2013 · 3 stars · fantasy

review; city of dark magic

Title: City of Dark Magic
Author: Magnus Flyte
Pub. Date: November, 2012
Source: Publisher

Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands 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.

Soon after Sarah arrives, strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle, may not have committed suicide after all. Could his cryptic notes be warnings? As Sarah parses his clues about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” she manages to get arrested, to have tantric sex in a public fountain, and to discover a time-warping drug. She also catches the attention of a four-hundred-year-old dwarf, the handsome Prince Max, and a powerful U.S. senator with secrets she will do anything to hide.

Genre: Fantasy

Prince! what you are, you are by circumstance and by birth. What I am, I am through myself. Of Princes there have and will be thousands – of Beethovens there is only one.

– Ludwig Van Beethoven
I’ll admit, going into City of Dark Magic, I was expecting a book WILDLY different than what I got. ..and, unfortunately, that’s not a good thing. On the surface it sounds like a fun fantasy novel with some historical mystery and immortal dwarfs thrown in. In reality it’s 300 pages of the main character sleeping with multiple guys (even statues aren’t out of the question) and 150 pages of actual – and even interesting – plot.

Sarah Weston is a doctoral candidate living in Boston. Her beloved professor has left for Prague where he’s helping restore a royal family’s treasures, his area of specialty being Beethoven. After his suspicious death (officially ruled a suicide) Sarah receives a strange letter with a plane ticket and a handful of money along with the promise of a well-paying job for the rest of the summer.

Beethoven is something of an obsession for Sarah and she readily accepts the invitation. It was here my interest went rapidly downhill – and this was still in the first chapter! Mere minutes after meeting her fellow colleagues (each focusing on a particular area of the collection) she not only sneaks off to the bathroom to have sex with one of them – after some fooling around in the middle of dinner – only to realize the man she slept with wasn’t who she had originally thought and it’s not until 100 or so pages later that she discovers who it really was (while she’s in the process of sleeping with him. Again.) Then there’s the previously mentioned arousal regarding statues and Sarah’s nose. The book mentions numerous times Sarah’s sense of smell is so heightened that she makes decisions based solely on it. Decisions like who she’s going to sleep with next, for example.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind graphic scenes in books, but this completely went against Sarah’s character and was so over-the-top it bordered on ridiculous.

When Sarah isn’t sleeping with someone, the book attempts to weave together a few storylines including the Bad Guy (who we know is bad right from the start, so it’s really no surprise once it’s revealed) and an interesting mystery involving Beethoven and a mysterious drug.

Sarah sat down on the bed. She was living underground. Like a mole. Like a bottle of wine. Like a corpse. Like nuclear waste. Sarah tried to tell herself that a window was not an essential part of a bedroom. Bedrooms were for sleeping. And with Prague’s history of defenestrations, she should be happy there were no windows for her to be thrown out of.

The history and landmarks were beautifully described. That aspect of the story I really enjoyed. Also, there was a secret library and you can never go wrong with a secret library.

Prince Max and Sarah decide to uncover the mysteries surrounding Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved. Historians and academics believe this was a person, but Max and Sarah have other ideas. They take a ‘drug’ of sort (by eating Beethoven’s toenails – SO. DISGUSTING. WHY WHY WHY) and are sorta kinda transported to the past. They’re able to see into the past, but it’s like watching a movie: they aren’t able to interact with or touch those they see.

I was on board with this plot and was disappointed to see it didn’t go anywhere. That seemed to be the case with the majority of storylines in this book: they simply fizzled off into nothing.

Only the passionate were immortal, it seemed. If you fought, screwed, screamed, laughed, or otherwise experienced life intensely, for better or for worse, you left a record. Those who lived a quiet, well-behaved, well-tempered life? Gone without a trace.

The most interesting character in the novel was the 400-year old dwarf Nico. He was there when the drug first came into being. However, he has no idea where it or the Golden Fleece is hidden because he was knocked out by someone. Convenient. Again, his storyline is never resolved and I didn’t get to find out whether or not he found what it was he had been looking for.

It’s such a shame City of Dark Magic fell flat. I had expected so much more from it and, at times, it certainly had potential. Unfortunately a jumble of plots and a completely unlikeable main character made this book a chore rather than a delight. Also, the cutesy introduction and multiple mentions of Beethoven farting tried my patience.


4 thoughts on “review; city of dark magic

  1. That’s unfortunate that you didn’t like it as much as you had hoped. I personally really enjoyed it, but I can definitely see how it can rub someone the wrong way. I got the impression that perhaps this is the beginning of a series, which is why there are so many unanswered questions and way too many characters and plot developments to track.

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