The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby is the first book in the York series, a juvenile fiction, historical re-imagining, series for 4-7 graders.
In 1855, the Morningstarr Twins, the greatest and most mysterious architects New York City has ever seen, go missing and in their place, a cryptic puzzle promising to lead to a treasure greater than can be imagined. But decades later the puzzle still hasn’t been solved.
In the present day, twins Theo and Tess, along with their friend Jamie are determined to solve the puzzle and save their home, one of the original Morningstarr buildings, from being torn down by rich developers.
Most people have given up on the puzzle and don’t even think it ever ends but Tess, Theo and Jamie believe that the puzzle is just waiting for the “right” people and time to be solved.
Will they solve the cipher before it is too late?
This was a fun, action packed book that actually got a little dark toward the end. Going into the first hundred or so pages, I really just thought it was going to be a happy go lucky book, where the kids solve the puzzle and save their home… Willy Wonka-esq. But by the end, you find out that there is so, so much more going on and that is why this is a series.
That being said, I enjoyed the eccentricities of the children and the friendship they are forging. But I think the best part of this book is the re-imagining of certain historical facts, an alternate history, that bring a really great dynamic to the story. Little things like the Statue of Liberty being copper colored still because they used a chemical to keep it from oxidizing. To bigger tweaks like the Colonies not pushing the Indians off their land.
You also see a lot of “hints” in this book that, may not make sense or seem important at the time, but will definitely show up later in the series. Theo’s “dreams” for one, I predict that these will be more than just dreams.
Overall, this was an interesting read and is going to make a good book club discussion. I am going to give it a low 4 stars for now.
That’s all for now!