Title: City of Lost Dreams
Author: Magnus Flyte
No. of Pages: 368
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Origins: Penguin Books
Release Date: 26 November 2013
Bottom Line: Crazy, good fun
“In this action-packed sequel to City of Dark Magic, we find musicologist Sarah Weston in Vienna in search of a cure for her friend Pollina, who is now gravely ill and who may not have much time left. Meanwhile, Nicolas Pertusato, in London in search of an ancient alchemical cure for the girl, discovers an old enemy is one step ahead of him. In Prague, Prince Max tries to unravel the strange reappearance of a long dead saint while being pursued by a seductive red-headed historian with dark motives of her own.
In the city of Beethoven, Mozart, and Freud, Sarah becomes the target in a deadly web of intrigue that involves a scientist on the run, stolen art, seductive pastries, a few surprises from long-dead alchemists, a distractingly attractive horseman who’s more than a little bloodthirsty, and a trail of secrets and lies. But nothing will be more dangerous than the brilliant and vindictive villain who seeks to bend time itself. Sarah must travel deep into an ancient mystery to save the people she loves.”
Thoughts: City of Lost Dreams is not as sexy or crazy as its predecessor. However, given just how insane, almost hyperactive, the first book is, this is not necessarily a bad thing. While it may be a fun read, it takes a lot of patience for a reader to get through its zaniness. The characters are foreign and mysterious, the supernatural elements are bizarre and confusing, and the sex is a bit too random for most readers. City of Lost Dreams is like an athlete after the season – the bone structure is still there but the muscles are less clearly defined and there is a spring missing from the athlete’s step. This second novel of Magnus Flyte maintains many of the original features with makes the first story so enjoyable, the shock factor is not as high, and there is now greater mass appeal specifically because everything about the story is calmer and less extreme.
This does not mean that City of Lost Dreams is in any way tame. There are still immortal dwarves, time-bending drugs, and alchemy, as well as plenty of history and danger, and yes, Sarah’s libido is still unusually active, although she is improving her ability to control herself. Interestingly enough, the stakes feel higher this time around precisely because readers know and understand the characters. They understand Sarah’s natural skepticism, Nico’s desperation, Pol’s talents and yearnings, and Max’s self-doubts. Mr. Flyte uses the reader’s pre-existing sympathies to heighten the tension of Sarah’s and Nico’s increasingly desperate search for Pol’s cure.
While the first novel requires a large effort in suspension of disbelief from readers with its strange use of time-altering drugs made from some very unusual – and frankly disgusting – ingredients, Mr. Flyte grounds the more fantastic elements of City of Lost Dreams in the unknown powers of the human mind. In particular, the details of Mesmer’s research and medical practice shared with readers provide enough legitimacy to remove the crazy from the story and replace it with the possible. No one knows just what the brain is capable of accomplishing, and the story capitalizes on this unknown potential. The possible cure becomes less fanciful and more plausible especially when compared to Sarah’s drug-fueled abilities to move back and forth through time. This hint of believability enhances the story and renders the conclusion much more emotional.
Just as in the first novel, City of Lost Dreams is very much a hybrid of genres. The alchemical discussions are first-rate and give readers tremendous insight into just what alchemists were trying to accomplish. The history lessons about Vienna and Prague remain fascinating. The human interaction is no less poignant because it involves a person rendered immortal through an alchemical experiment. The action is fast-paced and intense. The entire story remains an adrenaline-filled historical and fantasy trip through some of the most beautiful cities in Europe.