I bring you the second part of a novel I read quite a few years back, but one I still remembered and wanted to know how it would all end up.
No Shadow Without Light by Luke Gracias
On 06/06/06, the world’s population crossed 6.66 billion. Any further increase could only occur at the cost of other species and future generations.
This triggered the Devil’s Game. A Treasure Hunt for the twelve missing pages of the Devil’s Bible, which hold the Devil’s Prayer. A game designed for Jess Russo, the daughter of the Devil, to unleash Armageddon. Each page Jess finds encourages people to be selfish. To hoard for themselves and theirs, wiping out every chance future generations and all other species have of survival. Only her elder sister Siobhan can stop her, by finding the pages of the Devil’s Prayer hidden across the globe before Jess does.
When the bells of Amalfi Cathedral toll twelve repeatedly one night, Inspector Luca Reginalli races to find four ancient frescoes and a note in a jade sarcophagus. The cryptic note offering the Twelfth Page of the Devil’s Prayer in exchange for Siobhan goes viral. The treasure hunter Siobhan becomes the hunted.
From the Templars of Tomar to the Doomsday Chest in London, from the Tomb of Amir Timur to the Shadowless Pagoda of Wuhan, Siobhan and Reginalli follow the trail of carnage left by each page of the Devil’s Prayer.
Can they save the world from its own destruction?
About the author:
Luke Gracias is an Environmental Specialist who has been working part- time in the film industry since 2006. The Codex Gigas or the Devil’s Bible is the largest medieval manuscript in the world. It currently resides in the National Library of Sweden. The Codex Gigas has twelve missing pages which are rumoured to contain an apocalyptic test known as the Devil’s Prayer. An avid photographer, Luke travelled through Europe and his home country Australia documenting the 13th Century conspiracy between the Mongols who came to Europe in search of the Devil’s Prayer and the Papal Inquisition.
I read and reviewed the first part of this story, The Devil’s Prayer, five years ago, and I thank NetGalley (Authors Upfront) and the author for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.
I remembered having enjoyed the original novel and some details of it, but after such a long gap, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how well I’d manage to follow the story. Thankfully, the beginning of the book provides readers with a brief reminder of the main plot points, not in a preface, but incorporated into the story. The first novel was written in a particularly interesting way, as the protagonist, who is also one of the main characters in this story, Siobhan, found her mother’s diary, and she (and the readers) learned the background to the events thanks to that account.
This novel is more traditional in its format, although the Devil’s Prayer and its twelve pages also play a big part in the events, and we get to read it (or at least some of it) as the story progresses. The novel is divided into four books, and the story is mostly told in chronological order (the beginning of the novel is split up between two settings, one in Australia and one in Italy, and there are some comings and goings between the two places and the dates), with some jumps forward in time. We follow the characters from 2014 to 2020, and, as the description suggests, we travel with them all over the world: Australia, Italy, China, Portugal, London, the Czech Republic, Uzbekistan… Like the previous novel, this is a mix of genres: there are plenty of adventures; historical background and events are also explored; there is much in common with spy novels (but with a religious/paranormal theme rather than a political one) and with the format of a treasure hunt, where each new clue guides the path of the main characters. There are also elements of horror, a good versus evil fight going on, and a strong environmental message, pointing at humanity’s responsibility for the future of all life on Earth.
Limited resources, selfishness versus selflessness, the importance and nature of religion and religious belief, family relationships, social media, greed, corruption, betrayal… are among the themes that appear in its pages, although that is not an exhaustive list. And we meet all kinds of secondary characters and historical figures: from policemen to bishops and monks, from Knight Templars to librarians, and various popes, Genghis Kahn, and even the Devil put in an appearance.
The story is told in the third person: for most of it we follow Siobhan and share her experiences, as we did in the first book, although sometimes we peer over the shoulder of the baddies and what they are doing, and at times there is a narrator that provides a lot of factual information on the events and the historical background of the places we are visiting. Because of that, there is a lot of telling in the story, although I found most of it quite fascinating, and by the end of the novel, I wanted to visit the places featured there (or most of them, at least. Oh, and there are pictures, as well, so you can see what the settings of some of the adventures are like).
I missed a bit more build-up of the main characters. Siobhan goes through some terrible ordeals, losing loved ones, being betrayed, being incarcerated (I won’t go into much detail to avoid spoilers), but there are only hints of what and how she feels, and the same applies to Reginalli, an Italian inspector who has interesting hidden depths as well. In general, there is more attention paid to the plot and the background than to the psychology of the characters or the complexity of their emotions. I must admit that I don’t usually read books like this, and perhaps this is part-and-parcel of the genre, where readers are looking for action and story, and put themselves in the protagonists’ shoes, rather than want to have their emotions spelled out.
Despite some minor inconsistencies and some to-be-expected required suspension of disbelief, the story is engaging, and no matter how many questions you might ask yourself about the fine details of the plot (in this day and age, with the worldwide access to technology, one always has to wonder), you have to keep reading to see how it all will turn up, especially if you have already read the first novel. As one of the reviewers said, I also feel that this book would make a great movie (and I am aware that the author has written screenplays before and worked in the film industry), although it would be a challenge to fit it all into a single film, and perhaps a TV series would work better. I would be eager to watch it, for sure.
The writing is engaging and particularly effective when it comes to descriptions of places and customs, and to passionately defending what are, quite evidently, convictions strongly held by the author, who has spent his life working as an environmental specialist and knows what he is talking about. The pages of the Devil’s Prayer we get to read are fascinating, scary, and will make all who read them pause and think.
The ending is left fairly open but hopeful as well (although perhaps some readers would like to see a bit more development of one of the aspects of it), as is the author’s note (which is well-worth reading and reflecting upon), and I felt it was appropriate and in keeping with the rest of the story.
As for warnings, like in the other novel, there are plenty of violence, cruelty, and deaths, and although much happens behind the scenes, I know it will bother some readers. Some people might also not share the point of view of the author about environmental issues or religion. I found the tone of the writing to be respectful and neutral, but I know that is always a matter of opinion.
I recommend this book to people who enjoy mixed-genre novels, particularly those who take place in a variety of settings, readers of adventure or spy books, those who have enjoyed books like The Da Vinci Code, and people who are concerned about environmental issues and like to read about those but are looking for some fiction and adventure as well. And, if you want to travel all over the world without leaving your home, and learn some fascinating historical facts at the same time, I definitely recommend you to check both books.
Thanks to NetGalley and to the author for the story, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to be happy, to keep smiling, and to share if you think anybody you know might be interested. Please, be safe out there.