Book Review: The Shadow Cipher

Posted December 14, 2017 by Kara in book review, Kara / 0 Comments

Book Review: The Shadow CipherThe Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby
Series: York #1
Published by Walden Pond Press on May 16th 2017
Genres: middle grade, fantasy
Pages: 496
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on Amazon

It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.
Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.
From National Book Award Finalist Laura Ruby comes a visionary epic set in a New York City at once familiar and wholly unexpected.

First things first, I don’t know whether to call this book York or The Shadow Cipher. I guess the title is the latter, but the former is in a GIANT font across the cover, and I didn’t actually realize that this novel was called The Shadow Cipher until I was filling in the information for this review. And even though I like the cover, now it bothers me.

At any rate, this book was pretty disappointing. It started off slow but I pushed through because I liked the characters. Then it got really good. Tension, conflict, high stakes. Then the ending. It was soooo anticlimactic. My least favorite ending is the cliffhanger that doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger. I didn’t get any of the answers I wanted, and it was completely unsatisfying.

But my biggest problem was how RANDOM the cipher itself was. I don’t know how the kids solved these ridiculous clues that could have led them in a million different directions. They lacked detail. I wanted codes and riddles and puzzles, and it wasn’t that at ALL. The only one that had any decency was one towards the end that used the building they lived in that actually turned into a code they had to break. That’s what I wanted all the way through, and it’s not what I got.

Good news? Laura Ruby can write. Her characters are fulfilling and diverse and they read like real people. I like how she described white people as “white” erasing white as the default. I liked the world-building and the New York City that the Morningstarrs created.

But the ending. Honestly, I will probably continue this series because I enjoyed it enough, but I certainly hope the next book gives more answers. I love the characters, and I have to have know the truth. So I guess it was compelling enough.


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