Title: City of Dark Magic
Author: Magnus Flyte
Published: November 27, 2012
Number of Pages: 464
Genre(s): Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Date Read: November 3, 2012
Acquired: GoodReads First Reads
An interesting and unique page-turning romp that you won't be able to put down, this is the debut novel of Magnus Flyte (who is actually a team of two other authors); it's a fantastic mixture magic and mystery with just a dash of history and a little bit of science. Set in the gorgeous and historically rich city of Prague, Sarah Weston a PhD candidate in music is surprised to find herself offered the once in a lifetime chance at cataloguing Beethoven's manuscripts at a new museum set to open in Prague Castle; Sarah doesn't stop to wonder if it really is just too good to be true. Sarah is warned that legends and myths all say that Prague is a threshold for dark and sinister happenings.
It's not long after she arrives that strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle (another mere coincidence?), may not have committed suicide after all. He left cryptic notes, could he have been trying to warn her? Sarah tries to untangle his clues about the identity of Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” and in the process she manages to get arrested, to have exhibitionist sex in a public fountain (perhaps those things are connected?), and maybe even discover time travel; all in all a pretty standard summer for a music scholar right? She also manages to catch the attention of a four-hundred-year-old dwarf, a handsome Prince, and crosses wits with a powerful U.S. politician with secrets that could change the face of government if they stay secret.
City of Dark Magic has elements of so many genres but ignore the labels and just be entertained by Sarah's adventures.
Sometimes you just have to casually pick up a sledgehammer and keep going; Sarah does just that at one point and that one small phrase sums up the entirety of this book perfectly in my mind. I wondered when I read that phrase, "How does one casually pick up a sledgehammer?" especially when that one is a young, slim musicologist, it's a rather ludicrous and hilarious action to envision to me and that's really what the this whole book is about. The ludicrousness and hilariousness of day to day life and how little we actually understand about the way the world works. I was so excited when I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program; the blurb on the back cover was 100% accurate, because it really is the most entertaining novel I've read all year.
As I read it I was strongly reminded of two other novels with similar themes of the past meeting the present and completely changing the way the characters understand the world. While reading I heard this constant little voice in my head saying to me that the story has overtones and themes that are in line with the content of Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches (I have yet to read the sequel, it is however on my very large pile of books to be read though!), where Harkness's book is about the mysteries surrounding a very old book, Flyte focusses on the mysteries of music, musicians and their patrons. Both however make mentions of alchemy and magic. The other work I found my inner voice saying this reminded me of was A.S. Byatt's Possession: A Romance.
On the whole this book has everything I love, relatable, hilarious characters, historical references that make me want to go and learn more, action, mystery and intrigue and just the right amount of believable urban fantasy thrown into the mix. Although I think I'm going to have to go back and look for the "tantric sex in a public fountain" that the back cover mentions; I remember sex against a lot of statues, but I don't remember any fountains...
The only thing I can say is I wish Magnus had introduced a few of the bigger plot elements earlier, because during the first half of the book it started to feel like Sarah wasn't really getting anywhere at times. I smell sequel though based on the ending, and that pleases me because there's nothing I love more than a really good book series!