In this action-packed sequel to City of Dark Magic, we find musicologist Sarah Weston in Vienna in search of a cure for her friend Pollina, who is now gravely ill and who may not have much time left. Meanwhile, Nicolas Pertusato, in London in search of an ancient alchemical cure for the girl, discovers an old enemy is one step ahead of him. In Prague, Prince Max tries to unravel the strange reappearance of a long dead saint while being pursued by a seductive red-headed historian with dark motives of her own.
In the city of Beethoven, Mozart, and Freud, Sarah becomes the target in a deadly web of intrigue that involves a scientist on the run, stolen art, seductive pastries, a few surprises from long-dead alchemists, a distractingly attractive horseman who’s more than a little bloodthirsty, and a trail of secrets and lies. But nothing will be more dangerous than the brilliant and vindictive villain who seeks to bend time itself. Sarah must travel deep into an ancient mystery to save the people she loves.
One Sentence Review:
An uneven book whose whole isn’t greater than the sum of its parts.
Am I the only who thinks that the sub-genre of magical realism was invented so that the more literary-minded authors could play within the realm of fantasy while avoiding getting hit with the dreaded “genre” label? Because really that’s what magical realism is: fantasy light. It’s a book that doesn’t stray far from the recognizable modern world, and yet has elements that are unquestionably fantastic. And for all that the Good Reads users have shelved it as fantasy, if you go to find it in the bookstore, you’ll find it on the fiction shelf, not fantasy which only emphasizes my point.
But I digress.
When I read City of Dark Magic I thought it was a good book, a little better than okay. There were parts that I liked and parts that I didn’t, and while I enjoyed reading it, I never really got around to grabbing this one to take a look at it. If that book hadn’t been the first book review I ever posted on this blog, I probably wouldn’t have gotten back around to picking this up. But I did. And was it worth it?
If I had to give a one word review, I’d probably go with uneven. For every good there is a bad and that’s not what you want to see in any endeavor, really.
On the one hand, this book is genuinely fun to read: the authors (Flyte is a pseudonym for the pair of women behind the books) have a way with words that will bring a smile to your face. On the other hand, the chose to make their American university educated Italian doctor Speaka Like Mario. It’s grating, to say the least. The authors go for multiple points of view, but pick up too many: some of the characters just don’t enough page time to be worth spending time through their eyes and finally, there’s a novel-within-a-novel that just drags the book to a screeching halt. Background and ambiance shouldn’t come at the expense of killing momentum. Finally, they make the decision to have one character use the c-word, after pretty much not swearing the entire book. I don’t mind that kind of language, but it didn’t make sense for the character. Sarah was clearly having a Molly Weasley (“Not my daughter, you <i>bitch</i>”) moment, but it’s like the authors didn’t feel that bitch wouldn’t have enough punch. It would have.
Characters are also a mixed lot. Nico remains fun. Sarah and Max are at their best when they are together, but the authors conspire to keep them apart because the plot dictates that Max unknowingly date the mostly bland antagonist’s minion and show up to have sex with said girlfriend. Sarah meanwhile shows no interest in a character to suddenly jump him for no clear reason. It’s just odd. Kudos are to be given for a positively-portrayed transgender character, but as a whole, the characters are mostly flat. Pollina is very likable, but she’s a 13 year old a) blind b) musical prodigy c) dying of an incurable disease that d) is practically an orphan because her dilettante parents have more important things to do that spend time with her. It’s like the authors are daring you to not like her.
The story is fun, but definitely don’t think about it too much because Science Doesn’t Work That Way. Not book breaking, but if you have any knowledge of biology you’ll probably side-eye it.
Like its predecessor, it’s a fun enough read, but it just doesn’t hold up. It took me two years to pick up the sequel. If a third book was written, it’d probably take as long to pick it up the next one. It’s basically more of the same of the last book, for better or worse.
Verdict: Borrow It