And that just happens to be something original, exciting and very refreshing. What starts out as a Latin project develops into something much more sinister and dark, involving a group known as ‘Seekers’ and an object called the ‘Lumen Dei’.
We have our protagonist, Nora Kane, just an average looking teenage girl, not particularly popular, but not a social outcast. Checking off all the YA boxes there, but that’s about where it stops. Nora is especially good at Latin, what with having a Latin professor for a father, and having had lessons since she was young. She uses the study of Latin as an escape from the memories of her older brother’s death, several years earlier. It’s so nice to have a protagonist who has a skill like that, and is so blasé about it.
Nora’s best friends, Chris and Adriane, also flesh out more as the story progresses – Chris more than Adriane, but it’s nice to have so many of Nora’s memories and happy moments added in. The relationships feel real. These are teenagers who’ve shared so much together, who’ve gone through hard times and fun times, who’ve stressed through exams and spent summers together by the lake. And you can really feel that. Nora’s relationship with Max, her ‘Prince Charming’, was also very well done. In so many stories about teenage relationships these days, the characters seem to fall straight into love, but Nora questions several times whether she is in love or not. The attraction between her and Max is not instant, and in fact only appears with a little bit of a nudge. They don’t do all these amazing things together: they act like a normal teenage couple. There are no big declarations of love, things progress slowly.
And between all these relationships, there’s the action. With so many twists and turns, the story takes us from Massachusetts to Paris, and from Paris to Prague. Wasserman adds in a fantastic historical twist, all to do with the medieval Latin translations that Nora, Chris and Max were working on for a professor. The letters of Elizabeth Weston slowly reveal an eerie parallel with Nora’s life until it seems that she has more of a link to her than just a pure interest and talent for Latin.
At times, parts of their exploration through Prague and discovery of more clues felt a little slow, but it was generally well-paced and exciting. And whilst it was interesting to have a main character with a talent for Latin, there wasn’t much about Nora apart from that, the hole left by the death of her brother and her relationship with Max. It would have been nice to know what her other interests and passions were.
Overall, this was much more than I was expecting. An exciting ‘historical’ thriller, with well fleshed out characters and relationships, and plenty of (very shocking in places!) twists and turns, it’s well worth a read. What’s especially exciting is that many of the historical figures in the story within the story were real – but Wasserman has just taken a creative license to some of them.