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: pijavica, 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 Fischer—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 travelers to their death, but who, once captured, are bound to serve the desires of their owners. After discovering a conspiracy amongst the pijavica 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.
The Lights of Prague was one of those covers that really caught my eye as soon as I saw it posted on social media. However, what really got me interested was that the book is set in my current city. I was initially nervous that this was a biased buy, but was quickly put to ease by a unique, historical urban fantasy debut from Nicole Jarvis.
While The Lights of Prague does have a slow start, I did love the world-building that went into it, and it’s clear that the author has been to Prague and has done a her research. The author transports us to a dangerous, dark and gothic 19th century Prague during the advent of new technology yet dealing with an infestation of numerous horrors. It’s quite quickly made clear that this book would deal with the culmination of a struggle between humanity and inhumanity; Something is lurking in the depths of Prague causing the local vampires (pijavice – leech) to start acting abnormally. The question is, who can deal with this?
We’re introduced to an imaginative and unique cast of characters. Firstly, we have Domek, a lamplighter and vampire hunter with a calm and cool personality, who is set on making the world a safer place. He’s you’re typical good guy personality, but with some definite edge to him. Secondly, we have Ora, who herself is a vampire, but is living the high life and making friends with humans, clearly running from some kind of past. Ora and Domek have a friendship, but it’s quickly made clear that there could be some romance involved. Alongside the two main characters there are an interesting support cast who drive the story forward and into dangerous waters. Another character that made a fantastic addition to the story was Kája, who I won’t describe in detail so as to not give away plot points. What also made these characters more unique than usual was their relationships with one another, especially that of Domek and Kája.
The writing in this book was absolutely fantastic and made the book extremely easy to read. I found the dialogue especially strong and made interactions between the characters feel more natural. Alongside this, the descriptions of Prague were excellent and really made me feel like I was walking through it’s beautiful and historical streets.
This does seem to be a standalone book; however, it did feel like the first book of a potential trilogy. By the end I could see that Jarvis had introduced me to a whole new world, teaming with potential threats and very much in need of a few heroes to save it. I definitely think a lot more can be done with the heroes introduced to us, so I’m very much hoping to see more in the future.
Urban fantasy is a genre that I don’t usually venture into as I’ve never had much interest in it. However, The Lights of Prague piqued my interest initially, grasped me and wouldn’t let go until the end. This goes to show that genre does not always matter, as long as a book is so well written.