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Dark in the City of Light

By Paul Robertson
Bethany House (of Baker Publishing Group)

6030 East Fulton Road
Ada, MI 49301

From the inky midnight-blue cover and its suspicious shadowy figure, Dark in the City of Light immediately plunges into a dark, stormy night in nineteenth-century Paris. There's a baron, a mysterious telegram, and a prince. Before long, there's a sudden death, a family move, and domestic conflict. Then historical events come to life as the strained relationship between France and Prussia leads them ever closer to war.

The plot revolves around an Austrian ambassador, Baron Harsanyi, whose late wife's estate is of significant interest to several countries. The Baron's children, both in their late teens, represent more of the contrasting personalities of the time--the rebellious son who would rather become an ambassador than enlist in military school as his father wishes and the lovely daughter who is taken in by a princess and molded into a society darling. The political tensions increase as the plot turns this way and that, often at a dizzying pace.

Eventually, France and Prussia are at war, with hard-to-distinguish allies and enemies at every turn. The Harsanyi family experiences loyalty and betrayal, sees the splendor of Paris succumb to the ugliness of war, and finds itself fighting to stay together.

Because of the war descriptions and complicated family issues, I would recommend this book for high school students and above. It could be used as a complement to European/World History or as a literature study on its own. Certainly it could be used as a pleasure book as well.

Pros: I can't wait to read more by Mr. Robertson and learn even more about nineteenth-century European history. I have always been a big fan of U.S. history, particularly around the Civil War era, but this book has sparked my desire to see what else was happening in the world at the same time.

Cons: The beginning of the book is dark and cold and almost hard to understand. However, as the story unfolds, the foreboding style makes more sense as it accurately sets the stage for the story to come. It is certainly worth the effort.

This page-turning thriller is detailed in its descriptions without being weighed down, informative without being patronizing, and clever enough to weave historical facts into the fabric of conflict, intrigue, and relationships. It was not a quick read, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable one. I would recommend both reading Dark in the City of Light as well as permanently adding it to your bookshelf in the historical fiction section.

Product review by Krystin Corneilson, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC, September 2010

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