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BONUS: This edition contains excerpts from Harry Connolly's Game of Cages and Twenty Palaces.

Ray Lilly is living on borrowed time. He’s the driver for Annalise Powliss, a high-ranking member of the Twenty Palace Society, a group of sorcerers devoted to hunting down and executing rogue magicians. But because Ray betrayed her once, Annalise is looking for an excuse to kill him–or let someone else do the job.

Unfortunately for both of them, Annalise’s next mission goes wrong, leaving her critically injured. With the little magic he controls, Ray must complete her assignment alone. Not only does he have to stop a sorcerer who’s sacrificing dozens of innocent lives in exchange for supernatural power, he must find–and destroy–the source of that inhuman magic.
Published: Random House Publishing Group an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780345514950
List price: $7.99
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This book read more like F. Paul Wilson's "Repairman Jack" series, than standard urban fantasy. No romance, no fantasy...just break-neck action and tons of grit.more
I absolutely loved Child of Fire. It's definitely Dresden-esque, especially the early Dresden Files, following as it does the adventures of a down-on-his-luck male protagonist who's on the outs with the magical Powers That Be and hiding a few skeletons in his closet. It's also a well-paced page turner, full of action, written on a grand scale, and very original. There are obvious differences, too - Connolly isn't comic like Jim Butcher, so there's a lot less humor to lighten the mood. And the protagonist of Connolly's book, Ray Lilly, doesn't have the anonymity or obscurity that Harry Dresden did at the start of his series. Lilly is working in a kind of indentured servitude, kept close under the eye of a hostile employer who has every right to kill him should he step out of line.

I ran into some trouble with a few convenient coincidences at the end of the novel, but I loved the way that Ray's relationship developed with his jailor-employer Annalise. I really liked the way that Connolly described magic, its execution and its costs - whenever Annalise was injured, and Ray had to feed her raw meat, I'd shudder with delight. It was just real enough, and just hideous enough, and just strange enough to seem foreign and out of this world. The perfect note for a paranormal.

I can't wait to check out book 2 in the series, which was just released. There aren't enough tough male protagonists in this genre, and I'd be so excited to see another worthy contender step out from the pack.more
After the first couple of scenes I nearly put the book away thinking it would be senseless schlock. That may sound a bit cruel, but really - a child bursting into flames, and worms, and a fight with a couple in a station wagon, with a baby in the back, may foreshadow an action-packed story, but I was in the mood for something more interesting.

Needless to say, thankfully, I kept reading. 4.5 stars. Ray, the main character turns out to be quite introspective, and funny as hell. He is the woodman for Annalise, who a super hero villain type woman who never relents, yet, has a heart in there somewhere. Their adventure unfolds as a tale masterfully told, and the background story enriches the action rather than dragging it down. I laughed, I shuddered at the violence, and was intrigued with the situation. Best of all, I watched the story in the my cranial movie house - all signs of a gifted writer with a thrilling story to tell. Good read for lovers of urban fantasy mixed with some horror.more
Got to the book as I saw that Jim Butcher has recommened, as a Dresden File devotee I had to check it out. Was a really good read, still won't tip Dresden of the pedestal but with time the main characater might mature into something really interesting. For now I will definitely pick up the sequelThe book reads as its own story, no plot spanning over a number of books. These days with lots of series setting of where you need to wait 3-4 years to see the end of the current plot this is actually rather nice.more
Ray Lilly works for Annalise Powliss, a sort of enforcer among sorcerers, and he’s terrified of her. She wants to kill him, but she’s been forbidden to, and so is forced to settle for using him as a chauffeur and hired hand in all things magical and mundane. On their first outing, they work together to help a family whose child has just spontaneously combusted before their eyes, ultimately dissolving into a mass of fat, wriggling, silver-gray worms. But the family doesn’t want their help; they’ve forgotten their son ever existed, even while still within view of the black scorch mark left behind when he caught fire. And all this happens within the first ten pages of Harry Connolly’s Child of Fire, the first in a series of urban fantasies known collectively as the TWENTY PALACES series. There are three novels published to date, plus a prequel available only as an ebook, with no further books planned, unfortunately; according to Connolly’s blog, they just didn’t sell as well as hoped, despite considerable support by the publisher. I liked Child of Fire so much that I immediately got hold of all the other novels in the series — and I’m hoping that the ebook of the prequel sells well enough to make it worth Connolly’s time to keep going. These are urban fantasies of a different flavor, with a male protagonist (as opposed to the usual leather-clad young female) who has been around the block a few times. Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett seem to be Connolly’s influences, rather than Charles de Lint and Laurell Hamilton, which is all to the good. This dark and violent version of a magical world is fascinating, assuming you can tolerate the nearly unbearable premise of children destroyed by fire for a dark purpose. Connolly keeps plenty of things mysterious in this novel: just what is the Twenty Palace Society anyway, and why does Annalise hate Ray so much, and why is he so loyal to her regardless? But the mystery itself, which involves a toy factory producing old-fashioned toys that ought not to appeal to children but inexplicably are as attractive as the latest videogame, is fascinating. Ray and Annalise are in danger almost from the first page, particularly after Annalise suffers an injury that severely affects her ability to continue her investigation — even her survival. (And the treatment she requires for the injury — the consumption of vast quantities of raw beef — is beautifully creepy.) Her magic has a system, Ray’s has a different system, and the devils of the piece have their own source of power that seems to come straight out of latter-day Lovecraft. Child of Fire moves fast and never lets up. Anyone who likes a heavy dose of mystery mixed in with his or her fantasy is likely to find this novel engrossing and enjoyable.more
I was directed to this book from the websites of Jim Butcher and Charles Stross two of my favorite authors. When I finished this book quickly became one of my favorites in the last few years the gritty dark surrealism of the characters really made this a pleasant contrast to the urban fantasy series that are flooding the market recently. This is a book where the main character isn't saved from difficult or impossible choices and has to face the fact that sometimes a hero must "break a few eggs to make an omelet." In fact the darker sides of human nature and necessity appear more often than any series I can think of. Both Ray and Annalise are characters that are difficult to really like, I doubt anyone wants to spend time with them in a social setting but by the end of the book you can't help but root and support all their actions. (the characters remind me of the Dexter character in this way)I found the twists and turns that lead to the ending just made it that much more powerful from its darker theme and setting. I can't wait to see more from this author and can see why it was recommended by some of my favorite authors.gallandroPS. For those that seemed to find this book left a lot of plot holes, the prequel or book 0 was just published that I think might give people another starting point that might allow them to enjoy the series better since it introduces Ray outside of the fantasy elements. though its only available in e-book formatmore
Being a finicky reader, I think I expected to not like this book. However, to my surprise, it turned out to be a good read. The pace was spot-on, without many slowdowns where my interest could waver. There was a raw edgyness to the characters and a mystery to the whole plot which added a wonderfully dark dimension to the story. Possibly the biggest selling points for me is that the magic element is mysterious, confined, and shrouded. So many authors write what (I think) equates to High-Fantasy in the modern world. Often times, those stories lack the subtle and serious notes which I find appealing.I definitly think this is a good start to what has promise to be a great urban fantasy series.more
This was a good read. A little improbable toward the end, but I enjoyed the characters and the pacing. As an urban fantasy it used some unique tropes/magic and I liked that. This was an UF told from the view of the sidekick rather that the more powerful main character.more
An interesting take on the urban fantasy genre - this time we, have powerful sorcerors who have become almost inhuman protecting the world from the "others", who will destroy the human world, but only if they can gain access.In this book- we find Ray, a very minor sorcerer with only one spell, enlisted as a driver of Annalise. They are tasked with checking out the weirdness in a small town - children are going missing but no one seems to notice, not even the children's parents. When Annalise is injured while investigating, it is up to Ray to figure out what is going on while trying to keep Annalise alive.I liked it. It was enjoyable, much darker than most of the urban fantasy out there. No romantic love, just a gun for hire out to save the world. I'm not sure if this is the first or second book in the series - at times, I felt like I was missing part of the back story, but then, a few chapters later, the back story was explained. Either way, it stands by itself and the story is completely contained. I found the violence to be a bit much. It fits with the story, but it is just not my style. There isn't very much breaks in the action - Ray goes from one life or death adventure to the next. Annalise is also an interesting character. She has an interest in saving humanity, but not an individual. While she started human, her sorcery has turned her into something else. Whats refreshing about this is that Annalise doesn't regret what she allowed herself to become. She isn't human. She doesn't care. A wonderful character.While I liked the story, I don't think I will be continuing the series unless I come across a novel in the library. Its a bit too dark for me, with more death than I want in a book I read for fun.more
