The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
Release date: January 19th 2012.
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.
Well, maybe you’ve already figured out that my problem is the “brief” part.
Fear not! I could write you an encyclopedia’s worth on all the history behind the story, but instead, I’ve forced myself to assemble my absolute favorite (ie weirdest, creepiest, or most surprising) historical factoids and tidbits…and I’m forcing myself to keep it (um, relatively) short.
When I first came up with the idea for this book, all I knew was that I wanted the historical mystery piece of it to be centered around some real life figures—so I locked myself in a room for a few weeks with a giant stack of books about the Renaissance, and tried to feel my way toward something that would work.
It didn’t take long to hone in on Prague, which had all the mythology, magic, and colorful characters any author could need, all of them swirling around a guy who really deserves an entire novel all to himself, Emperor Rudolf II.
And his favorite thing to collect? People. That’s what made Renaissance Prague so perfect for the book—the thinkers and artists who lived and worked in Rudolf’s court were some of the most brilliant of their time. They were also some of the weirdest.
And none was weirder than Edward Kelley, court alchemist (until he got on Rudolf’s bad side, supposedly for withholding the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone, and got shoved in a remote palace prison for the brief rest of his life).
The Voynich Manuscript is the Book of Blood and Shadow—the ancient text that sets off all the trouble in the novel—and it’s real. This sixteenth century (or fifteenth century, or nineteenth century, depending on who you ask and whose evidence you want to believe) text has been called “the world’s most mysterious manuscript.” Its 240 pages of symbols, illustrations, and what seems to be a legitimate but completely un-translatable language, have foiled the world’s best cryptographers for decades. (For the first time ever, the entire manuscript is available online -- in case you want to try cracking the code yourself. Though be careful, it’s driven at least one guy mad.)
It was like the universe had dropped a novel into my lap…all I had to do was write it.