Monday, 3 December 2012

City of Dark Magic - Magnus Flyte

Who doesn't love a bit of urban fantasy in their life? When I saw the snippet for City of Dark Magic on Netgalley, I immediately requested it. It sounded absolutely delightful. 

City of Dark Magic tells the story of Sarah Weston, a PhD student studying music (particularly Beethoven) in Boston. At the beginning of the story, she gets invited to spend the summer doing research in Prague where a vast collection of previously lost artifacts are currently being studied and documented in order to put a museum together. She also finds out that her mentor and PhD Advisor, who had been over working on the collections, has unfortunately passed away in an apparent suicide. 

Of course, Sarah makes her way over there and encounters a vast and eclectic mix of characters (academics make the best characters, I swear) as well as the mysterious presence that is just Prague, itself. As she studies and investigates, darker plans seem to come to light and there may just be a lot more going on in the city than first appears.

I've been checking on Goodreads and it seems like this book is either a love it or hate it. I can see how it would be so, as well. It definitely has its pros and cons. I think I will tackle the cons first.

Gratuitous sex. Let's just get it out there. There are a few sex scenes that were uncomfortable and definitely did not need to be included. I'm thinking of the first sex scene especially when I type this. It comes out of nowhere, before we are even properly invested in the characters, has no bearing on the plot and makes us judge Sarah, if only a little bit. Why? Why is that there? It is definitely unneeded and alienates readers more than titillates them. I feel like I'm always harping on this but it's true: Sex scenes are fine as long as they serve a purpose. Unless a person has picked up an erotic novel, they want storytelling, not cheap thrills. Stop with the random sex.

The other big problem this book had was, to be honest, too much plot. It felt like Flyte wanted to get in every single idea he'd had while planning this novel and gosh darn it if it didn't fit, he'd make it. Several threads are picked up and then not explored at all. There's a bit with a Golden Fleece that comes in in the last fifty of so pages out of nowhere and then, while not forgotten, is really not explored much, either. Very exciting characters that could have been explored much more (I'm thinking Nico and Pols here) are just side characters that help Sarah on her way but don't affect much. There's too much and by not focusing, the reader has too much to deal with and can't focus on the actual narrative. 

On the plus side, however, all these threads do make it a book that's hard to put down, if only because you genuinely have no idea what's going to happen next. That's how I felt. With all of these different narratives running through the plot, I was confused but excited. It's a quick moving book, short chapters helping the plot speed along to the conclusion. I thought the climax at the party was very well drawn out and handled. That bit was definitely well plotted and written. I was excited to read the book and even if it was ultimately underwhelming, it was fun while it was being read.

I enjoyed reading City of Dark Magic, even if it ultimately left me a bit confused. I think a sequel exploring the Golden Fleece idea (and Nico and Pols!) would be very much welcomed.

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