ARC Review: The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis
Welcome to my stop on the Titan Books blog tour for The Lights of Prague! I’m so thankful that Titan reached out to me about this book and tour, as always the recommendation was perfectly tailored to my interests. Be sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour – I’ve included links at the end of my post.
Words cannot express how much I adored this debut. Atmospheric and engaging, The Lights of Prague swept me away to another time and place. This is a must read for fans of immersive historical fantasy.
About The Lights of Prague
Publisher: Titan Books | Release Date: May 25, 2021 | Pages: 413
Age Range: Adult | Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy | Format: Paperback | Source: Publisher
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.
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Read an Excerpt
bisexual main character, gay side character, Romani rep
blood, classism (challenged), death, racism and antisemitism (challenged), violence
My Review of The Lights of Prague
“With the gas lamps came the lamplighters to patrol and protect their routes, fighting back against the shadows of Prague.”
Oozing with atmosphere that engages all of the senses, Jarvis transports the reader to Prague of the 1800s with its lush and vivid prose. I’ll admit that it took me a bit of time to settle into this immersive historical fantasy (likely because of my mood), but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the characters and the world. The story really took off for me around 20% in. I love that the worldbuilding is vast and left no questions to pull me out of the story while maintaining a solid pace and avoiding info-dumps.
“Cobblestones gleamed underfoot from the rain earlier in the evening. Like a giant sated after a hearty meal, Prague after a storm was content and slow.”
With two main characters seemingly on the opposite side of a supernatural battle in the dark streets of Prague, the book follows follows a lamplighter (and monster hunter) named Domek and a centuries-old bisexual vampire (pijavica) named Ora. Secret identities unknown to one another, their paths have crossed on occasion over the course of the last year, both having a bit of a crush but not moving beyond casual flirtations. I enjoyed how their paths became inextricably intertwined and how each struggled with their being on opposite sides when it’s found out. I’m a sucker, okay?
I love gentle ribbing and roasting among friends, and both Ora’s and Domek’s friends trade gentle barbs with one another. This gives life to the friendships beyond the parts of our character’s lives confined within the pages.
“There are days when it seems like no matter what happens, everything stays the same. Maybe on a grand scale, it does. That doesn’t mean that every minute in someone’s life can’t be important too.”
I appreciate the discussion of class and privilege woven into the narrative. Despite being of the working class, Domek’s been fortunate for people to judge him based on his character rather than station but there’s still an undercurrent of how different his world is from Cord’s or Ora’s. High society in a way serves as a lens for the rigid boxes that he puts people into. Human or monster. Good or evil. Just and Ora and Cord look beyond his station, he needs to learn how to judge a person by their character. Meanwhile, Ora is a foil to Domek’s selflessness and needs to help others. Their journeys are complex and compelling, as well as a bit messy.
“Give men weapons and tell them they have a righteous war, and they’ll do anything.”
No review by me would be complete without mentioning Kaja’s philosophical musings. Who is worthy of saving? Good and bad are not purely black and white; some monsters are of the human variety, and some “monsters” act just as they did when they were human. I love that Domek’s character development doesn’t come from his relationship with Ora, but rather Kaja challenging his rigid notions of right and wrong.
Overall, I am wholly impressed with Jarvis’ debut fantasy and look forward to reading more from this author in the future! I enjoyed the characters and world created, as well as the vivid and immersive prose. Fans of V.E. Schwab’s writing style will certainly enjoy The Lights of Prague, just be sure you’re in the right mood before picking this one up as I think it’s one that you need to be in the right mood to read.
Blog Tour Stops
Have you read The Lights of Prague yet, or do you plan to?
What are your favorite historical fantasies?
Let’s go on another adventure together!