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#TFBookClub reads Prague Nights, historical novel set in PRAGUE

11th May 2017



#TFBookClub – May/June 2017

historical novel set in PRAGUE

Thank you for joining us as we read “Prague Nights” by Benjamin Black, set at the end of 16th century PRAGUE. We hope you enjoy this well written historical murder mystery, published on 1st June, 2017. We will be talking well into June, so if you read it, come and join the dialogue!

The #TFBookClub is your book club – we are here to help you discover new titles that will transport you to interesting locations via top literature for some exceptional #literarywanderlust! (and we will join the conversation too).

Take a look at what’s coming up!

  • LIVE NOW: Chatting to author Benjamin Black about Prague, research and his top tips. Click here!
  • LIVE NOW: Marco Polo Guides share top tips for PRAGUE and offer 3 copies of “Perfect Days in… Prague”, click here
  • LIVE NOW: Prague City Tourism have let us use some of their articles and images to bring the city to life for you, as you read the novel. LIVE NOW!

So, lots to look forward to as we read this great story together.

As you read, please come and chat and share your thoughts in several ways:

  • Here on our dedicated blogpost, leave your thoughts in the Comments section below
  • On FACEBOOK where we have pinned this dedicated #TFBookClub post to the top of the page
  • On TWITTER using the #TFBookClub
  • On INSTAGRAM using #TFBookClub
  • On PINTEREST following this link (collaborative board)
  • And once you’ve turned the final page, we’d love it if you could write your own review, which you can do on tripfiction.com using the Add A Review tab. Help us to build the #TFBookClub and the TripFiction website!


Thank you to Viking Books and Penguin UK for providing copies of the book for the #TFBookClub and don’t hesitate to tag using @VikingBooksUK and @PenguinUKBooks and @BenBlackAuthor

And finally come and join team TripFiction on Social Media:

Twitter (@TripFiction), Facebook (@TripFiction.Literarywanderlust), YouTube (TripFiction #Literarywanderlust), Instagram (@TripFiction) and Pinterest (@TripFiction)

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  1. User: claire Harris

    Posted on: 20/06/2017 at 1:38 pm

    I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this or not! Historical fiction is not usually my first choice. But Prague Nights really had me fully immersed from the start!
    It was very evocative of the period and especially of court life at the time, rife with intrigue, jealousy and manipulation.
    I have never been to Prague, but I could imagine 17th century Prague very well!
    Thank you for the opportunity to read this!
    I look forward to the next Book Club read!


  2. User: Anne Allen

    Posted on: 17/06/2017 at 5:41 pm

    I’ve struggled to get going with this one, I’m afraid. I usually love historical fiction, particularly CJ Sansome’s novels, but find this too slow. About 100 pages in and haven’t met a character I can take to. In two minds whether or not to carry on. Perhaps I’m not in the mood for something slightly archaic and verging on fantasy.


  3. User: Ruth Anne Sahin

    Posted on: 03/06/2017 at 7:13 pm

    A great dark read Now that I have finished it I can say I liked it. The characters are a bit weird and nasty but this adds to the intrigue. Love the setting in Prague


  4. User: julier

    Posted on: 30/05/2017 at 9:17 am

    Very dark but also very evocative read of medieval Prague under Emperor Rudolph. Took me a while to work out the characters, none of whom were very appealing but that added to the mystery.


    1 Comment

    • User: Helen James

      Posted on: 01/06/2017 at 2:35 pm

      Delighted to receive a copy of Prague Nights. The first chapter has hooked me!


  5. User: Sara Hill

    Posted on: 29/05/2017 at 9:42 am

    I have now finished reading Prague Nights and am eager for more!The book is set in the depths of a Bohemian winter and I felt the cold and the darkness throughout. I don’t think the sun came out at all! The characters, who were numerous, were mostly grotesque, reminding me of Hogarth’s cartoons with the exception of the sweet souled Serafina and Elizabeth . Caterina reminded me of The Queen in Alice in Wonderland!
    I really felt as if I could smell the dark and gloomy city of Prague with its unsavoury hostelries,packed market and cobbled streets and feel the jolting of the carriage as Christian travelled to Most with his strange companions!
    The intrigue at the court of Emperor Rudolph developed quickly and although the plot was complex and confusing at times I found the final explanation satisfactory.


