Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
York: The Shadow Cipher Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 16, 2017
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
★ “In this smart, immersive series starter, Ruby expertly juggles stunning plot choreography, realistic stakes in a captivating fantasy setting, well-wrought characters, and flashes of sharp cultural commentary.” (Booklist (starred review))
“The pleasures of this novel go far beyond the crackling, breathless plot and the satisfaction of watching the puzzle fall into place. The book is shot through with humor, both laugh-out-loud and subtle.” (New York Times Book Review)
★ “This first volume opens up an ever expanding sense of magic, culminating in a bittersweet ending that promises bigger things to come. The past informs the present as the review informs readers: don’t let this one go.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
★ “Ruby’s latest is a high-stakes mystery novel filled with intriguing puzzles, solid world-building, and diverse characters. An engaging series opener that will leave readers eagerly awaiting future installments.” (School Library Journal (starred review))
“The first book in an exciting new series that’s great for fans of steampunk, history, mystery, and magic. Let the puzzles begin!” (Brightly.com)
From the Back Cover
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—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.
From National Book Award finalist Laura Ruby comes a visionary epic set in a New York City at once familiar and wholly unexpected.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I'm giving this book four stars, as I enjoyed it a whole bunch, but didn't fully love it at all times. But it was an amazing story. I'm so glad that I read it. And I simply cannot wait to read the next one. Eee. I hope there will be many more books about these adorable characters. They were incredible to read about; to get to know.
This book tells the story of Tess, Theo and Jaime. It takes place in the summer before they start eight grade. Tess and Theo are twins, living with their parents. Jaime lives with his grandma most of the time. They all live in the same place, but they do not really hang out together. Until the start of this book. When they all learn that someone just bought their building, and they have a month to move somewhere else. No one is happy about this at all. But Tess, Theo and Jaime might be able to do something about it, because for the last about hundred and sixty years there have been a treasure hunt going on in their city. No one has ever found it, but lots have tried. These kids hope they might be able to solve the riddles, and find the treasure, to save their home.
Eee, this is such an amazing story. I loved reading about them getting to know each other and spending time together. They are all three adorable. I loved Tess the most, but both boys were awesome too, and the book is from all three point of views. Tess is all kinds of adorable. And I want to know more about her so badly. She's kind and fierce and brave and all kinds of perfect. She has this huge cat, Nine, which is also her service cat. And I loved that a lot. I loved reading about Tess and Nine together. The best cat.
Theo is also pretty awesome. He's great at building lego and other things. Tess might call him a robot at times, but he has a lot of feelings and he's all kinds of kind and sweet too. I loved reading about him. And ah, Jaime. He was awesome. And I might ship him and Tess a whole bunch. I loved getting to know him. I love how he loves his grandma, and how he wants his dad to come home. I love how awesome he is at drawing, especially superheroes. Oh, these kids were all just perfect. Also a very diverse cast, loved that.
This book takes place in an alternative world of ours. Not that different from New York our time. But some differences. There are a lot of mechanical objects, more tech things, and weird looking animals. Which was pretty awesome. I loved that this book was a little bit of fantasy, but not that much. But that's okay. It was still a really interesting story. I wish it had been a bit more exciting at times, but I also enjoyed it a bunch. I liked the mystery of the puzzle, what they did to try to figure it all out. It was interesting to read.
So much happens in this book. And I'm not going to talk too much about it all. Just that the book is long yet not nearly long enough. I loved how these kids just wanted to save their home. I loved reading about them all. And all the other characters too, because there are a bunch of them. Some nice, others not. Yet all interesting to read about. I loved that Tess and Theo had a great relationship with their parents. It was sweet. And aw, their grandpa. Made me so sad. Yet so amazing to read about too. Was written so well.
There were a lot of exciting and scary moments in this book. Like the train scene. That was pretty crazy and I enjoyed it a whole bunch. And when they went underground. A bit creepy, yet so awesome. These kids had so many adventures in this one month, and I loved reading about all of it. Gosh, I just hope that there will be lots more in book two, and that I don't have to wait too long to read it. I need more of Tess, Theo, Jaime and Nine so badly. So thrilled that I liked this book so much. I will love the next one a bunch.
If you are wanting to read this book, then you really, really should. Because The Shadow Cipher was an amazing adventure of a book. Stunning characters, fun story. The most awesome cat. It's a bit sad at times too, which was awesome. The mystery is all kinds of amazing. The ending was pretty evil yet so interesting. I can't wait to know what happens next. Eee. Huge thank you to the awesome HarperCollins International for sending me this lovely ARC. It's so precious to me. Must get the stunning hardcover too.
This review was first posted on my blog, Carina's Books.
In this book, three kids try to solve the Cipher. The kids were Tess and Theo, brother and sister. Both really smart. Jaime. The artist. Smart. Finally, Nine, the cat that needs a leash. Slightly crazy. Together, these people, (plus cat) are kind of brought closer to each other because a powerful man named Darrell Slant bought their apartment building.
