York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby (York #1)
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Release Date: May 16, 2017
Available Through The Book Depository: York: The Shadow Cipher
Summary: 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.
*Received book 1 of this series as part of an upcoming Blog Tour*
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: The Shadow Cipher is an immersive and clever middle-grade novel that melds fantasy, steampunk, & history set in an alternate modern-day New York! When they’re soon to be evicted from their apartment, the famous Moringstarr tower, Tess Biedermann, Theo Biederman & Jamie Cruz try solve the famous Old York Cipher to save their home before its too late! Ruby’s novel is a captivating tale filled with mystery, adventure, and clever puzzles!
York: The Shadow Cipher is a book that had been on my TBR for years–I’d actually started it a couple years back, but sadly hadn’t gotten around to finishing it. But, now that I’m going to be reviewing the sequel for an upcoming blog tour, I’m so glad I was given another chance to return to it!
If you didn’t know, Laura Ruby also wrote a wonderful YA magical realism book back in I think 2015 (?) called Bone Gap (which was one of my favorite books back in 2015–I highly recommend it!!). As I read York: The Shadow Cipher, I realized something about Ruby’s books:
Her tales deliver such unique reading experiences for me personally, that I can only get from the first read-through! The atmosphere, characters, and immersive quality of her stories/writing is what draws me in with each page and allows me to connect with the plot and her unique cast of characters!
Twins Tess & Theo get tangled up in a centuries-old cipher so with the help of their classmate/neighbor Jamie, they attempt to solve the riddles and save their home! The clues lead them back to uncovering the answers to the impossible cipher hidden within their apartment–The Morningstarr Tower and the city of New York.
What really kept me surprised was the ciphers/puzzles throughout the book. There’s riddles that lead the crew to different places across New York, but are also focused on history. I never really knew where the journey was headed next, but that kept me reading because I just loved being surprised at where the next piece in this puzzle was coming from.
The Shadow Cipher is told through various POVs (3 mainly), but they all had distinct voices and the writing flowed well all throughout the book! The writing-style was descriptive, unique, but also incredibly fun to read.
Although there’s an overarching story here, I loved that there were many underlying themes that journeyed across the novel as well. From family, friendship, & having a place of belonging to name a few, were just some of the wonderful themes explored in this book!
I loved that each of these were tackled through different characters from Theo, Jamie, to Tess.
I found tat the adventurous atmosphere of the story really allowed me to picture everything from the setting to the inventions, and plot itself so vividly and overall, it really came to life on the page–it was incredibly cinematic!
The characters are all so well developed and though there are some who we never really meet or pass in & out of the story, I found that they all felt incredibly real and I could picture them throughout the book.
Its hard to say which character was my favorite, because I enjoyed them all in different ways, but I have to say Jamie Cruz was one of my favorites! I loved how his adoration of comics and superheroes really added another layer of depth to his story and how he viewed the world! His POVs were definitely my favorites! He was almost always looking towards the positives and was just a really uplifting character to read from–he also had a hobby of sketching/drawing which he used to draw out certain locations or parts of the cipher along the way, which was fun to read about.
The Shadow Cipher is also an incredibly character-driven story! Tess, Theo & Jamie all have their own personal journeys and its great they each had their own time away from the main story at points, just so us as readers could get to know them more as characters! overall just really felt developed as characters and I found they really grew little by little over the course of the book.
The alternate New York was fun to explore also because of the unique inventions! I loved how Ruby really built these unique inventions from the Mornigstarrs into the cipher/puzzles in ways I wasn’t really expecting, but found fun all the same. There’s just so much creativity to this world that although its based on a real place, there was just that spark that made New York feel like a completely different world.
The plot was just really unexpected and overall I enjoyed being invested in the Cipher just as much as Theo, Tess & Jamie! There were some plot twists and secrets that I didn’t see coming, but overall the story left me curious as to where the plot is headed in the sequel.
I did rate it 4 stars because although this book was such a fun read, I did feel the pacing was a bit slow at points and the pacing seemed to vary throughout the story as well. The ending itself also just also left me feeling like I needed a little something more. Overall though, I loved the main cast, the humor, and thought-provoking ciphers and I can’t wait to see what happens as the series continues!
York: The Shadow Cipher is the first book in what sets up to be a great middle-grade series with clues, puzzles, and mysteries to solve that weave together in a unique way! The great cast of characters, clever puzzles, and fascinating world are all explored through such an immersive and dynamic atmosphere! The ending will leave you interested in seeing whats next for Tess, Theo, & Jamie in the sequel!