How to make the now well-worn trope of vampires and monster hunters feel fresh and new again? Set the proceedings in historic Prague, with a firm eye on local history and mythology free of the influence of the too-standard figures of modern, Western-European-leaning pop culture, while also infusing a 21st-century sensibility to the proceedings.
We open on Domek Myska, a lamplighter who takes his responsibilities of keeping night-time Prague safe for pedestrians both seriously and to their logical conclusion. While lamplighters have historically acted as a de facto policing force in many cities, Domek and his fraternity also guard against the literal monsters that haunt Prague, most often in the form of deadly pijavice (the book never uses the word vampire but that’s their closest analog.) When Domek dusts a pijavice one night, the strange urn the monster was carrying transfers itself to his ownership, forcing Domek to reassess not only his abilities and his loyalties, but also to question what it means to be a monster.
To complicate matters further is his relationship with the rich and widowed Lady Ora Fischerova. Beautiful and eccentric, she’s spent long years hiding a secret of her own. Coming back to Prague, however, has unearthed a past that she wants to remain buried yet can’t stay away from. She’s also finding it hard to resist Domek’s aura of solidity and kindness. Will her attractions, to him and to her past ties, prove her undoing?
The atmospheric setting provides a wonderfully solid base from which to spin a yarn of monsters and mayhem, as Domek and Ora must join forces to defeat a series of diabolical plans to enslave the innocents of Prague. Nicole Jarvis spurns Western European conventions to not only tell a fascinating, wholly Eastern European tale but also to matter-of-factly deal with the universal topics of power dynamics, emancipation and sexuality in a progressively 21st century way. It’s a breath of fresh air to read what feels like a traditional tale in a gaslit setting told in a manner shorn of repressive politics and mores (at least on the good guys’ side!) I was also really impressed that this was a debut novel: it feels so assured, never giving us too little or, almost as bad, overdoing it with first-timer info dumps. And all this while clearly conveying a fascinating mythology that may be little known outside of circles already familiar with Czech folklore! Whether Ms Jarvis chooses to continue with this fictional universe or to write something brand new after, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for her next works.
We’re so pleased to kick off the book tour for this terrific novel, and recommend checking out some of the other sites in the infographic above to learn more!
The Lights Of Prague by Nicole Jarvis will be published in the US tomorrow May 25 2021 by Titan Books and is available from all good booksellers, including