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City of Dark Magic

(City of Dark Magic #1)

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  10,322 ratings  ·  1,647 reviews
Cosmically fast-paced and wildly imaginative, this debut novel is a perfect potion of magic and suspense

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
Paperback, 464 pages
Published November 27th 2012 by Penguin Books/Penguin Random House
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Average rating 3.48  · 
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 ·  10,322 ratings  ·  1,647 reviews

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Christal (Badass Book Reviews)
See this review and others like it at!

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
Nov 24, 2012 rated it liked it
This book (received from Netgalley) did not get off on the right foot with me. The publisher apparently thought it would be oh-so-amusing to put this little note at the very beginning:

"The manuscript of the book you are about to read arrived in the mail one day at Penguin headquarters in New York with no cover letter. It was written on stationery from the Hotel La Mamounia in Marrakech using a manual typewriter, and postmarked on the Isle of Mull. The return address was simply 'Flyte, Magnus.'
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-13
Good Lord, this was bad. more later.

Back now. Having slept on it, the book didn't improve. The main character seems to waver between "average grad student" and "clueless tramp". There's a reason you don't often see those phrases describing the same person.

I have to admit: I was disgusted in the first couple of chapters of the book, and that colored my outlook on the rest of it. Sarah, our hapless protagonist sets out to Prague to take over the study of original Beethoven material in Prague start
The description for this book is fantastic, and I was so excited to receive it through Penguins First Reads program. I could tell, however, after the first 15 pages that this was not going to deliver. City of Dark Magic is poorly written, includes gratuitous sex, and fails to provide any sort of development or motivation in characters. Prague is fascinating - after I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I have added it to my list of places to see. This book does not induce the same reaction. Bleh. U ...more
Sep 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay, I managed to take a peek at the other reviewers beforehand so I was guarded. I had no idea what the paranormal aspect of the book would be (if any) so I just took my time and just savored it. I usually find "dead" spots in a book, probably as fillers or some sort of wayward thinking of the author, but this book in my opinion, didn't have any! I was hooked from the beginning! It has a Dan Brown feel to it with the cryptic symbols, famous historical figures (hello Beethoven!), and the magnif ...more
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012
I got this book from Penguin through Goodreads First Reads.

This book is entirely driven by the plot. There are no strong characters and the writing is nothing special. That being said, it is a compelling read. The writing is lazy and clunky, but it manages to tell an intriguing story nonetheless.

The character development is clumsy and not subtle in the least. Characters feel more like caricatures - a brilliant, eccentric professor; a passionate Italian roommate; an over-sexed lesbian; a cold-hea
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
LOVED despite:
1) My confusion until about 1/3 of the way through. It took me awhile to adjust to the language and style of writing and the chapters dealing with Charlotte Yates.

Reasons why this book was crazy awesome:
1) The world build was amazing. Being set in Prague with castles and death and magic made it automatically cool. (And Charlotte was correct. I had to look up the location of Prague)
2) Alchemy. This subject has always intrigued me.
3) It was s
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
Feb 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: library-read
So, that just happened.

Debating between 1 and 2 stars.


Some DaVinci Code-esque kinda thing with an American senator, some lost Prague royalty, Beethoven, time-altering-drugs (with some sci-babble about energy signatures and glial cells), a blind musical prodigy and her Mexican butler/nanny/friend, random sex - (view spoiler)
Dec 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf, fantasy
Recently someone wondered why you should review something you couldn’t finish. The implication in that statement is that such a review is unfair because things change. There’s truth in that – of course a bad book can get better and a good book can be ruined. Additionally if a reader, for whatever reason, finds it impossible to continue a book, isn’t important to know? The reviewer can determine if the review is of any help.

I do try to be fair when I review books I don’t finish. If I stop at the
1,5 stars

What is it with authors/publishers and wrong labelling of books? This book is a fiction with suspense and historical elements.

Contrary to what the title might let you think, there is no magic and despite what is said in the blurb "City of Dark Magic could be called a rom-co paranormal suspense novel—or it could simply be called one of the most entertaining novels of the year." this is NOT a paranormal novel. Same goes for the romance part.

