Ah, Those Moody Streets of Prague. . .
The Lights of Prague
The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis was another of those novels I caught mentioned on Black Gate Fantasy. Not being able to resist what they said about it, I decided to give it a try. And boy, was I glad I did!
Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite:
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.
So, how to explain what happens without giving the game away?
The Lights of Prague is a comprehensive blend of mythology, the mystical and mystery, all wrapped up in the noir, moody setting of one of the most ancient, evocative and Bohemian cities in existence. Even better, Jarvis keeps a well established trope interesting by wisely rooting the story in the latter half of the nineteenth century, thereby avoiding the temptation to use – what is to me, at any rate – the overused ‘get-out clause’ allowed by modern-day technology – to even the playing field when there are supernatural foes to battle.
And there’s plenty that’s supernatural about The Lights of Prague.
It’s 1868, and the Lamplighters are a secretive group of men assigned to keep Prague’s many neighborhoods safe at night – ostensibly by extending their duties as caretakers of the city’s gas streetlamps – with that of being alert for paranormal shenanigans. And if they discover such goings-on, they are empowered – and trained – to take instant action to eradicate them.
However – and being careful NOT to spoil a polished and rather clever plot – things are not as they first appear. Yes, there’s been a status-quo of sorts between the forces of good and evil for many years. However, rumors start to circulate of a cure for vampirism. And when I say cure, I mean a remedy that allows such creatures to retain their preternatural strengths, while allowing them to walk in daylight. Something that must be avoided at all costs.
But how to combat such developments when all you have to go on are scant whispers and tidbits of intelligence from too many unrelated sources?
Ah, you’ll find out in a well grounded, cleverly paced little mystery/action/adventure that pits heroes and heroines against dastardly villains; entrenched diehards against open their more open-minded, progressive counterparts; and a stagnating society, more concerned by class and status than the real danger lurking in their midst.
Yes, The Lights of Prague is a rather evocative, gothic little romp through some of the most magical streets in existence, and a superb introduction to what I’m sure will be the first of many books in a new series . . .