Review – City of Dark Magic

City of Dark Magic

I have a soft spot for urban fantasy. I don’t know if it’s the paranormal haze that overtakes the story or if it’s the ridiculous quality that some stories take on when fantasy and paranormal mix, but in this book, it’s the latter. That ridiculous quality is the draw for me.

Sarah Weston is a talented music student in Boston but a student with few lucrative prospects in her path. When she’s offered a very profitable summer job in Prague cataloguing Beethoven’s manuscripts for a new museum, she jumps at the opportunity. Sarah arrives in Prague and is immediately hit with bad news — her mentor, the man who most likely recommended her for the position, is dead of an apparent suicide. She has trouble believing the story which gets even stranger when odd things begin happening to her. Weird symbols start appearing in unlikely places, she accidently stumbles on a Cold War conspiracy involving a very prominent U.S. Senator, and then there’s the time travel inducing drug she takes without knowing what it does. Throw in a romance with a prince and you’ve got a very busy summer that also includes putting together an exhibit on Beethoven.

A standard rule I have when reading a book such as this — remove all sense of reality then enjoy at will. City of Dark Magic is a fast read, silly, yet entertaining. It’s campy and you want to keep reading because it’s compelling in its strange way. I wanted to know what else could be thrown in the mix. This book is a huge mashup of genres: paranormal, mystery, thriller, time travel, and romance. Prague, with its long and sometimes dark history, is a good setting for it all but I do wish the city itself had played a larger role in the story. It’s a location and not much more.

Sarah’s the center of everything weird going on but she’s not the most interesting character for me. There are two others: Pollina, a blind musical prodigy who keeps warning Sarah with cryptic references about Prague, and Nicolas, a little person with a penchant for stealing valuable objects and who hints at being alive for close to 400 years. Pollina and Nicholas play scant parts in the story but they also made it for me. You don’t know much about either but each time one of them shows up, something interesting happens. I like characters like that.

Then we have the romance, which is more like sex in weird places rather than a straight forward romance. Sarah falls for Max, the heir apparent of the Prague royal family and also heir to an enormous fortune. Frankly, I had no idea what Sarah saw in him. He gets slightly more interesting as the story goes on but he’s sort like a light bulb — on one second, off the next but the two work as a couple.

I gravitate toward books with any time travel element. Here, it’s a bit different, less actual travel to the past and more watching the past thanks to a drug that allows users to see the remnants of history but not interact with it. Think of it as watching a movie. The concept is cool. In fact, it works extremely well and is one of the best parts of the book. Points for creativity need to be awarded for this.

Sometimes you want a book that simply entertains and City of Dark Magic does that. There’s a bit of everything and when one scene seems impossible, know that the next will top it. Go with it. It’s a good ride and a great way to escape reality for a bit.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

City of Dark Magic

Magnus Flyte

Penguin Books

ISBN: 9780143122685

3.5 stars

 

Review – Shadow of Night

In Shadow of Night, we pick up with Diana Bishop, now Diana Clairmont, and her new husband Matthew in 1590 Elizabethan England. Having time walked back to 1590 to find a witch capable of understanding Diana’s magic and who can teach her how to control her powers, the two soon get caught up in 16th Century English politics and court intrigue. It’s a particularly fascinating place for Diana, being the scholar that she is, but for Matthew the new setting brings on a fresh set of problems and emotions. Matthew, a vampire who once hunted down witches, now has to reconcile his old role as witch hunter which is more than difficult now that over 400 years later, he finds himself married to a witch. He also must come to some understanding with his father — a man he knows as dead in his present.

In only a few months, Diana and Matthew have to find Ashmole 782, the mysterious book that brought them together months ago in their present time at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Hoping it may still be intact in 1590, they’re both somewhat optimistic that Diana’s burgeoning powers can help them understand who they are, what they are, and what will happen to their families. All the while they are dealing with Matthew’s past, well-known historical figures — Queen Elizabeth I anyone? — famous playwrights, witches, family drama, and weddings. Diana and Matthew not only have to figure out how to be married but also how to be a witch and vampire married to each other while looking for a book that they hope holds the answers to their future.

Matthew is still his controlling self — he’s a vampire but it’s still hard to ignore this annoying trait of his — but Diana is finally starting to understand what her witch heritage means, how to control her powers, and starts to stand her ground. Once reluctant to accept witchcraft, she finally begins using it and accepting it as part of who she is. Something her husband, a man who wants to control everything, struggles with as well. Their relationship becomes more of a partnership in the second book. These two obviously have picked a strange road to follow and one that many don’t see ending happily. I felt this second book in the All Souls trilogy (Shadow of Night is the second book in the series following A Discovery of Witches) had a bit less mystery for me but a lot more intrigue. I enjoyed the numerous strange characters that appeared and we finally get a look at Matthew’s past. Getting to meet Matthew’s family and friends explains his sometimes irrational mood swings and what both he and Diana will be facing in their life together.

I’m a series reader and am happy to say that Shadow of Night kept up with A Discovery of Witches. Book two in a trilogy can sometimes feel like a place holder, and while Diana and Matthew’s questions aren’t answered, their lives do move on and I liked seeing their relationship change. They both wonder about their intrusions on the past and how their actions will alter their futures and the past. Diana finally accepts witchcraft as part of who she is but there are few precious hints at what it will hold for her future self. Matthew’s history hits him full on in 1590 and Diana understands for the first time why her husband falls into such dark places.

In short, time walking, famous dead people, more vampires, witches, and daemons, and lots of magic shape book two in the All Souls trilogy. And yes, I’m now sitting and hoping Deborah Harkness writes faster because I’m anxious to know what happens to Diana and Matthew.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

Shadow of Night

Deborah Harkness

Viking Adult

ISBN: 9780670023486

4.5 stars

 

Review – Magic Slays

Magic Slays

By Ilona Andrews

Penguin Group

ISBN: 9781101515259

4 stars

This is the fifth book in the Kate Daniel series and if you haven’t read the first four books, starting here would be a mistake.  Not because you’d be lost, Andrews provides enough details for the first-timer and for readers who may have let a bit too much time lapse between books, but because you’d miss all the fun.

Kate, now the Beast Lord Curran’s wife for lack of a better term, she’s living with the Pack and acting as Alpha to Curran.  While she’s still not entirely comfortable with her new position and unsure how to handle her emotions now that she’s allowed herself to admit she loves Curran, she clings dearly to her new business, the only thing she has some control over.  Setup with funds from the Pack, Kate is ready to work for herself rather than the Guild but finding business is proving harder than she imagined.  In an Atlanta full of magical beings, shapeshifters, vampires, witches, and mages, no one is asking for her help.  When her first client walks through the door, the gates of hell open below her feet.

One thing I love about these books — sheer brain candy.  That’s a good thing so don’t be turned off.  The books are short, entertaining, and Andrews has created an Atlanta full of wonderful characters, most of which are the staples of urban fantasy, but they all feel new.  I devour these books and wait patiently for the next installment so I can schedule time on the couch to sit and become absorbed in Kate’s world.  She’s brash, doesn’t think things through, acts crazy at times, and takes constant risks even when the people in her life ask her not too.

I waited for four books to see Kate and Curran get together and no I’m not saying that to ruin anything for you if you haven’t read these books yet.  You see it coming in book one and when it happens, it works.  I know some of you might be saying, “Romance in urban fantasy?”  Don’t worry, it’s not out of control and fits with the story without becoming the story.

If you haven’t read these books yet, try them.  They’re so fun and if you don’t love urban fantasy, you will when you finish these books.  If you want to start at the beginning, the books in order are: Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes, Magic Bleeds, and Magic Slays.