Saying that a city is a threshold is in no way
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Prague is a wonderful setting for a mystery, a romance, a well, just about anything. Unfortunately, "City of Dark Magic" might as well have been set in Rhinebeck, NY for all the atmosphere it had. While ostensibly we are following the increasingly mysterious adventure of music grad student, Sarah Weston, she's just not that interesting. Her love interest is pretty lame and about as dull as she is. The two most interesting characters in the book, Pols and Nico, seemed wasted as we followed around ...more
This mystical mystery was compelling, wry, interesting and just weird enough to be fun and fantastical. Initially, I did expect a bit more "magic" in this book ala witches, warlocks, mages or shamans (well, maybe not shamans in Prague...). The magic in this book is a bit more psychedelic although not of a traditional pharmaceutical persuasion. Given the alchemy that has taken place in Prague over the centuries one has attribute some of the magic to the city itself.

This story had a strong beginni
Deborah Ideiosepius
City of dark magic is a fun 'magical realism' style of novel that is humourous, lighthearted and does not take itself too seriously. It also has a fairly formidable amount of real life knowledge of a number of interesting things.

Prague is one of those things, I suspect (I have never been there) that the author knows parts of the city rather well, the descriptions of the city are coherent, interesting and convincing but are not dwelt on in any great detail that would obscure the fast paced events
Holly Herda
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: disappointments
The first comparison that comes to mind when I think of "City of Dark Magic" is another book--"The Night Circus." Readers who were disappointed by that may understand where I'm coming from in regards to this. This book had a lot of good things going for it: mysterious alchemical symbols, ancient artifacts, well-known historical figures given much due credit via flashbacks, an intriguing setting, a cast of quirky supporting characters, and a smart heroine. Of course, our heroine is also a huge sl ...more
Wow! What a great book! I actually stayed up until midnight one night reading this book- it was that good. Sarah Weston is a P.h. D. candidate in musicology who grew up on the tough streets of South Boston. She is hired to work at the Lobkowicz Castle in Prague to catalog and perform archival work on sheets of music penned by Beethoven. While in Prague, she learns of her beloved professor's "suicide" and vows to look into the circumstances of his death. While performing her job duties, she is su ...more
Rebecca Skane

Beethoven, Prague, hell portals, alchemy, princes, drugs, a four hundred year old little person and lots of crazy, wild sex. The music history centered around the history of an old royal family was well thought out. A lot of work went into this. Full review: City of Dark Magic Book Review
lucky little cat
Whoa. Writing duo Magnus Flyte have produced the most outrageous time-travel historical thriller about Beethoven's toenails ever.

Sorry, wrong Beethoven.
Prague and its tourist sites feature heavily throughout the novel. Moderately fun, but unrepentantly goofy and just occasionally all-out trashy.
Rebecca Lovatt
Nov 06, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte — the pseudonym of authors Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch — had an interesting concept. Flyte obviously did their research of Beethoven’s life, and the twist with his “Immortal Beloved” was an interesting take on it.

However, that’s unfortunately about the best I can say about City of Dark Magic, It was through sheer force of will that I finished this novel. The writing seems to be at an amateur level at best; the plot scattered and in general, just a mess. Ther
Jess The Bookworm
Mar 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book was terrible, and I actually don't even feel like going too much into it, except to say that the main character was beyond stupid and annoying.

The only reason I finished this book is that it sort of started off with promise, and I was on holiday, and then I was half way before I realised I really loathed it, but then it seemed lame not to finish it.

That is all.
Apr 06, 2013 rated it really liked it the thing you have to understand about this book is you can't take it too seriously (don't let the cover art fool you). Now that I know that, I like it better. It is a fun book masaquerading as a well thought-out historical, cerebral, diabolical, espionagal, everythingal, Tom Clancyal,, piece of 21st Century Literature. It is not.

It took me a while to figure this out. First, being a little slow on the draw, I didn't realize that Magnus Flyte was really two women writing the boo
Suspense Magazine
An unusual title, “City of Dark Magic” is the debut brainchild of Christina Lynch and Meg Howrey—writing under the pseudonym Magnus Flyte—and is a difficult book to classify into one specific genre. Murder and suspense are key, but dashes of paranormal and undertones of fantasy take this book into not often seen territory. For suspense and thriller fans, I’d compare “City of Dark Magic” to King’s The Dark Tower series or to Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” solely because when you thi ...more
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Prague is a great backdrop for a fantasy novel. Sarah Weston is recruited to help catalog the original works of Beethoven for the Lobkowicz family musuem when her thesis advisor dies under mysterious circumstances. Like many of today's musical geniuses, it is implied that Beethoven was a drug addict, which Sarah discovers while mentally time-traveling under the influence herself. Throw in a little espionage, a lot of sex and murder, cover-ups, and you have the makings of this novel. From the wri ...more
Vanessa Princessa
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone, who likes a compex story and characters!
Recommended to Vanessa by: Me of course.

