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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The Golden Manuscripts by Evy Journey follows a young woman named Clarissa who feels connected to two medieval manuscripts and wants to solve the mystery around their disappearance in this sixth stand-alone book of the Between Two Worlds series. Two point-of-view characters narrate in the first person against the backdrop of World War II and the early noughties, with fluctuation of decades between. The first point of view is an unnamed WWII soldier who steals the manuscripts and keeps them, justifying his actions as payment for what the war inflicted on him, and later identified as the story progresses. The second is Clarissa Martinez, a mixed-race American college student whose obsession with finding the stolen manuscripts brings up some uncomfortable pieces of herself. Searching with Clarissa is Nathan, a young man who has a history with Clarissa's brother Arthur and is uniquely qualified in the art of illumination.
In The Golden Manuscripts, Evy Journey transports readers into a contemplative exploration of history, mystery, and personal discovery. The movement between Clarissa and the soldier's timelines, and a third into Clarissa's earlier years, is fluid and comfortable. The pain of the soldier and his intermittent remorse come across as authentic and Clarissa's motivation in bridging the manuscripts with a coping mechanism of her youth highlights the originality of Journey's plot in a relatable context. Looting in war is not new and neither is selling the spoils of war back to the country of original ownership. The topic becomes more convoluted still when we bring in art taken by colonizing nations that are still hanging in their museums today—just ask The Met. Clarissa is unambiguous in her thoughts about the art market and stolen masterpieces, known and largely unknown, and while questionable provenance on a larger scope is not as straightforward, when a soldier outright steals from a church doesn't make Clarissa's moral argument a tough sell. Bonus points to Journey for making the California city of Emeryville, usually only associated with Ikea or Amtrak, a setting. Very highly recommended.