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#TuesdayBookBlog NO SHADOW WITHOUT LIGHT by Luke Gracias (@devils_prayer) Adventure, history, fabulous international locations, and a strong environmental message #adventures

Hi all:

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

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?

 https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Without-Light-Luke-Gracias-ebook/dp/B09HSHPGZ3/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Shadow-Without-Light-sequel/dp/B09K1WVCXT/

https://www.amazon.es/No-Shadow-Without-Light-English-ebook/dp/B09HSHPGZ3/

Author Luke Gracias
Author Luke Gracias

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.

https://www.amazon.com/Luke-Gracias/e/B08QNCLF7P/

My review:

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. 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE BEAUTY OF BUCHAREST (A Clean Up Crew Thriller Book 1) by S.J. Varengo (@PapaV) (@northernlakepub) Recommended to fans of action and spy thrillers looking for a fun read #Internationalthriller #adventures

Hi all:

I am not a big reader of spy and purely action thrillers but when I read the description and the beginning of this book, I had to keep reading…

review of The Beauty of Bucharest by S.J. Varengo
The Beauty of Bucharest by S.J. Varengo

The Beauty of Bucharest (A Clean Up Crew Thriller Book 1) by S. J. Varengo

What would you do if you found a body in the trunk of your wife’s car?

This is the question facing Dan Porter as he stood in the parking lot and looked down at a man wrapped in clear plastic sheeting…a man with a tidy .38 bullet hole in his forehead. But finding the body is a mere curiosity compared with the twists and turns Dan’s life will take over the next few days.

International intrigue and edge-of-your-seat action abound as Dan and his lovely wife Nicole—who clearly has more than her share of dark secrets—risk their lives to rescue a stunning model and bring down one of the most evil men either of them have had the misfortune to meet.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beauty-Bucharest-Clean-Crew-Thriller-ebook/dp/B07BLJSCYH/

https://www.amazon.com/Beauty-Bucharest-Clean-Crew-Thriller-ebook/dp/B07BLJSCYH/

About the author:

Scott James (S.J.) Varengo was born in 1960, in a city called New York. Two years later he formed a band called The Beatles [citation needed].

He returned to New York City to attend Fordham University (having been told it was a basketball powerhouse) before transferring to the State University of New York at Potsdam (having been told it was located in the tropics), from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in Art History.

Varengo loves to read (favorite authors include Craig A. Hart, Kurt Vonnegut, J.R.R. Tolkien and an up-and-comer named Ernie Heming-something-or-other), listen to music (when he writes, it’s usually jazz – the rest of the time it’s Tazmanian flute concertos), and walk along forested trails with his wife Kim. He lives in Baldwinsville, NY, a suburb of Syracuse, known for its picturesque setting and its friendly people. He has two adult children of whom he is obnoxiously proud.

His published works include a volume of short fiction, two fantasy novels, and an ever-growing list of spy/espionage novellas, which he co-writes with Craig A. Hart.

https://www.amazon.com/S.-J.-Varengo/e/B06XBCL1KR/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/S.-J.-Varengo/e/B06XBCL1KR/

My review:

Thanks to the publisher for offering me a free copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

It is quite difficult to review this novel without revealing any spoilers, and the description does not help much (it is gripping although extremely discreet) but considering the genre, this is pretty understandable, and I’ll try my hardest not to spoil the fun.

I am not a big reader of spy novels but have watched a fair amount of spy movies,and although this is not a spy novel per se, it shares with them many of its characteristics. We have professionals working in an international team, taking up false identities, travelling all over the world to undertake dangerous missions, using weaponry and skills beyond those of most normal individuals. We have the goodies and the baddies (and they are very bad indeed, no question about it), we have secrets, risky situations, and a fair amount of violence. The novel also requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief but not more than is usual in the genre.

The story, as suggested by the title, takes place, in its majority, in Bucharest, and it involves a beautiful model, but also many other women who are at risk. The background of the operation and the individuals the two protagonists —Dan and Nicole, a married couple— are trying to get rid of are bad beyond discussion. We are not dealing with white-collar crimes or morally ambiguous matters. I don’t think any readers will find it difficult to root for the protagonists, who are also likeable and have an endearing, if somewhat idealised, relationship.

The novel manages to combine what might be some women’s fantasies (having plenty of power, running an international company that deals with and avenges those who do evil, helping make the world a better place, knowing how to use powerful weapons and possessing fighting skills, whilst at the same time having the perfect husband and children), with some men’s fantasies (having a gorgeous and younger wife, the perfect family life, retiring after having dedicated one’s life to creating a company that is fun to run [a company that designs computer games], becoming involved in fascinating adventures, and then being able to use his geek skills to save his kick-ass wife). It is a fast-paced adventure, exciting, and there’s not a moment’s boredom. Although we get a sense of what Bucharest is like, there are no lengthy descriptions to slow down the action, and we do not get lost in psychological studies of the characters either.

This is, first and foremost, a plot-driven book, and we do not get to know much about the characters or their motivations, although this is book one in the series and there are hints that we will get to discover some important secrets in future novels. The story is told in the third person but from the points of views of both of the main characters (and sometimes briefly from some of other characters, including one of the baddies), and, although as I said there is no deep analysis of the individuals, having access to their thoughts makes it easy to empathise with them. There is a degree of head-hopping (sometimes the narration quickly moves from the point of view of one of the characters to the other), but I did not find it confusing as it is quite evident who is thinking what. I am not sure the characters are always fully consistent, but they are confronting pretty challenging circumstances and that is not what the book is focused on. (I must confess to feeling quite intrigued by one of the bad characters, the female bodyguard. Not likeable but…) The writing is dynamic and fluid, and although there are some USA-based cultural references, they do not detract from the understanding of the story.

There is violence, some fairly explicit (although not extreme), and there is a scene that although very bloody, will be satisfying to most readers (just deserts come to mind, and I was close to cheering at that point) but the book is not a heavy read. Although it deals with serious matters, these are not the subject of far-reaching analysis but rather an evil that has to be fought.

In summary, this is a fun and quick read, full of action, with a degree of role reversal (strong and powerful females, and males who are side-kicks at best and distractions at worst, although they end up coming quite handy), in an interesting setting, with a very satisfying ending and a promise of more secrets to be revealed in future instalments. I could not help but think of many of the spy movies I’ve watched, and with the right cast, it could turn into a blockbuster. Recommended to lovers of action and spy thrillers looking for a fun, non-taxing read.

Thanks to Northern Lake Publishing and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and keep smiling!

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