Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte

I got a copy of this book from Netgalley a while back, and had been so excited about reading it, because it took place in Prague, and I was in the process of planning a trip to Prague.  But for some reason, I didn’t read it.  There may have been other books I had already committed to reviewing or maybe things got busy at work.

Anyway, the book kept getting set aside.  And the reviews I saw on Goodreads were pretty harsh, so I was hesitant to read this.  But it remained on my list.

Well, I got to Prague.  I wandered around the Old Town area my first afternoon there, and I couldn’t get a feel for the place.  I was bothered by the huge crowds of tourists, everyone gathering around watching a guy in the middle of the square cracking a whip.  I go to these cities hoping for culture and history, and in Prague especially, I was in search of something dark and mysterious.  A sweaty guy in a torn tank top cracking a whip was not producing any magic or mystery.  I got some ice cream and went back to my hotel room.

That’s when I decided to start reading City of Dark Magic, hoping it could provide some hint of what to look for in this city.  The story pulled me in immediately.  Very fast paced story.

The next morning, as the rain poured down, I spent a few extra hours in bed reading.  (I had to be somewhere that afternoon and night, and I still had a few more days to explore the city, so no worries, I did not spend my entire time in Prague in my hotel room reading.)

But I am so glad I had this book to read while I was in Prague, waiting out the rain. 

The story is about a group of students -  academics, experts in their field - who have been hired to put together the Lobkowicz Palace’s Museum.  The family’s belongings have recently been returned to them – following WWII and then communism.  It’s a very strange group of people – as should be expected from a group such as this.  (Two trips through grad school, I know a little bit about these academic types.) 

I especially liked the main character, Sarah.  She’s smart and knowledgeable in her field – she’s hired to catalogue Beethoven’s manuscripts – and seems to have her act together.  Nice to read about a heroine who is comfortable in her sexuality, has no real hang-ups about enjoying herself.  (Oddly enough, a lot of the negative reviews complained about the sex in this book – so I was bracing myself for something dreadful – but didn’t see anything at all wrong with it.)  Now as far as romance, I thought more could have been done in that area.  I was surprised when all of a sudden she’s claiming she’s in love with Max, because I didn’t see much leading to love, other than them having great sex.  Maybe that’s enough, I don’t know.  I felt there was more to it, I think Max had been in love with her since fourth grade, and that’s hinted at, but not elaborated, and I felt it could have been.  But that’s a minor complaint.  I liked both of these characters and feel like they have a lot of potential.

 I very much enjoyed the mystery and the action in the story.  I think reading this while I was in Prague enhanced my visit to the city and added the magic for which I had been searching.  When I was about 60% through the book, I visited Prague castle and the Lobkowicz Palace.  I thought it was so cool to walk through the museum, having read the book.  I know it was fiction, but the authors did an excellent job with their research.  As I walked through each room, I felt like I was looking at the work put together by the characters in the book because it matched the descriptions in the book so accurately. 

I liked this book a lot and was very happy to learn there’s a sequel that is going to take place in Vienna – a city I visited a few summers ago and liked very much. 

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