Author: Laura Ruby
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Number of Pages: 448
Published: May 16th, 2017
Opening Line: "The true story of any city is never a single tale; it's a vast collection of stories with many different heroes."
The Shadow Cipher is the first in a new series of books by Laura Ruby filled with history, fantasy, adventure, mystery, and steampunk. The prologue is set in 1855, with the majority of the story taking place in present day New York City. Or at least the city created by the Morningstarr twins, complete with its very own Cipher and a promise of a hidden treasure to the one who could solve it. However, this Cipher or puzzle has been so challenging that it has eluded even the best puzzle solvers for one hundred sixty years. The story then jumps ahead to present day within the recently sold Morningstarr Tower. A corrupt real estate developer named Mr. Slant plans to tear down all of the Morningstarr buildings across New York and has sent his minions to serve the tenants with notices to vacate the building within thirty days. Twins Tess and Theo are distraught by the news that their home could be destroyed, so they join up with their next door neighbor Jaime Cruz to solve the Old York Cipher and save their home's.
I've only visited New York City a few times, and I'm not familiar with all of the locations mentioned in the story, but Ruby did seem to capture the setting as the trio crisscrossed the city hunting clues leading to places like the Liberty Statue, the Tredwell House, even to the grave of Eliza Hamilton. Not only are there all of these historical places and pop references like Lego's, there was also the steampunk of the Morningstarr's mechanical creations that wash your windows, serve you cookies and solarship's and elevators that can take you sideways as well as up and down. I really enjoyed the historical aspects introducing the story and at the end of the book, as well as the way each chapter alternated between the three friends. The whole thing has this magical, alternate world feel to it. I also enjoyed how Ruby seemed to make reference to the current climate in the world regarding immigration, and how it's important to not overlook the past.
"The Lady was meant to represent the hope and dreams of a struggling nation"
“Grandpa Ben always told us that great people are capable of doing terrible things and that we shouldn’t ever forget it.”
Oh and the Cipher, I wish I was better at puzzles because this looks like such fun. There were scrambled letters that formed words, transposition ciphers, Rosicrucian puzzles, or dots inside a grid that represented a letter and even a whole way of talking where the twins inserted an "AB" before the vowel in the word. Quite creative.
While I'm excited that there will be more books in the series, I really wish it wouldn't have ended on a cliffhanger. After 448 pages, I 'm kinda vested in the twins and Jaime's story and I would've liked a little resolution. Plus, given how detailed the world building was, I'm going to have to re-read the first book before I'm ready to even start the next one. Still, The Shadow Cipher is an excellent beginning to this new series.
Sounds like a great story. I like the steampunk aspect and the New York setting. Too bad the ending wasn't a little better.
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