  6. User: Ruth Anne Sahin

    Posted on: 28/05/2017 at 8:38 am

    I am about half way through this book and so far enjoying it. I love the decriptions and can really feel the cold weather. A bit of a problem with the characters is that they all, so far, seem to all have secret motives and plans. Hope to get to some nice characters soon


  7. User: Sue Dawson

    Posted on: 27/05/2017 at 9:37 am

    Am I the only one that has given up on this book? I have read historical fiction books before and really enjoy them but this is different as it is so slow and slightly boring. I was going to give up yesterday but read some of the other comments and decided to give it another chance but I actually fell asleep while reading it last night which is virtually unheard of, usually read until I finish the book whatever time that is. None of the characters grabbed and most just floated about doing nothing. sorry not a book for me.



    • User: Bev

      Posted on: 31/05/2017 at 7:43 pm

      I too struggled with the book but found if I sat and read it for a long period it started to make sense. But I think you have cleared something up for me that I have been struggling with. The writing was beautiful but I didn’t really connect with any of the characters and I love literature about relationships where I can really connect.


    • User: Emily

      Posted on: 28/05/2017 at 5:28 pm

      I did find it to be a slow start but I stuck with it am about 75% of the way through now. It is very good at this point so I would encourage you to keep reading. I love the descriptions throughout the book but found the plot to be slow moving during the first half. It’s moving along now though and I will probably finish the book today.


    • User: JustRetiring

      Posted on: 28/05/2017 at 1:14 am

      What a shame Prague Nights didn’t keep you interested until the end, Sue.

      I’m not usually a reader of historical fiction, but this engaged me enough to want to know who murdered the Emperor’s young mistress.

      I understand your comments about the pace of the plot, but I thought the characters – whether the main protagonists or smaller cameo roles – were brought vividly to life. As was the location and that is, after all, what TripFiction is all about.

      We hope you enjoy the next #TFBookClub selection more!

      Andrew for TF


  8. User: Jane Willis

    Posted on: 26/05/2017 at 12:33 pm

    I read this over a couple of days because I really wanted to see how it would end. I finished with rather mixed feelings about it – I didn’t find any of the characters to be particularly likeable so I reached a point where I didn’t much care what happened to them. One or two of the characters seemed to appear, look as if they were going to be important, and then vanished to other countries and were never heard of again.
    However I thought the description of life in Prague at the time, throughout the spectrum from the court down to the poorest inn, were absorbing and evocative and the pace of the story and complex plot and counter-plots kept me reading.


  9. User: tripfiction

    Posted on: 25/05/2017 at 7:03 pm

    So what did I think of Prague Nights? It is a while since I have read any historical fiction, so I was anticipatory about how I would get on with this book. I have been to Prague and seen some of the amazing historical architecture that just reeks history at every step.

    I agree with other commentators that the start was slow, but I quite got into the plodding pace once I had worked out who each character was. I got a little bogged down at times with the variety of people in the story.

    Giblets, smells, blood, wood smoke … all the features of what I imagine a Renaissance city in Winter to have been like, rose from the pages. A city full of alchemists, astrologers and doctors “magická Praha” all under the rule of the unwilling emperor Rudolf. And intrigue at every turn!

    The story unfolded with a nice and plausible ending. I liked the mix of fictional and genuine historical characters. Overall I came away feeling, that when I next visit the city, I will have a more genuine sense of the footsteps past, that “Nothing in Prague was simple; nothing was ever as it seemed”.



    1 Comment

    • User: JustRetiring

      Posted on: 28/05/2017 at 1:07 am

      Great summary….thanks, Tina.

