The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Thank you to NetGalley and Titan Books for a free e-arc of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I’m sorry to say this book did nothing for me.

Jarvis’s plot and ideas sounded thrilling and exciting and intriguing, but the things Jarvis finds interesting about these ideas, the things she focuses on in her writing, are not what I find interesting, or are not delivered in a savvy and interesting way. Her attention to those things is overbearing, with full repetition of ideas and thoughts, as though I would have forgotten what the characters motivations and desires or the themes and point of the story are as I read along. Ideas like “slavery is bad and this creature doesn’t deserve to be enslaved” were fully stated the moment they were dropped into the story, and they didn’t evolve from there, just repeated until the plot resolved them. Her prose style also did not appeal to my sensibilities, frequently falling into metered sentences of similar length that did not draw me in or create a compelling reading experience.

Domek’s desire to use his intelligence instead of his muscle, and his interest in mechanics, feel like window dressing rather than deep character building or driving motivations, because they’re not deeply explored or manifested. He largely solves the problems of the plot through muscle not wit, and his attempts to be smart create blockers instead of solutions in the plot. He also seems to have never pursued his mechanical or intellectual passions outside of his work as a lamplighter. It’s stated he also works part time for his relative’s watchmaking business, but it’s hardly there in the landscape of his life or the story. When he is called naïve, I think we are meant to take that as someone misunderstanding or underestimating him, but his choices and actions as he attempts to do the smart and right thing are truly naïve, his intellect underdeveloped.

I didn’t care about the lore built around the pijavica, or the physical descriptions. The White Lady was far more interesting to me, but had much less presence in the story. I do prefer ghosts and spirits to vampires, so choosing the read a vampire-centric story is my own fault, on this count.

As for intrigue and thrill, it just wasn’t there. The intrigue between the pijavica families fell flat because we had no embedded point of view characters to experience real back and forth. Ora’s agenda was her own, and she only engaged with the intrigue shallowly, and to her own ends and the ends of her human friends. The families’ agendas were kept hidden from the reader so they could be revealed to Ora and Domek as part of the mystery plot, or as surprises, but like so much else in this book, by the time we got the reveal, I didn’t care, or it drowned in discussions. Jarvis has a habit of halting dramatic tension in scene after scene with lengthy conversations. This was not the terse walk-and-talk of The West Wing or the banter-while-fighting of the Princess Bride. Movement in the scenes frequently ground to a halt while the characters had moral and philosophical debates to decide their course of action. It sucked the drama, urgency, and thrill from the story. With a string edit, this book could have been 100 pages shorter and 100% snappier.

I’m sure there’s an audience for this book, more ideal readers who will find a great deal of pleasure in these pages. Alas, I am not one of them.



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The Unbroken by C.L. Clark

The Unbroken by C.L. Clark

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book is all about messy, complicated relationships, and how they’re even messier and more complicated by colonialism and power dynamics. It’s also about the messed-up choices people make in pursuit of their ideals and goals, the lies they tell themselves and others, and the how vulnerable they become when they start telling the truth. The interpersonal dynamics of both the major and minor characters in The Unbroken are what take a good story and make it great.




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Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was not prepared for the emotional journey in this novella. It walloped me with beauty and sadness, fear and frustration. I rooted for Thanh to stand up for herself, create a genuine connection with someone who would care about her. I was afraid and frustrated when she made poor choices, stung when she was misunderstood and rebuked, and I celebratory at the end. If you’re in the mood to feel all the feels in a short amount of time, Fireheart Tiger is a rich, quick read.



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The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book haunts me and sticks with me. I first read it when I was about 12 years old – it had a horrible teen supernatural romance cover that I remembered for years afterwards, like I remembered just enough bits of the story to keep turning it over in my mind: the stamp, the horribleness of Carmody Braque, the strangeness of Sorry Carlyle, and Laura’s transformation.

Laura’s transformation looms so large in my mind, I’m always surprised by how little of the book is actually given to it. The bookends of that scene in the bathroom of the Carlyle home stood out to me on the latest re-read, so rich and grounded with place and character details of the home and this family ushering Laura over the thresholds. I’m also struck by the frankness of Mahy’s writing about sex and emerging sexuality, and how it is treated by mothers and daughters as something that is acceptable and necessary to discuss like adults, not a shameful thing to be hidden and avoided. This also struck me on a recent first-time read of Catalogue of the Universe>.

I return to this book every ten years or so for another read through. Just long enough to forget just enough so the story feels fresh but also like an old friend. There are so many things I love in stories that exist in this book – witches, transformations, inexplicable recognition and inexplicable bonds between unlikely partners, sibling relationships, and turning the tables on the villain.

I can’t decide if I’ll start re-reading this more frequently, or if I need to acquire more of Mahy’s novels so I can re-read those as well.




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Silver in the Wood (The Greenhollow Duology #1) by Emily Tesh

Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I love Green Man stories, and I have been looking forward to reading Silver in the Wood for months. I’m so glad I saved it for my end-of-the-year vacation, when I’m relaxed and can really enjoy how beautiful this little novella is. Tesh turns phrases and ideas that make me hum and purr like a cat, and she tells a gorgeous story of ancient magic, redemption, love, folklore, forests, and family, with humor and monster hunting peeping out of the leaves. I’m off to read the sequel Drowned Country right now.

Read on: December 27, 2020

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