I feel so happy about starting february (my favourite time of the year, btw) with awesome books!

The book has it all - magnificent cover, it`s told in 3rd person, a KICK-ASS heroine, outstanding characters, heart stopping action and engaging mystery and drama WITH ONE OF THE MOST MAGICAL CITIES - PRAGUE - AS IT`S BACKGROUND!

The main heroine Sarah Weston is so funny and light-hearted. She`s also very smart and dedicated to her work and her studies of music history.
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley-arc
At first I was going to give this book a higher rating, but as I started writing my review I remembered more and more of the little things that annoyed me. First the good: the book was an engaging read, with fabulous use of the history of Prague and the many quirky figures that have lived there. The alchemy tossed throughout was great fun, and far more interesting than if it had been straight magic.

This book is a spy thriller in fantasy wrappings. The title, author's pseudonym, and cover shout "
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
I like this book. It reminded me of Deborah Harkness's book without the vampires thankfully. I think it was well done, well thought out. An interesting take on some history that makes it feel more real, dealing with Beethoven. It was not too paranormal, but just enough to give it kind of a fun, quirky feel. I did think that the relationship between the two protagonists was good. Little bit of gratuitous sex or kind of uncomfortably described sex. It was sort of out of place almost. ...more
Heather Alderman
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I really enjoyed this book! A fun read for anyone who is a fan of Shadow of Night. The characters and story in this book are not as well written as Diana and Matthew's, but the history and historical figures of Prague come to life (literally) in this story. I would love to follow more historical adventures with Sarah, Max and Nico. ...more
Abigail Bok
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
City of Dark Magic is a contemporary mystery-thriller-romance with a few supernatural elements thrown in. Of its type it is clever and moves along fairly quickly. Musicologist Sarah Weston has been summoned to Prague after the death of her mentor there to catalog and analyze a collection of mostly Beethoven-related artifacts belonging to a Czech princeling. She lands among a motley collection of researchers and art restorers, all bent on working up other elements of the collection in preparation ...more
Cat's Review
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was ok

The cover is wonderful and the title sounds like I am going to be reading a wonderful story of dark magic. This story was nothing like I had expected and not in a good way.

Billed as a fantasy, it contained very little elements of this genre to be a true fantasy novel. Magic? It barely contained any magical elements that lived up to the title. Dark magic? Nah, not much of that either. It was more of a mystery but the authors gave so much of the plot secrets away ahead of time that
Whitley Birks
Jun 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
I…honestly have no idea what to think about this book. It was just so…strange. Not always in a good way.

Though this book had some interesting concepts in it, none of them really came together well. The plot had too many subplots, and instead of coming together, most of these just sort of…existed in the same space. What did time travel and KGB agents have to do with each other? Not a damn thing. Seriously. In fact, I’m not sure why the ‘time travel’ was included, other than for some fun descripti
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads

I do have to say Kudos for taking the time and trying to write a book. It’s an immense undertaking. With that said, this could have been excellent well-written farce if someone had gotten serious during the revisions. If you’re looking for the next Ann Rice, Lewis Carroll or Douglas Adams, this isn’t it.

City of Dark Magic is a campy ‘B movie’ literary comedy. It is a very fast read. Unfortunately, it leaves the reader with too many questions, besides cartoonlike characters, to become a cult clas
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Magnus Flyte is a pseudonym for the writing duo of Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch. 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.

Other books in the series

City of Dark Magic (2 books)
  • City of Lost Dreams (City of Dark Magic, #2)

Articles featuring this book

Their Favorite Gifts for Fantasy Readers: Try these fantasy recs from the creators of the paranormal thriller City of Dark Magic, in which...
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“Only the passionate were immortal, it seemed. If you fought, screwed, screamed, laughed, or otherwise experienced life intensely, for better or worse, you left a record. Those who lived a quiet, well-behaved, well-tempered life? Gone without a trace.” 43 likes
“Prague. Praha. The name actually meant “threshold”. Pollina had said the city was a portal between the life of the good and … the other. A city of dark magic, Alessandro had called it.” 12 likes
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