      Like you, I enjoyed the blurring of historical fact and literary fiction, which enabled the author to create some memorable characters.

      The plot may have been slow to unfold, but I still enjoyed the story and felt transported to medieval Prague – and Most – in a well-written book that took me out of my usual literary comfort zone.


  10. User: Sara Hill

    Posted on: 25/05/2017 at 7:00 pm

    I have only just started reading Prague Nights and am really feeling the atmosphere of a bitterly cold city populated by some very strange characters. More to follow when I have read to the end.


  11. User: Bev

    Posted on: 24/05/2017 at 9:48 pm

    Well the sunshine has provided the perfect opportunity, along with a snatched half an hour or so for me to finish Prague Nights. The narrative was beautifully written along with the characterisation,but it took me some time to get ‘into ‘ it. I think it is the type of book you need to sit at and read for a period of time, for me it came into its own when I had the opportunity to do so.
    I thought from the beginning that Christian Stern was naive and easily led, which plays out to the end. I see from the author’s notes that the Prague Nights is historical fantasy but a lot of the historyand characters did exist but maybe characterised in a different way. It described the ‘politics’ of Rudolph’s reign along with the struggle for power through rivalries and relationships between unlikely people. Reflecting upon how I feel about the book I realised that even though it took me a while to get into it, and a genre I would not usually pick up, I am pleased I have read it, if only for the beautiful narrative and complex interweaving of plots. The female characters of Serafina, Elizabeth and Caterina were fascinating and I realise that what I really like to read is about relationships.
    I haven’t visited Prague, the book is set in cold, snow and ice but I believe it is a fascinating place and maybe when I get to visit I will remember Prague Nights.


  12. User: andrewmorris51

    Posted on: 22/05/2017 at 1:51 pm

    How is everyone progressing with Prague Nights? Has anyone turned the final page yet?

    Slight spoiler alert….I enjoyed the narrative and plot development of Christian’s mission to Most, 100 km north west of Prague. But does this excursion help him solve the mystery of who murdered the Emperor’s mistress….?



    • User: Bev

      Posted on: 24/05/2017 at 10:01 pm

      I agree with you Harriet, the plot is slow and so the hook in has to be the characterisation and descriptive narrative.


    • User: Harriet Steel

      Posted on: 24/05/2017 at 7:43 am

      Yes, I agree with you Bev, the plot started be more exciting then and made me want to find out what happened in the end.


    • User: Bev

      Posted on: 24/05/2017 at 7:04 am

      The sun shone yesterday so I sat in the garden with a cup of tea and read for a while. I really enjoyed the travel to Most and the revelations, the whole theme started to make sense to me and of course drew me in once again to find out the truth.


    • User: Bev

      Posted on: 23/05/2017 at 6:37 am

      I have to admit I have stalled, but I think it is a book you need to sit with and read, not just at bedtime! I’ve not had much time but hopefully this week. I will finish it, I’m curious about how Christian Stern will work out the crimes. The language is beautiful which is why I say you need to sit at it.


    • User: Harriet Steel

      Posted on: 22/05/2017 at 2:13 pm

      I liked that section too. It added an interesting new dimension to the plot but for fear of spoiling things, I’ll just say that there’s a surprise to come.
      I finished yesterday afternoon and found it quite hard to categorise this novel. From the publicity packaging, I expected something more like S J Parris’ Giordano Bruno series or Sansom’s Shardlake. The mystery takes a long time to get going as there’s a great deal of characterisation and description. All of this is extremely well done, but to me the pace was often too slow for a compelling read and Stern efforts at amateur detection were treated rather perfunctorily. In his note, the author describes the book as a historical fantasy. He confirms that many of the characters really existed and I had the impression that he had spent a lot of time looking at contemporary paintings for his descriptions.
      I highly recommend the book for its evocation of Renaissance Prague and interesting historical background but if people want something fast moving, it may not be for them.


