City of Dark Magic (Paperback)
Penguin Books, 9780143122685, 448pp.
Publication Date: November 27, 2012
December 2012 Indie Next List
— Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books and Hobbies, Oscoda, MI
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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.
And the story continues in City of Lost Dreams, the mesmerizing sequel, which finds Sarah in the heart of Vienna, embroiled in a new web of mystical secrets and treacherous lies.
About the Author
Praise For City of Dark Magic…
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"NEW AND NOTEWORTHY" PICK BY USA TODAY
Praise for City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte:
“This deliciously madcap novel has it all: murder in Prague, time travel, a misanthropic Beethoven, tantric sex, and a dwarf with attitude. I salute you, Magnus Flyte!”
“The most wickedly enchanting novel I’ve ever read and also the funniest. A Champagne magnum of intrigue and wit, this book sparkles from beginning to end.”
—Anne Fortier, bestselling author of Juliet
“An entertaining mix of magic, mystery and romance, it’s one of the most original novels released this year.”
“A fantastical adventure set in the world’s most emo city. … A growing number of novels seek to erect fanciful bulwarks against the dull logistical deluge of the real world. … To read these novels is to finally and happily tread the literally magical streets of cities that will only ever exist in our naïve imaginings. The officious yet sinister London of China Mieville, Neal Gaiman, Jonathan Barnes, and Mark Hodder; the tense, swollen Istanbul of Ian McDonald; Emma Bull’s faerie-haunted Minneapolis, Rob Thurman’s monstrous New York City, Laurell K. Hamilton’s matter-of-factly supernatural St. Louis: None of them exist, yet all of them are real. To this almanac add the Prague of City of Dark Magic, by Magnus Flyte. … Beguiling …City of Dark Magicnever fails to shimmer exotically, erotically, on the page.”
“A comical, rollicking and sexy thriller.”
“I was sold on newcomer Magnus Flyte’s recent novel when I looked at the clock and realized that I’d been reading for four hours without pause. … Rom-coms can, indeed, be smart, sexy, and self-aware.”
“Sometimes you want a book that simply entertains, and City of Dark Magic does just 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.”
“The riddle of Beethoven’s 'Immortal Beloved,' alchemy and clandestine love fuse in this fast-paced, funny, romantic mystery. ... An exuberant, surprising gem.”
“A story that abounds in mysterious portents, wild coincidences, violent death, and furtive but lusty sex ... [this novel] cleverly combin[es] time travel, murder, history, and musical lore.”
“The darkly charming and twisted streets of Prague provide the deliciously dramatic backdrop for this paranormal romp that fires on all cylinders, masquerading by turns as a romance, a time-travel thriller, and a tongue-in-cheek mystery.”
“A wild ride through the streets and history of Prague. … The author has crafted a beautiful work of art in this novel and I found myself drawn in as much as Sarah. A tantalizing world grows in your mind’s eye as the author’s words paint the picture effortlessly with tempestuous characters and a beautifully dark setting.”
—Bibliophilic Book Blog
“The riddle of Beethoven’s ‘Immortal Beloved,’ alchemy and clandestine love fuse in this fast-paced, funny, romantic mystery. Meg Howrey (The Cranes Dance, 2012, etc.) and television writer Christina Lynch have combined their talents, writing under the pseudonym Magnus Flyte. Brilliant musicologist Sarah Weston has been summoned to Prague to catalog Beethoven manuscripts at the Lobkowicz Palace. How can she refuse? Her mentor, Professor Sherbatsky, has defenestrated himself from the palace, and a dwarf has appeared at her door, encouraging her to go and presenting her with a pillbox containing what appears to be a toenail clipping. Yet Prague is a dangerous place, a place where the walls between worlds have thinned to precariously fragile layers. But Sarah cannot believe Sherbatsky committed suicide, and she is eager to study the manuscripts, so she begins to pack. Before she can even get to the airport, however, someone breaks into her apartment. Nothing appears to be stolen, but an ominous alchemical symbol has been drawn on her kitchen ceiling. Once in Prague, events turn both stranger and sexier. The castle lies at the center of a dispute between two branches of the Lobkowicz family. As Sarah dutifully sifts through the manuscripts, she discovers clues not only about the “Immortal Beloved,” but also Sherbatsky’s strange behavior leading up to his death. The other scholars hired that summer to catalog the castle’s contents suspect Sherbatsky of drug use, and Sarah finds herself experimenting with the time-warping drug. She also accidentally has anonymous sex in the bathroom, joins forces with a 400-year-old dwarf, lands in jail and falls in love with the prince. But Sarah has also attracted an enemy, someone who will stop at nothing to keep Sarah from discovering a secret of perhaps international proportions. Even the minor characters are drawn ingeniously in this exuberant, surprising gem.”
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- Though the novel is humorous, there are some serious themes under all that fun. What are Sarah’s thoughts on the idea that some people inherit huge wealth and are considered “noble,” while others have to earn their keep, and how does Max feel about his inheritance?
- There are people from many cultures, backgrounds, and with various physical strengths or disabilities in the book. How does this book deal with stereotypes?
- How are the themes of loss, fatherhood, and longing explored in this novel?
- Characters in the novel have differing religious beliefs. How does Sarah’s time in Prague affect her beliefs?
- Sarah’s ambition puts her in the crosshairs of Charlotte Yates’s ambitions. How does the novel address issues of ambition?
- Nicolas Pertusato claims he’s four hundred years old. In what ways does the novel explore different aspects of immortality for him, for Beethoven, and for Sherbatsky?
- Sarah Weston is approached out of the blue to go to Prague for the summer to help catalog Beethoven’s papers. What convinces her to take the job?
- At the castle, Sarah is introduced to her fellow housemates, most of whom are there to do their own respective research. What do her initial impressions of the other residents tell us about her, and them?
- Sarah notices early on that Prague has a “vibe” (p. 55). How do Sarah’s feelings about things like “vibes” and magic change in the course of the novel?
- Who is Charlotte Yates, what is her connection to the Lobkowicz family, and what does her story tell us about the history of Prague?
- Dr. Sherbatsky is an important mentor for Sarah. What has she learned from him and what does his unfortunate death mean for her?
- Sarah is, by her own admission, a highly sexual person. Which qualities draw her to potential partners, and how does she feel about love as it is conventionally portrayed in books and movies? Do we judge female characters that are openly sexual differently than we do male characters with the same trait?
- Nicolas gives Sarah a strange drug. What does the drug do and what is its connection to the mysteries of the castle? What does it awaken in Sarah?
- What is Prince Max looking for, and why? How do his and Sarah’s ambitions at first keep them apart, then bring them together?
- Sarah and Max learn they knew each other as young children. What effect does this strange coincidence have on their relationship?
- Sarah ultimately discovers the “truth” about Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved. What does she find out, and how does it change her feelings about the composer?
- In the epigraph, there is a quote from Beethoven: “Of Princes there have and will be thousands—of Beethovens there is only one.” Why do you think the authors chose this quote to open the story?