Title: The Lights of Prague
Author: Nicole Jarvis
Publisher: Titan Books
Length: 342 Pages
Category: Gaslamp Fantasy
Rating: 2.5 Stars
At a Glance: I had such high hopes for this book, which makes it all the more disappointing that I failed to engage with it. Sadly, the story didn’t captivate me like I’d hoped it would.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: In the quiet streets of Prague all manner of mysterious creatures lurk in the shadows. Unbeknownst to its citizens, their only hope against the tide of predators are the dauntless lamplighters – secret elite of monster hunters whose light staves off the darkness each night. Domek Myska leads a life teeming with fraught encounters with the worst kind of evil: pijavice, bloodthirsty and soulless vampiric creatures. Despite this, Domek finds solace in his moments spent in the company of his friend, the clever and beautiful Lady Ora Fischerová – a widow with secrets of her own.
When Domek finds himself stalked by the spirit of the White Lady – a ghost who haunts the baroque halls of Prague castle – he stumbles across the sentient essence of a will-o’-the-wisp captured in a mysterious container. Now, as its bearer, Domek wields its power, but the wisp, known for leading travellers to their deaths, will not be so easily controlled.
After discovering a conspiracy amongst the pijavice that could see them unleash terror on the daylight world, Domek finds himself in a race against those who aim to twist alchemical science for their own dangerous gain.
Review: Nicole Jarvis opens her debut novel, The Lights of Prague, so beautifully; the tension of that scene is outstanding, the atmosphere drew me in from the first paragraph, and its intensity kept me anxiously turning pages in anticipation of what the author had up her sleeve for Domek Myska, the intrepid lamplighter and defender of Prague’s citizenry from the monsters that stalk the streets at night. Unfortunately, much of what happened from that point on was, in a word, dull. The story didn’t inspire interest in or a connection to its characters; though the action and suspense, once everything came to a head and the battle was on to save the city and defeat the enemy, did salvage my reading experience somewhat.
Jarvis explores some of Prague’s history and the descriptions of the city are vivid, but this also worked against the story’s pacing, offering lots of exposition but little to advance the action. I did enjoy some of the more picturesque views of the late 19th century setting (the cover is stunning) and was fascinated by its architecture, especially its underground tunnel system. I was also intrigued by the various paranormal entities existing in the city and the ways they were incorporated into the overall message the author imparts—i.e., “Monsters come from humanity,” and that sometimes a little compassion and understanding goes a long way. Leaning into the black and white of these entities without allowing for exceptions is a lesson Domek eventually learns, some might say the hard way.
For romance readers, I wouldn’t recommend going into this book with the expectation of there being a full-fledged romantic arc to the story. Domek and Ora have already met before the story begins, so the initial spark of attraction upon first meeting is unquestionably missed, but that’s the least of the issues as their relationship is emotionless and flat. Some of that can be attributed to the secret Ora is keeping and the myriad ways in which its revelation would complicate matters. I do hate to use the word boring to describe them, but I simply was not invested in their budding connection. I found the dialogue mundane, overall, which was a problem for me as a reader who loves quick-witted and interesting conversation in her storytelling. I did, however, grow to like Ora quite a lot as a strong female lead; I liked her a good deal more than Domek, if I’m being honest. I might credit that to intention, as his name translates to something like “small house mouse”, which is an oxymoron since he’s a large man who fights monsters, but he is soft-spoken and prefers to be inconspicuous. Ora’s backstory was sympathetic, and I loved her independent streak in a time when women weren’t duly afforded many freedoms.
I had such high hopes for this book, which makes it all the more disappointing that I failed to engage with it. I was unquestionably drawn in by the premise of The Lights of Prague and regret I can’t sing its praises, but, sadly, the story didn’t captivate me like I’d hoped it would.
You can buy The Lights of Prague here:
[zilla_button url=”https://books2read.com/The-Lights-of-Prague” style=”black” size=”large” type=”round” target=”_blank”] Amazon & Other eTailers [/zilla_button]