Book Review: City of Dark Magic

City of Dark Magic came into my hands entirely by chance. I was on Overdrive (the library app for those who may not have heard of it) and looking for a book that my mother was interested in. I was searching and Magnus Flyte came up. Of course, Magnus Flyte is the pseudonym for authors Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch. (Although in the book they make Mr. Flyte sound like a real, albeit mysterious person, which I found corny. I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy pseudonyms.)

I clicked on the cover, because the title City of Dark Magic caught my interest, and a few weeks later after letting it cool off on my wish list, I checked it out. The cover and the setting in Prague caught my interest first; Daughter of Smoke and Bone left me wanting more of the intriguing Czech city. It also promised alchemy, dwarves and tantric sex – I was sold!

This is the premise that was given on the back cover:

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.
City of Dark Magic could be called a rom-com paranormal suspense novel—or it could simply be called one of the most entertaining novels of the year.

For me personally, this book was a hit and a miss in so many different ways and the mixed reviews on Goodreads seem to prove it. With a book with the word MAGIC in the title, I expected … well, more magic! In the end it seemed more like a confused political thriller that was trying to use alchemy and history to enhance the suspense.

It is an entirely plot-driven read. The writing was quick and witty, it had me giggle on my commute a few times. The characters had back stories that weren’t expanded on very much and some of the supporting characters were more interesting than the main ones! Set in Prague, the author keeps baiting the reader to expect some amazing magic that never comes. The story is full of historic references and I feel like I know more about Beethoven and his bodily functions than I did last week. The historic lecturing paragraphs that were conveniently placed in the banter among Sarah and the other intellectuals became boring. Unfortunately, the plot started to thin out and go into too many directions and nothing really was solved.

Despite her downfalls, I didn’t hate Sarah like other reviewers did and I actually liked how sexually ambiguous she was. In a lot of YA novels characters are either romanticized virgins or overly cautious about sex, Sarah really spiced things up a bit! Sarah also didn’t go all goo-goo over the prince in some sort of insta-love fit that I expected.

I will be reading the sequel because Pols, was one of the most interesting characters who sadly did not get much “screen-time”, is going to be making an appearance. There’s also time travel involved so maybe the sequel will have more magic that the debut. Here’s hoping!

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