Series: City of Dark Magic #1
Published by Text Publishing on October 2013
Genres: Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery/Thriller, Romance, Urban
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Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, in its day Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers. When music student Sarah Weston finds herself with a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become.
Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood.
Prague. Praha. The name actually meant “threshold”. Pollina had said the city was a portal between the life of the good and … the other. A city of dark magic, Alessandro had called it.
Sarah Weston is a musicologist and scholar of Beethoven at a Boston college. She is surprised at an invitation to study some uncatalogued works at a private collection in Prague over the summer, but even more shocking is that her mentor, another eminent musicologist, committed suicide while working on the same collection at Prague Castle. She packs up and heads to Europe wondering what is in store, but what is really happening in Prague is way stranger than she could have imagined.
City of Dark Magic reads a bit like The Da Vinci Code crossed with the Thursday Next books – plenty of strange symbology and alchemy, but told in a rather tongue-in-cheek style. At first this approach seems a bit irreverent, since the story itself deals with murders, political corruption and beloved classical scientists and musicians, but as the story goes on I really found myself enjoying the witty remarks and the quirkiness of the characters.
The story is not all lightness though – there are some very dark moments, especially in the dungeons of the castle that aren’t for the faint-hearted. Some horrible things certainly happened throughout Prague’s history. The quirky style helped to alleviate some of that horror.
As a musician and lover of classical music myself, I’ve always loved Beethoven’s music but was only vaguely aware of his actual life story – that he tragically went deaf later on in his life and never got to hear many of his famous works played. If the biographical elements of City of Dark Magic are to be believed, Beethoven suffered through his hearing getting worse and then better again, depending on the day – a slow deterioration that must have been devastating. The writing in this story shows a real knowledge and love of Beethoven’s works and it was quite often a joy to read. I almost felt like I needed a soundtrack while I was reading it!
The only thing I didn’t particularly enjoy was Sarah’s character. She seems to be a slight nymphomaniac and the random sex was a bit off-putting at times! I just felt it clashed slightly with the rest of the way her character behaved and might have been a bit unnecessary.
Magnus Flyte is actually a pen name for a pair of authors – Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch. I’m not really sure why they chose to use a pseudonym but their sequel is out this month, City of Lost Dreams. I’m rather looking forward to reading it!
– City of Dark Magic is a fast-paced mystery that is not only about the life and times of Beethoven, but a travel guide to historical Prague. I’d recommend it to music lovers, and if you like the sound of a murder mystery set in an ancient castle, make sure to give this one a try!