Review of “The City of Dark Magic”

One of the occupational hazards of being a history major is the tendancy to read books critically, appraising the content, if there is an argument, how effective the argument was, and whether it was a good book. When my semester ends, the urge to review, and write on them, doesn’t stop. A friend suggested that I should actually write out my reviews, so here is the first of them. If you plan on reading the book, I warn you that this review contains spoilers.

Like it’s title, The City of Dark Magic, centers on one of the European cities that is steeped in superstitions, bloodshed and history- Prague. Sarah, a PhD. student, is invited to come and work in Prague for the summer, in the wake of her mentor and adviser’s death, on preparing a collection of Beethoven’s works for a museum display. She is told on her arrival that her deceased mentor commuted suicide, and that he was a drug addict, but this doesn’t ring true for her, and she goes about her work in an attempt to solve this mystery.

As a history major who will be seeking a Masters in Museum Studies, I find myself a little skeptically of her ability to prepare an exhibit, which seems to be her secondary work, as Sarah gets caught up in the plot. Professionals are trained to do this, and yet she walks in and innately knows the process? It took an entire summer of Internship to learn the process of acquisitioning and storage, and I wasn’t even trained in display set up.

That aside, the plot thickens as she falls in love with the prince, makes friends with some of her coworkers, and more murders are committed. A US Senator turns out to be involved in the intrigues, the prince’s cousin is determined to take over the family holdings, and another academic is murdered, and framed as suicide. It was fascinating and gripping, blending science with myth and history, as each of her questions are answered, and new questions, not to mention murderer attempts, occur.

Despite the mysteries each being solved, justice being brought around, and the museum opening, the ending lacked certain elements of closure. There were certain elements throughout the book, as well, which could have been left out, such as Sarah’s sex life (though it was almost always written with taste), and the language could have been toned down a hint.

Overall, I would rate this book with a four and a half out of five. It was thrilling, and I had trouble putting it down, but there were some things which didn’t necessarily sit well with me.

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