YorkThe Shadow Cipher (Book One)
In 1798, the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding trains, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, but not before leaving 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.In 2017, 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. If Tess, Theo and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. And there's only one way to do that: they have to solve it.
From National Book Award Finalist Laura Ruby comes a visionary middle grade epic set in a New York City at once familiar and wholly unexpected.
Walden Pond Press (May 2017), approx. 400 pages, ISBN: 978-0062306937
Praise"In York, Laura Ruby's captivating new novel, her first for middle grade readers, the treasure hunt takes place in a present-day, steam-punky version of New York...The pleasures of the 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..."
—The New York Times
"Twins Tess and Theo live in one of the only remaining buildings designed by the Morningstarrs, visionary twins who built glittering structures in nineteenth-century New York, as well as the Cipher, a notorious, citywide puzzle leading to fantastic treasure. Now, in the twenty-first century, Tess and Theo's building has been purchased by a mercenary developer, but Tess grasps at a shred of hope: if they solve the Cipher, they might be able to keep their home. With robust, architectural world-building, Ruby reveals an alternate New York teeming with mechanical marvels and compelling secrets. This New York still has some familiar features, however: a rich culture of diversity alongside insidious greed and wealth inequality. Tess and Theo, and their friend and neighbor, Jaime, have distinct voices and idiosyncrasies that, though some might consider them odd, become marvelous strengths. As the trio traverses the city, they're often baffled by how easily clues fall into their hands, but Ruby slyly sidesteps those coincidences by giving the Cipher itself a mysterious, subtle sort of agency. 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. It's a brainy romp with a worrying heart, and while many plot threads are resolved, Theo, Tess, and Jaime will surely, thankfully, be back for more."
—Booklist (STARRED REVIEW)
"At once thoroughly modern (a solar-powered city filled with a genuinely diverse cast of characters) and charmingly old-fashioned (steampunk machinery, ciphers, and a mystery at times reminiscent of Ellen Raskin or E.L. Konigsburg), Ruby's vision of New York brims with innovative details that perfectly support her themes of friendship, family, and history...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."
—School Library Journal (STARRED REVIEW)
"Ruby's nuanced trio of protagonists strikes a balance of emotional vulnerability (the twins coping with their grandfather's onset of dementia, Jaime with his father's increasing absence, and all three with the impending loss of their home) and resilience. The equally thoughtful vision of an alternative New York, both historical and present-day, pulsates right off the page, with geography, history, and steampunk-esque machines thoroughly integrated into the thrum of a strange but recognizable city...Weaving one web of secrets even as it works to unravel another, Ruby's story will have both mystery and sci-fi fans reading and re-reading in anticipation of the next installment."
—The Horn Book