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City of Dark Magic: A Novel Paperback – November 27, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 204 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Cleverly combining time travel, murder, history, and musical lore, this is a breezy, lighthearted novel. Sarah Weston is researching her Ph.D. in neurological musicology in Boston when a letter arrives summoning her to Prague. Maximilian Lobkowicz, the heir to the ancient Lobkowicz fortune, is planning to turn the family palace, located within the Prague Castle complex, into a museum; Sarah's job will be to establish the relationship between one of the first Lobkowicz princes and Ludwig von Beethoven. Sarah is warned that Prague is a threshold to dark magic, passion and violence, and she suspects that mysteries await. And how. A little person gives Sarah a pill shaped like one of Beethoven's toenails that allows her to move through time, encapsulating many centuries. She not only sees Beethoven but also several of the dead Lobkowicz princes; Tycho Brahe, the 16th-century alchemist; and also Nico, who was at that time called Jepp and is now 400 years old. Plucky, impulsive, and reckless, Sarah is determined to discover the identity of Beethoven's Immortal Beloved, and time and again she's a hair's breath from death in dangerous situations. Tensions rise when Sarah's Boston violin pupil, 11-year-old blind musical prodigy Pollina, arrives in Prague and warns Sarah about forces conspiring against her. Complicating an already tangled plot, an evil senator from Virginia with the U. S. presidency in her sights schemes to kill anyone between her and some incriminating letters she wrote to her erstwhile lover, a KGB officer, while she was CIA. In a story that abounds in mysterious portents, wild coincidences, violent death, and furtive but lusty sexual congress, Flyte (the pseudonym for TV writer Christina Lynch and Meg Howrey, author of Cranes Dance) also offers a veritable guide to Prague that includes such historical references as Rabbi Loew's golem, the Golden Fleece, the Holy Infant of Prague, and a vault under St. Vitus Cathedral, where Sarah and Max find themselves in a tense denouement that promises a sequel. (Dec.)

From Booklist

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. Summoned to Prague to the Lobkowicz Palace, located inside the cavernous confines of the Prague Castle, to archive Beethoven’s manuscripts and, perhaps, even to unlock the secrecy surrounding Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” musicologist Sarah Weston seizes the opportunity of a lifetime and never looks back—except when she begins time-traveling, of course. Before she even arrives in Prague, bad things start to happen, such as the suspicious suicide of her mentor/predecessor at the palace. What follows is a pulse-pounding adventure, as Sarah, with the aid of a powerful mind- and time-bending drug, zips through the centuries in search of clues that will unlock a timeless musical mystery. --Margaret Flanagan

Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (November 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143122681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143122685
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Biographical details about Magnus Flyte are sometimes conflicting. He appears to have operated under several identities, and may have ties to one or more intelligence organizations, including the CIA and a radical group of Antarctic separatists. A copy of the manuscript of City of Dark Magic, written on stationery from the Hotel La Mamounia in Marrakech using a manual typewriter, was received by mail at the offices of Penguin Books in New York in January 2012. It was postmarked on the Isle of Mull. On the back of the envelope were some marks in pencil: "snow bunting, whooper swan, loch torr, tawny owl, cailaich." It is not known if Magnus Flyte himself, who has shown an interest in the migratory patterns of terns (but not buntings), mailed the manuscript, or a birdwatching friend simply mailed it from there while on vacation.

After the uproar over the publication of City of Dark Magic, Mr. Flyte retreated to his dacha in the Urals, where he enjoys exploring underground tributaries of the Ufa, observing the mating habits of the spotted nutcracker, and smelting. It is there that he penned the sequel to City of Dark Magic, City of Lost Dreams, using a fountain pen and scraps of vellum. Penguin editors reported that the first draft smelled strongly of sheep and vodka.

Mr. Flyte is currently at work on a half-hour television comedy about sixteenth-century ethnographer Sigismund von Herberstein, entitled Ural I Love.

Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch are the women behind the man who is, or isn't, Magnus Flyte. Howrey is a former dancer with the Joffrey II and the winner of an Ovation Award. She is the author of the novels The Cranes Dance and Blind Sight and lives in Los Angeles. Lynch is a television writer and former Milan correspondent for W magazine. She lives near Sequoia National Park in California.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By LDavid on November 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
I was surprised to read some poor reviews of CITY OF DARK MAGIC. I'm not a regular reader of fantasy fiction, and in fact my usual book stack includes fiction of the "literary" sort, but I read CODM because I'm lucky to be a friend of a friend of one of the authors (there's full disclosure). To be honest, I wasn't thrilled to pick up the galley, but I was shocked to find how much I enjoyed this book. In the midst of the Edward St. Aubyn novels, or Andrew Solomon's new FAR FROM THE TREE, I kept hopping back to City of Dark Magic because it is just such intelligent fun.

Why? Because the book has taken the conventions of the fantasy genre and the WWII novel, rolled it up with some of the traditional spy schtick, dropped in some romance, and grounded it all in historically accurate biography of Beethoven, the astronomer Tycho Brahe, and all the patrons who supported and tormented them. There are lines throughout that made me laugh out loud ("The Nazis had been one thing. The communists another. But now there were *academics* crawling all over the palace") and that gesture to the fact that the authors are quite deliberately playing on the usual tropes of this sort of fiction. The book's small ventures into tiny objects of private interest--the search for Beethoven's Immortal Beloved, the placement of Prague as the mystical gateway between East and West, even the various tchotchkes being groomed and preserved at the palace--thrilled me, and made me feel in the presence of smart writers who understood their book as entertainment and wanted me to have a good time on the ride.

Is this book a confection? Absolutely. I don't intend to plumb the depths of the characters.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Originally posted at BadassBookReviews.com!

I've got to admit, when I saw City of Dark Magic on Netgalley, I was lured in by the pretty cover and promise of dark magic. I thought I was getting a fantasy novel set in menacing Prague that would be full of magic and portals to other worlds. This book actually turned out to be more of a contemporary spy novel with some alchemy thrown in to explain a few things. Personally, I didn't connect with this novel or its characters and couldn't really recommend it to anyone looking for a fantasy or even urban fantasy read, but other reviewers seem to have enjoyed the book much more than me. I think it helps to know what you are getting into from the beginning instead of expecting one type of book and getting another.

The writing in this book was a little off-putting for me. It felt like I was reading a YA novel, but there were some pretty descriptive sex scenes that negated that notion. The writing just didn't flow very well and the conversations felt especially stilted. The pacing was also oddly inconsistent; I never felt a sense of urgency until the last thirty or so pages of the book. I did think the descriptions of Prague and its historical landmarks were well done though, so the writing wasn't a totally unpleasant.

City of Dark Magic had a strange and somewhat convoluted plot. We begin thinking that Sarah will be investigating the death of her mentor but that is wrapped up pretty quickly; then it seems to connect to Beethoven's Immortal Beloved letters, but that doesn't really go anywhere. Another thread begins with the American senator, Charlotte Yates. We are given her inside POV and she is setup as the bad guy from the get-go, so no real mystery for the reader.
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Format: Paperback
4.5 Stars

'City of Dark Magic' is a unique and mysterious thrill ride of a novel - unlike anything I've read before. The plot surrounds the Prague Castle and the army of academics who have taken over for the summer in order to restore the Lubkowicz Palace to its former glory and turn it into a museum filled with centuries old treasures. The story focuses on Sarah Weston, a music expert from Boston who is invited to help with the museum - specifically with the artifacts concerning Beethoven. Sarah can't ignore all the strange happenings that begin soon after her arrival and then people start dying. Who can Sarah trust? Who is the person behind all this chaos? And what is this mind altering drug that the Prince and her mentor were taking? Will Sarah be able to get to the bottom of everything before it's too late?

This novel was an enchanting and exciting blend of genres that I immediately fell in love with. There is so much going on during the book - murders, intrigue, mayhem, sex, drugs, time travel, alchemy and espionage to name a few - that it sucks you in and doesn't let go until the final word is read. The characters are all very interesting and distinct. I felt like they were a great cast of personalities for the book and all played their parts to perfection. I really liked the character of Sarah. She was brilliant and intuitive, but she definitely had flaws and character traits that made her feel very real. There is sex, swearing, and drugs in the novel, but this didn't bother me because it didn't detract from the main story. (Well, the drug in question may have actually enhanced the plot.)

Speaking of the plot - I barely have words to explain it.
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