This past week, my friend Jasmine Silvera released the second book in her Grace Bloods series, Dancer’s Flame. I've known Jasmine since she was in Prague writing her first book (and, um, actually I’m officially the first book’s godmother and so kind of invested in this…) and I'm thrilled to see her universe, set in a dystopian future Prague, come to life in a second volume. The story centers on Isela Vogel, a dancer who can call on gods through the power of dance and her relationship with the city’s most powerful necromancer, Azrael.
Jasmine did a great job showcasing the city, but often when I pick up a book about a place I know well, I worry if my own experiences are going to take away from my enjoyment of the setting. For example, my own familiarity with Prague makes me hypervigilant to the details, but it’s really not fair to expect an author to always put every cobblestone in the right place. For most books, it's more about catching the spirit of a location and emphasizing only the details that evoke the sensation of being there.
This is probably easier for authors who set their stories in places like Los Angeles, New York, or London. So many books, movies and TV shows are set in New York that we all have an idea what it's like to be in New York already, even if we’ve only traveled there as a tourist—or even if we’ve never visited at all.
On my digital and Ikea-made bookshelves, Dancer’s Flame joins in some other books that I've been meaning to read that are set in Prague. For Jasmine and other authors, Prague’s spires and blind alleys have inspired some lush fantasy stories. Perhaps it’s the architecture or perhaps the city's rich history that makes it somewhere where anything could happen. One of the most famous Prague-set fantasies I’ve read is Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Another fantasy series that I’ve got on my (ever-growing) to-be-read list is the City of Dark Magic series by Magnus Flyte. Have any of you read it? Let me know what you think!
I’m also excited to read books set in real-world Prague. A thriller that I recently started is Victoria Dougherty’s The Bone Church (I haven’t got to these scenes yet, but I think the name references the ossuary in nearby Kutná Hora), which takes place in the WWII era. Another I’ve got a sample of in my Kindle is last year’s The Woman from Prague, by Rob Hart, a contemporary thriller about a private investigator temporarily located in Prague. (I should mention acaution to Prague-loving readers—if you go to the bookstore and pick up the 2002 book called Prague, despite the beautiful black-and-white photo of Charles Bridge on the cover, it’s actually about teaching English in Budapest. The characters in the book just wish they were in Prague.) I'm currently working on a project that’s set in contemporary Prague, too. One day, I’ll share some information about that here!
As you’ll have noted, I've been talking about foreign viewpoints on Prague. Something I’d like to do this year is read more contemporary Czech authors in translation, so if you've got a suggestion, please let me know!