Reader’s Guide

City of Dark Magic

City of Dark Magic

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QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

1. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Though the novel is humorous, there are some serious themes under all that fun. What are Sarah’s thoughts on the idea that some people inherit huge wealth and are considered “noble,” while others have to earn their keep, and how does Max feel about his inheritance?

  • There are people from many cultures, backgrounds, and with various physical strengths or disabilities in the book. How does this book deal with stereotypes?

  • How are the themes of loss, fatherhood, and longing explored in this novel?

  • Characters in the novel have differing religious beliefs. How does Sarah’s time in Prague affect her beliefs?

  • Sarah’s ambition puts her in the crosshairs of Charlotte Yates’s ambitions. How does the novel address issues of ambition?

  • Nicolas Pertusato claims he’s four hundred years old. In what ways does the novel explore different aspects of immortality for him, for Beethoven, and for Sherbatsky?

  • Sarah Weston is approached out of the blue to go to Prague for the summer to help catalog Beethoven’s papers. What convinces her to take the job?

  • At the castle, Sarah is introduced to her fellow housemates, most of whom are there to do their own respective research. What do her initial impressions of the other residents tell us about her, and them?

  • Sarah notices early on that Prague has a “vibe” (p. 55). How do Sarah’s feelings about things like “vibes” and magic change in the course of the novel?

  • Who is Charlotte Yates, what is her connection to the Lobkowicz family, and what does her story tell us about the history of Prague?

  • Dr. Sherbatsky is an important mentor for Sarah. What has she learned from him and what does his unfortunate death mean for her?

  • Sarah is, by her own admission, a highly sexual person. Which qualities draw her to potential partners, and how does she feel about love as it is conventionally portrayed in books and movies? Do we judge female characters that are openly sexual differently than we do male characters with the same trait?

  • Nicolas gives Sarah a strange drug. What does the drug do and what is its connection to the mysteries of the castle? What does it awaken in Sarah?

  • What is Prince Max looking for, and why? How do his and Sarah’s ambitions at first keep them apart, then bring them together?

  • Sarah and Max learn they knew each other as young children. What effect does this strange coincidence have on their relationship?

  • Sarah ultimately discovers the “truth” about Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved. What does she find out,

  • and how does it change her feelings about the composer?
  • In the epigraph, there is a quote from Beethoven: “Of Princes there have and will be thousands—of Beethovens there is only one.” Why do you think the authors chose this quote to open the story?
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