  13. User: Harriet Steel

    Posted on: 18/05/2017 at 8:18 am

    I’m just over 200 pages in now and the pace has picked up. Christian is an interesting character. He’s clever and ambitious but underneath there’s vulnerability and loneliness. He’s surrounded by people with their own agendas who may not wish him well. Hopefully, his new-found favour with the emperor won’t prove his undoing. I feel so sorry for poor sweet Serafina with her tragic past. I wonder if she will return to the story. Caterina Sardo is a minx and a dangerous one at that. I see from the author’s note that she is an invention and the real chief mistress was very different. Caterina’s psychotic son, Giulio, is however a historical figure.


    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 19/05/2017 at 7:55 pm

      It’s interesting the role assigned to Caterina Sardo in the book. A real catalyst for the development of the story! I was struck how the Brits also played a part at this point in time…


  14. User: andrewmorris51

    Posted on: 17/05/2017 at 5:07 pm

    Glad you’re all (mostly) enjoying Prague Nights.

    There seems to be agreement about the quality of the writing, at least.

    I’m enjoying the slow plot development, while the author focuses more on characterisation.

    What does everyone think of Christian? And the female characters he has encountered so far….?

    Andrew for TF


  15. User: Harriet Steel

    Posted on: 17/05/2017 at 8:24 am

    Thanks for telling me Bev. (I’m not sure if this is the right way to reply to a comment on my comment so I hope you see this!) Harriet


  16. User: Harriet Steel

    Posted on: 16/05/2017 at 6:56 am

    I’m about a hundred pages in now and really enjoying this. The descriptive writing is lovely, you can tell that John Banviille is a very classy writer: lots of evocative descriptions of the cold and all that snow, and the characters described with a detailed precision that Dumas would have approved of. My only reservation is that the plot moves a little slowly but, so far, there has been enough to hold my interest.


    1 Comment

    • User: Bev

      Posted on: 16/05/2017 at 8:26 pm

      I found the same but found the story line picked up after the first 100 pages.


  17. User: Bev

    Posted on: 13/05/2017 at 10:07 pm

    Well, I’m now a 100 pages in and just starting to enjoy it. Not my usual genre but trying something new is good. The language is beautiful and there are very descriptive passages. This means I have to really follow the narrative. I haven’t visited Prague (on the list) but I’m not really getting a sense of the city other than snow and ice!


    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 14/05/2017 at 9:57 am

      It’s not my usual genre either, but the quality of writing certainly transports me to the era… and the cold and snow!!!


  18. User: Deborah Small

    Posted on: 11/05/2017 at 3:55 pm

    I started reading this last night and am hooked. The author’s evocative writing really brings Prague to life. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this tale will take me!


    1 Comment

    • User: JustRetiring

      Posted on: 11/05/2017 at 4:01 pm

      Oooh, that’s good news, Deborah. Thanks for sharing, and hopefully you’ll plunge deeper into those dark alleyways of mediaeval Prague in 1599 with Christian, as the plot develops…


      Andrew for TF


  19. User: Bev Bookless

    Posted on: 11/05/2017 at 3:09 pm

    Has anyone started this book? If so what do you think so far?


    1 Comment

    • User: tripfiction

      Posted on: 14/05/2017 at 9:56 am

      I get a real sense, as it says in the book, that “Nothing in Prague was simple, nothing was ever as it seemed” – such politicking and intrigue! The book certainly conjures up the feel of the city and its politics!


  20. User: JustRetiring

    Posted on: 11/05/2017 at 2:56 pm

    I don’t usually read historical murder mystery novels, but Prague Nights is well written and pulled me in from the start.

    The cold and darkness of the city at the turn of the 16th century leaps from the page, as the newly arrived main protagonist – Christian Stern – is given his challenging task by the all-powerful Emperor.

    I hope enjoy this story too, and look forward to hearing your thoughts on this thread. And don’t forget that you can also share your thoughts in any of the other ways mentioned above.

    See you in Prague!

    Andrew for TripFiction