Okay, if you don’t like anything fantastical or supernatural, my advice would be to look away now. But you’ll be missing good reads. Your loss.There’s no vampires, werewolves or angels in these books, although there is quite a lot of magic. I read them right after finishing one of Charles Stross’s Laundry books and it seemed to fit right in.Ray Lilly is a recently released, ex-con with interesting tattoos that protect him from a lot of violent things - and some magic. His boss, Annalise, is part of a consortium doing its level best to project the rest of the world from rampant, uncontrolled magic and Ray is just supposed to be the driver. And, if he steps out of line, she’s going to kill him.Magic is dangerous and every time they turn around some moron’s found a spell book and is creating more havoc. The numpties are forever summoning strange creatures from neighbouring universes whose sole purpose is to consume the denizens of our planet - it appears we’re quite tasty…I really enjoyed Child of Fire - it’s a good read for me, as I like fast-paced thrillers a lot and the premise of this one was definitely interesting. It’s got great characters and a spooky town that is like the Stepford Wives multiplied by 100!more
Ray Lilly is a small-time crook forced to work as an assistant to a sorcerous hitman who hates him. Something is very wrong in the town of Hammer Bay, and they have been sent to stop it and send the extradimensional predator(s) responsible back where they came from.High body count and morally gray characters.more
A very good debut novel from Harry Connolly. Like a lot of good story's it starts in the middle of something and keeps referring to events that took place previously. It made me want to read about the events leading up to the book. Ray Lilly is a non-convict having been cleared in all wrong doing of the murder of a few people that were his friends. He is now the driver for Annalise, who is a high ranking member of the Twenty Palace Society. They are a group of magic users who try and protect the world no matter who gets in their way. If they have to kill innocents in order to protect the larger world then so be it. Ray is Annalise's wooden man. (We kind of learn what that means but not fully.)Annalise is investigating a small town in Hammer Bay, Washington. There are children who are burning up in green flame and a bunch of worms appearing out of it. And after that nobody remembers that the child existed. The owner of the toy company Charles Hammer III is the main suspect.This book has a great, engaging plot. The use of magic feels new and different from a lot of whats out there. Good character development with Ray and Annalise. Also with just a few hints of what the Twenty Palace Society is leaves you wanting to know more. Good first book of a series.THE BIG DRAWBACK: there was no resolution after the plot was over. Not that books need to explain everything, but there has to be some sort of resolution and wrap up to the story. It was almost non-existent. There is a sneak peak at Connolly's next novel. I read that and it felt like it gave a better wrap up then what was in this book.more
When I first read about Child of Fire by Harry Connolly, I just knew I had read this book and immediately put it on my wish list. So when I won a copy of it on Twitter, I was pretty psyched about reading it. Plus, the majority of reviews I had read were raving about Child of Fire. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case for me.Child of Fire reads like a gritty, supernatural crime novel. Ray Lilly is not a super being, just an ex-con artist trying to make amends for past mistakes. Mistakes that you find out about very slowly. One of the best attributes of this novel, is knowing Ray was against powerful magic without much help besides his own wit and a tiny bit of magic. For the most part, he just rolls with punches as they came at him because he seems to have a nose for trouble and it always seemed to be right around every corner waiting for him. Annalise, though she is one of the good guys, has a bad guy's cold-bloodeddemeanor about her. It's also her attitude in how she views everything and everyone around her. It gave her an air of mystery and made me wantto know about what made her this way. But for the most part she remained amystery as much as the Twenty Palace Society that she belonged to and you don't really getknow much about either. Maybe more will be revealed in the next novel.While I liked the premises of the world created by Harry Connolly and characters themselves, for the most part Child of Fire didn't keep me intrigued and kept falling flat. I felt like I was one step ahead of the story's mystery throughout most of the book so it didn't hold many surprises for me. In the end, I felt like I really didn't get know the main characters as well as I would've liked. Will I read the next novel? I'm really not sure because I feel the characters of this series deserve another shot.more