My opinion? I think that this book was really great. If you like solving puzzles and challenging your brain, you would really LOVE this book. This book had what I like to read about. Action, personality, detail, scary moments, bonding, and, frankly, too many other things to list. You need to read York: The Shadow Cipher!!! Thank you for writing this book Laura Ruby <3
Imagine New York City in the early 19th century. Imagine what would have happened if it had been home to two genius twins. Twins capable of inventing mechanical creations that eliminated waste, used special glass to harness the sun’s energy, and more. Twins who remade the city in their image and created a code in its very streets. Find the code and a treasure is yours. Simple, right? Only no one ever solved it. Now it is modern day and two different twins and a friend in their beloved building have discovered that a greedy real estate developer has bought their home and is mere months away from kicking them out. All seems lost until a mysterious letter arrives. It appears that while the Morningstar twins of long ago did create a cipher for the city to solve, there may have been more than one line of clues to follow. Using their brains, their feet, and more than a little bravery, the three kids set out to solve the mystery and save their building. Yet as they do they come to an unnerving realization. This isn’t just the city that never sleeps. It’s a city that takes pleasure in watching YOU sleep.
Laura Ruby, the author, does not live in New York City. I knew this going into the book. I, on the other hand, lived there for eleven years so I’m very attuned to writers getting that city wrong in their fiction. For example, I once read an otherwise admirable middle grade mystery serious where three of the scenes in the book took place in alleyways in Museum Mile. Do I need to tell you that NYC has no alleys and, even if we did, they certainly wouldn’t be on Museum Mile? And one could argue that since Ms. Ruby is dealing with an alternate world Manhattan (the book is primarily set in Manhattan, though there is a very amusing glimpse of Brooklyn in one of the scenes) that she needn’t be so tied to the reality of the city. One could argue that, and one would be wrong. As far as I’m concerned you do the city then you do the research. So I picked up this book and within, I’m gonna say, three chapters I was convinced that Ms. Ruby must have a second secret life in the heart of the Big Apple that she’s let no one know about. Accurate to the city? Baby, you don’t even know the half of it. Okay, here’s just how well Ms. Ruby captures NYC: In one scene our characters are having a discussion when in walks my own kids’ former preschool, Sunshine Daycare. It’s THAT on the nose with the details. Snafus are of the tiny variety. For example, the A train does appear in this story to be an elevated stop at 116th Street when, in fact, that’s actually the 1 train, but I’ll let it lie. And reading this book I was both floored and suddenly hit with a wave of nostalgia. I may not have encountered rollers and Guildmen in my time there, but this is so clearly a love letter to a city I adore that it’s bound to accrue new fans in its travels. After all, it may involve mechanical cleaning caterpillars but this New York also finds the notion of peas in guacamole a crime against mankind. As is right.
Interestingly, this alternate world does retain a fair number of pop culture references. So you’ll see mentions of Spider-Man, Legos, Godzilla, etc. I appreciated this. For whatever reason it drives me batty when authors make up fake names for video games or comic book characters. Ms. Ruby even works in a couple Hamilton references, with a mention of Hercules Mulligan and Eliza Hamilton’s life and achievements. There is the occasional made up thing. Angry Bots instead of Angry Birds, for example. And for some reason there are multiple references to The Matrix though it’s never directly named. Still, all told for the most part the book keeps you grounded in reality.
Jokes. No one ever praises jokes enough. Be serious all you want but a good joke can be worth its weight in gold. Laura Ruby puts a wide array of them in this book. There are the subtle ones that make a comment on our own New York by praising this hypothetical one (example: “… and they could watch for schools of fish darting through the clear blue water of the Hudson”). And like a lot of my favorite children’s fiction, it has jokes that are going to lead to kids looking up further information, just so that they can stay in the know. For example, at one point a kindly therapist asks why Tess draws crows over her heads when she sketches and her reply is, “That’s not a crown… That’s a nimbus of outrage.” My favorite, however, may be Theo’s shirt that says “Schrodinger’s cat is dead” on the front and then a zombie cat on the back with the line, “Schrodinger’s cat is ALIIIIIIVE.” I will be seeking this t-shirt out to buy presently. And for the record, I’m pretty sure there are a lot of references in this book I wasn’t getting. One of the cipherists met in the book is named Omar Khayyam. In light of that I’m fairly certain that Ray Turnage, Adrian Birch, and Imogen Sparks also have meanings worth discovering.
Of course making it funny is all well and good, and you could have a whole novel built on the excitement of the premise alone. Still, when you meet an author that isn’t afraid to delve a little deeper and say something about humanity in a children’s book, that’s pretty neat. As a result, I took note of a lot of really insightful lines peppered throughout the chapters. Things like, “The biggest problem we have is that people like to fool themselves into thinking that they could never be fooled.” Or someone feeling a sense of relief and, “letting out a rush of breath that felt like the pulling of a splinter.” And for some reason I was really moved by a character with dementia hugging an animal and crying for their dog. When told they never had a dog they respond, “I miss the dog I never had.”
