Series: York #1
Published by Walden Pond Press on May 16th 2017
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
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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.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This book is a perfect example of why I love Middle Grade every now and then. The Shadow Cipher is original, fun and inventive, but it also carries a great message and has some of the most wonderful characters ever. Before I go on though, I will say that this is upper MG (think the first few Percy Jackson & Harry Potter books) so this is something YA readers might enjoy as well. Now on with the review!
The Shadow Cipher is set in an alternate version of our own world. To be more specific, it’s set in New York City, where the inventions and buildings from the Morningstarr twins shaped the city to what it is today. They had a vision when they arrived to the city in 1798. And when they disappeared fifty-seven years later, they left behind a puzzle laid into the beautiful city with at the end a treasure beyond all imagining. But the puzzle was never solved. Until residents of the Morningstarr appartment building are being evicted. The building to be destroyed. The twins Tess and Theo and their friend Jaime are ready to save their home and prove the Old York Cipher is real, but that means they have to solve it.
One of my greatest shames is that I have not yet read Bone Gap, which so many friends have raved about. I’m just not big on magical realism so it wasn’t very high on my list. But after reading this one… I’ll have to push it up higher on my shelves. Because I adored this book. The writing is beautiful and fit the story perfectly and it was so good I wanted to eat it. That makes sense, sssh. The world-building is amazing. And that proves that you CAN have an original Middle Grade Fantasy with stunning writing and amazing world building. Honestly, I was floored by both of those things. The city was so real and alive to me and I wanted to live in it.
I loved the mystery and the puzzle aspect of the story. Honestly, I love stories like these. With puzzles and riddles and scavenger hunts. They’re so much fun and this one was too. It’s SO smart and I loved it.
My biggest love for this book though were the main characters. I adored them. The twins Tess and Theo and their friend Jaime were so wonderful and I want to cuddle them and be friends with them. Even though they’re, like, thirteen. It’s not weird, ssshhh. They’re so smart and unique and real and fun and sweet and honestly, I just love them. I also loved that their families played a big role, though I would’ve liked to know the names of Tess and Theo’s parents. Instead of just having them be called Mr. and Mrs. Biedermann or Tess’s mom or something like that. I would’ve liked names. OH and also quick shout-out to the side-character Cricket, a wonderful young girl whom we got a few chapters of. I loved her. I want a book from Cricket’s POV. Please and thank you.
All in all, I just simply adored this book. The Shadow Cipher is charming, unique, fun, sweet, thrilling and everything you want in a Middle Grade book. It has a wonderful sibling relationship, great friendships, diversity and it is so very smart. Also would you look at that cover? Why do MG books always have the most stunning covers? It’s not fair, I’m telling you. Now I need the next book because OMG that end was not fair.