At A Glance
I had so many mixed feelings about this. And not even just mixed up about the book, but about each individual point. I liked the characters. I didn’t like the characters. It was quirky and fun but too weird at the same time. If you like history based thrillers and don’t mind a little weirdness, it might be for you. I had some fun, but I’m not over the moon. 3/5 Stars.
This book follows Bostonian and musicology grad student Sarah to Prague where, upon the sudden and tragic death of her mentor, she is hired to work in a castle cataloging a Beethoven-loaded music collection for a new private museum. The job is a dream come true, but Sarah uncovers a series of secrets about everything from Beethoven’s later years to her mentor’s supposed suicide to the strange behavior of the collection’s owner to a CIA agent with a sketchy past and even more sinister agenda, that draw her deeper and deeper into the strange magic and turbulent history of the city.
Let’s Get Down to Business…
So this sounded really interesting. It was, mostly, but it was different from what I expected. I probably made it sound a lot different from what it is in my description as well. It’s hard to describe. One kind of weird thing about it, though, is there really is never any real “magic”. Anything beyond the realm of our experience is explained,
often always painfully and erroneously, by some scientific concept. Don’t title your book after magic, if there’s no magic, and definitely don’t skim an article in Scientific American and think you can explain some crazy shit away with science. Personal pet peeve of mine.
Sarah as a character was one of the things I both liked and didn’t, in equal measure. On the one hand she’s smart, determined, and realistically self-confident for her age and position. On the other hand she’s conveniently and overly perfect. She’s smart AND every man wants to sleep with her AND she perfectly fires a gun on some half-remembered advice AND exhibits remarkable focus when tripping on toenails (Literally. This is what I mean when I say it was too weird for me). I suppose my problem is less with the fact that she is good at so many things and more that she is good at new things too quickly. The girl never makes a mistake or is uncertain when she learns something new or faces some impossibly weird situation. I had similar but opposite problems with the villain. She’s nominally a human being, yet she’s so diabolical, it’s hard to see her as anything but a selfish, destructive robot. (I’m describing a Dalek here, aren’t I? Whovians, am I right? It’s been like 4 years since I watched any episodes of that show.)
It’s so easy to go on complaining, but I really did have an overall positive experience with this book. The saving grace was the unique setting and situation. I read so much YA, where every character is within a year of 16, that it was fun to read about someone my own age. The history was varied and interesting, following one Czech family’s relics through the centuries, including the turbulent times of the 20th century. I thought Max’s plight, as an American newcomer suddenly in charge of the scattered remnants of this history was compelling. It felt very unique to me, and that helped it overcome some of the clumsier elements for me making it fun in spite of itself.
I enjoyed this, but it’s not a book I’ll be recommending to my friends. I think there are better modern fantasy thrillers out there. I know this is a series as well, but I’m not sure if I want to read on. Have any of you picked up book 2? Is it any better?