messed up situation she was thrust into. Imagine being assigned to study and translate a book that will unsuspectingly bring about a chain of events that will make you question everything you have ever believed. This was Nora's new world.
The worldbuilding was amazingly done. Being taken from the U.S. to Europe, from France to Germany to Prague. The language, the buildings, the people, all described in a way that you felt you were there. I felt creeped out whenever the MC or any of her friends would set foot on any part of this city. I imagined a beautiful, yet dark and mysterious place, where hooded men lurked behind the shadows waiting to make their move. More fascinating still, was the way each of the characters felt so alive to me, like people I know, or rather wouldn't want to know if my life depended on it. I'd be afraid to get to know and love a character so much that then it would hurt to much to let them go, because they'd reveal themselves as a spy or a traitor.
Lasting impressions: This book has earned itself a reputation of being the YA "Davinci Code", and rightly so. There's mystery, murder, a mysterious book in a dead language that needed translation, 400+ year old letters with clues, and a puzzle that needed to be put together. All of this tied to various religious beliefs and what some will do to protect them, at all costs. I think this book was brilliantly written. It's the type of fiction that makes you wonder "well what if it's not, what if there's some truth to it". It's definitely a book that has earned 5 stars in my rating system, for capturing my attention and never letting go, and for keeping me on my toes every second I was reading it.
(Originally reviewed at JJiReads.blogspot.com)