A young American woman in Czechoslovakia goes on a quest for an immortality potion in this debut young-adult thriller.

After the Iron Curtain is lifted in 1991, 18-year-old Hana Silna travels to Prague to take possession of The Rockery, her family home. She’s flying alone because her father is dead and her mother is seriously ill. Her Czech cousins, The Rockery’s co-owners, greet her with friendly warmth. Soon after she arrives, however, Hana finds herself embroiled in a dangerous search for a flask once owned by an alchemist who knew the secret of immortality. Aided by diplomat’s son Alex Williams and others, Hana explores Prague landmarks, castles and even torture chambers. She races to unravel centuries-old riddles, dodging bad guys as she figures out whom she can trust. In her debut novel, DeBruce makes good use of her beautiful setting, intelligently showcasing Prague’s local history, art, people and places. She also ups the ante by including several vulnerable characters for Hana to worry about, such as Alex’s sister, who suffers from a severe medical condition. The author also nicely handles the immortality aspect with reasonably scientific explanations. Hana has a wry, likeable first-person voice; at one point, she considers calling her mother, but wonders what to say: “The good news is we have The Rockery back; the bad news is I’m being chased all over Prague by an immortal psycho killer.” Meanwhile, motorcycle-riding Alex is a useful and, Hana must admit, attractive partner. DeBruce sustains the mystery by periodically using a second narrator (other than Hana), known as the Nomad. The sometimes violent action moves quickly, with exciting chases and unexpected twists. After the story ends with “To Be Continued,” readers will likely to want to see more of Hana and Alex.

An exciting YA thriller with supernatural elements and a brave, enterprising heroine.


Clarion Review 
The Riddle of Prague is a fast-paced, edge-of-your seat mystery-adventure that skillfully dangles the carrot until just the right moment.Hana Silna only wants to get to Prague, make the transfer of the house she inherited, do a bit of sightseeing, and return to the United States to be by her ailing mother’s side—but she quickly learns that others have a different agenda. A fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat mystery-adventure, The Riddle of Prague, by Laura DeBruce, is a delicious tale of intrigue, murder, and mayhem that contains more than enough suspense to keep readers clamoring for more.As eighteen-year-old Hana embarks on her journey, she is blissfully unaware of the web she is about to become entangled in. As odd, but not overly unusual, things begin to happen all around her—disappearances, a gory murder—it isn’t until one fateful night when her house is broken into and she stumbles upon an ancient notebook that things take a supernatural turn.As an ancient legend of emperors, experiments, magic elixirs, and immortality comes to light and hidden rooms, secret hideaways, and murdering thugs are revealed, Hana finds herself trusting in one boy, Alex. Together, and with tentative faith in only a few others, Hana and Alex begin to follow the clues within the book. As identities are revealed and their belief in the legend grows, they begin to hope, for they each have loved ones who could benefit from the elixir. But they must get to it before being captured.DeBruce’s use of the Czech language, with its English translations, along with her keen ability to use appropriate names, whether Russian, Czech, or American, to personalize her characters shows the time and effort she put into research for her book. The author also has a talent for persuasion, as evidenced by her ability to lure the reader along with writing that exudes drama: “The Emperor makes haste to imprison me again. And yet! And yet, old friend, I swear that the Flasks contain the Quicksilver of Existence! The Angels confirm that the Sorceress of Oxfordshire, formerly of Ragusa, has indeed completed Nature’s Most Stupendous Metamorphosis! And so will we!”

The Riddle of Prague is hard to put down. Despite being a short, easy read, the book is packed full of action and adventure, murder, and teenage flirting, and it has a dynamic plot, along with well-rounded characters, that easily carries the story from one mysterious moment to the next. There is even, to the readers’ delight, a mysterious character who is marvelously difficult to figure out and is revealed at just the right moment, with jaw-dropping impact.

With an enticing and beautifully illustrated cover, The Riddle of Prague is an energetic book that anyone in middle school and beyond will thoroughly enjoy.

Tammy Snyder
July 12, 2013