In the quiet streets of Prague all manner of otherworldly creatures lurk in the shadows. Unbeknownst to its citizens, their only hope against the tide of predators are the dauntless lamplighters – a 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 find 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, a mischievous spirit known to lead lost travellers to their death, but who, once captured, are bound to serve the desires of their owners.
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.
Title: The Lights of Prague | Author: Nicole Jarvis | Publisher: Titan Books | Pub. Date: 25 May 2021 | Pages: 413 | ISBN: 9781789093940 | Genre: Historical Fantasy | Language: English | Starred Review: No | Source: Received from publisher for review consideration.
The Lights of Prague Review
The Lights of Prague is, on paper, the perfect book for me. Vampires? Check. Gothic vibes? Check. Historical fantasy genre mash-up? Check. Alas, perfect on paper doesn’t always transfer to perfect in reality.
The Lights of Prague is a gothic tale of good versus supernatural evil, set in (you guessed it) Prague at the turn of the 19th century. A secret society of lamplighters keep the night streets safe from supernatural beings like poltergeists, ghosts and pijavice – leeches, also known as vampires. The novel follows Domek, a lamplighter, and Lady Ora Fischerová, an eccentric widow with secrets to hide.
The novel’s folklore is interesting, blending some well-known creatures like vampires and poltergeists with beings straight out of eastern European folk tales. Even the usual suspects have some twists added here, which I enjoyed. There’s an intriguing central plot, which I won’t go into too much detail on, that kept my attention, but that’s about as much positive as I can say unfortunately.
While the premise is great, the execution mostly fell short. I found the writing to be bland and repetitive (Domek pants constantly, the pijavices are always hissing, that kind of thing). Obviously not great, but I could have gotten past it if not for one major issue – I hated Domek.
If wilted lettuce were a person, it would be Domek Myska. Except he’s not just any wilted lettuce, oh no. Domek is SELF-RIGHTEOUS wilted lettuce. He makes stupid choices because he’s convinced he’s the only one with any morals. It takes him damn near the entire book to see any shades other than black and white. And worst of all – he’s boring. There’s just nothing compelling about him as a character.
On the flip side, Lady Ora is a delight to follow, and her segments of the novel are the reason I didn’t DNF. She’s a complex character with history, morals, and personality (yes, that’s where I was ready to set the bar by the end of this). I really enjoyed her portions of the book, and would have happily read a whole novel from her perspective.
Credit where credit is due, The Lights of Prague does add some originality to the vampire genre, and there’s some pretty good LGBTQ+ rep that was a pleasant surprise given the period setting. I’m sure there’s an audience for this novel, but I was not it.
You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It can be found here at Indiebound or at Bookshop. Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.
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