The Lights of Prague begins with a hunt in the streets of that old city. Domek is a lamplighter who also moonlights (as does his guild) as a monster hunter, someone who keeps the night horrors at bay in 1868 Prague. A neat concept. In fact this whole book is full of neat concepts. I loved it, in spite of a few lingering issues. It's super atmospheric, moody at times, and really evokes a sense of being in a nineteenth century city on the cusp of change. Oh, and a city crawling with undead as well.
Domek finds more than he bargained for when he discovers a will-o-the-wisp trapped in a jar- a creature that must obey his commands, almost like a genie. The lamplighters are at war with creatures called pijavica- vampires basically. These are terrifying, and I love how the author makes them her own. In fact this whole book is filled with Slavic lore- not too much, just enough to whet the appetite (haha) and make the whole city seem dangerous.
The star of the book though for me is Ora Fischerova, a widow of means who befriends Domek (okay, they're love interests) and she has a secret of her own. I loved her. She steals pretty much every scene she's in, to my way of thinking. I did have a bit of trouble in the beginning, and maybe throughout the first third or so of the book, with it bogging down as well as the writing style taking some getting used to. These are minor complaints, but it's not necessarily a short book and I had to stay with it. Once it got going though I was in.
The vampires here are terrifying, with their jaws that unhinge to reveal their dozens of needle sharp fangs, their pupils that dilate when they begin to change, their clawed hands. The undead here are a trip. I love the little touches here too that make them a unique sort of bloodsucker. Oh, and I haven't read a lot of will-o-the-wisp stories but they're a favorite of mine, and the lore here regarding the various paranormal creatures- I wanted more.
If you want a moody, historical vampire tale with nuanced characters and amazing atmosphere you need to pick this up.
Some favorite quotes.
"I used to drink virgin blood, but that was unsustainable," she said coolly.
"When someone who thinks their need, their anger, their power is more important than someone else's right to live."