Now let’s talk about how you set up a mystery novel for kids. There are two ways to go about it. I call the two options The Agatha Christie and The Chasing Vermeer. The Agatha Christie model is the hardest to pull off. You give your readers all the facts, lay them out plain and clear, and let them solve the mystery alongside you. When done well this engages the reader and makes them complicit in the solution. Instant audience identification! Brilliant! Then you have The Chasing Vermeer method. Now the book Chasing Vermeer was very popular with kids, so you can’t knock it on that account. It was, however, a book where the mystery and solution was based entirely on coincidences. That’s a frustrating way to set up a novel, and The Shadow Cipher isn’t entirely innocent of this methodology. Early on we learn that as you solve the cipher it solves you. Well that’s awfully convenient. It allows for all kinds of coincidences to occur, from finding the right letter at the right time to solving a part of the cipher mere days before the proposed destruction of the characters’ beloved home. Yet for all that, you get the feeling that Ms. Ruby is playing pretty fair with you. Kids will feel pleased to figure out that a mechanical moth is responsible for the partial blackout in town. They may realize what the twins are doing running around keeping track of the position of one star or another in their building. As a result this book is sort of a combination of the best elements of The Agatha Christie and Chasing Vermeer methods put together. I could have done with less coincidences, but at least they’re interstitial.
Creating alternate Americas is not a job for the lazy. I’ve seen it done well in children’s books and I’ve seen it done magnificently catastrophically poorly. Take, for example, the case of The Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede, or, as it was known during its publication, “Mammothgate”. In 2009 author Wrede wanted to write a story of an alternate U.S. where magic existed and there had never been a Land Bridge to the North American continent. To avoid pesky racial politics the author had simply erased the Land Bridge and said that there weren’t any Native Americans at all in her fantasy world. Sticky racial politics gone, right? But exchanging mammoths for American Indians (hence the term “Mammothgate”) even in a fantasy is little more than a quick erasing of an entire race simply because they’re inconvenient to your plot. Since the brouhaha that erupted from those choices other authors have tread more carefully. Matthew Kirby in The Lost Kingdom incorporated American Indians into much of his plot (even as he reduced female protagonists to mere fainting females). And here, Laura Ruby could have ignored Native Americans entirely. Or, she could have kept their history identical to that of the real America. Instead, Ruby makes the choice to give them different outcomes. At one point in the background we see an Embassy of the Five Hundred Nations, “flying the colorful flags of First Nations from the Abenaki to the Comanche, Pawnee to the Sioux.” We see Native teens dropping lyrics on the street. Later a mention is made of a fictional superhero named “Super Indian” which, quite frankly, doesn’t exactly sound all that different from the real world Apache Chief. It reminds me of the old Harvey Birdman show where Black Lightning is complaining to Aquaman about his name. When Aquaman doesn’t get the problem Black Lightning says, “How would you like it if I called you White Fish?” Same diff.
As odd as it may seem, the book that this reminded me of the most wasn’t the aforementioned Westing Game or Greenglass House but rather The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. In both cases you have kids encountering old technology with a secret locked inside, just waiting to be revealed. You also have cases where the villain is almost just as much circumstances as it is a big bad guy. I don’t think I’m spoiling much to tell you that the real estate developer with the bad hair who only dates models and is buying up much of NYC (and has five letters in his name, and, and, and…) never makes a physical appearance on these pages. Not this time around. I suspect as the years go by and these books continue to be published we will find ourselves hoping against hope for him to be defeated in a particularly satisfying manner.
Greatest Objection to This Book: No libraries. I shall expect this problem to be rectified in future installments. Ditto trips to Staten Island, Queens, and the poor much ignored Bronx. I have a dream that someday someone will set a mystery or fantasy in the Bronx and at long last that borough shall have its due.
It is one thing to want to write a scavenger hunt. It another thing to set that hunt in a world so like and unalike our own. And when you go even further and pepper your story’s inherent excitement with eloquence, your final product doesn’t shine. It glows from within. The Shadow Cipher glows. Oh sure, I would have changed stuff here and there, but on the whole the book is strong, sturdy and for all that it’s over 400 pages it’s pretty unputdownable. It won’t matter if a kid knows Manhattan like the back of their hand or has never even seen 5th Avenue firsthand. The city today is just like the city in this book. It’s a puzzle, and every person that visits it attempts to solve that puzzle for themselves. I don’t know what the future holds for future installments of this series, but I do know that NYC should hire Ms. Ruby as their current publicist. A graceful paean to the best of Manhattan, and a shocking, gripping, nail-biting, intriguing mystery for fans of codes, ciphers, puzzles, and treasure.
For ages 9-14.