I got this as an advanced reading copy (ARC) through the Amazon Vine program. This book is being targeted at people who love the Dresden Files and Simon Green's "Secret Histories" series. Given that and the description provided; I was excited to read it. This is the first novel in the Twenty Palaces series; so far three books in this series have been sold. The second one is titled "Game of Cages" and is scheduled for a May 2010 release. It was a very good book.Ray Lilly has been in prison for a while, he is released to serve as a driver for one of the members of the Twenty Palaces society, Annalise. The Twenty Palaces Society is a group of sorcerers that police rogue sorcerers and destroy any Predators they bring into the normal world. Ray and Annalise are sent to a small town to find out why all of their children are disappearing.Overall this was a great book. The plot is well-put together, the action scenes are amazing, and the action is non-stop. While Ray and Annalise are not the most likable characters, they are characters that you grow to like as a reader and they have a lot of depth to them. Ray will remind in many ways of Harry Dresden, he takes a lot of beatings and still tries to do what he thinks is right. The world that this novel takes place in is also fascinating and in this book you don't learn a ton about the Twenty Palaces Society, just enough to make you want to learn more.There is a lot going on in this book, no one is who they seem to be, and the action scenes fall one into the next. I guess that is my only complaint about this book. The action scenes were basically one on top of the other and they came at you so fast you never had time to catch your breath. I also think that the action scenes were so plentiful that, at times, they prevented us from getting to spend time actually learning more about the characters. I guess I have one other small complaint and that was that this story was very isolated to this one small town. You get glimpses of another world out there, but you never get to really take part in it...hopefully we will get to see more of this interesting world in future books.I liked this book and am eager to read the next one. I think this has potential to be a really excellent series. A great read. I agree that if you like the Dresden Files, you will probably like this series also.more
I bought Child of Fire because I read a few very good reviews of it. BTW, Good reviews of a book usually plays a small part in my decision to read a book because sometimes professional reviewers will rave about a book that I think is so very, very boring - or I end up having completely different tastes than the reviewers.This book interested me from the first page. I liked the main character, who seems to be "living on borrowed time" (from the book blurb). Any minute he could die and his boss wouldn't mind, in fact would kill him herself if she wasn't under orders not to. Ray Lilly is working under Annalise, driving her around and doing whatever she says with no respect from her, or explanations. In fact she doesn't even care if he's hungry. Ray is an ex-con who used to steal cars. Throughout the story thoughts flit through his head about how easy it would be steal this car, or take that money. He's trying to stay away from crime, but things keep getting in his way, and sh- keeps happening. People end up dead around him. A lot of them deserve it, but still...he's always worrying about going back to prison.We don't learn a whole lot about Annalise, other than that she's extremely strong, and Ray isn't even sure if she's human. Annalise hunts magic users to keep the world safe from predators from other dimensions. Ironically, she is a magic user and belongs to the Twenty Palaces - all magic users.In Child of Fire the two of them are investigating a town where people are dying as sacrifices for magic use. Things go horribly wrong for them, and Ray keeps getting attacked and accosted by the sheriff, deputies and thugs that work for the local madam. The whole town is strange. One of the things that I look for in a book is intelligent dialogue, or at least non-lame dialogue. The dialogue in this book was pretty good, there was some sarcasm (something I can appreciate) and some joking around (always a plus) along with dialogue that actually adds to the plot (rather than just to fill up space, or over-explain).more
21 Words or Less: An unwelcome addition to the already bloated ranks of Urban Fantasy, Child of Fire breaks no new ground with inconsistent characterization and bland writing.Rating: 1.5/5 starsThe Good: Starts out firing with a rapid pace that doesn’t subside, author has no problem killing characters. The Bad: No innovation within the Urban Fantasy genre, lack of consistent characterization, lack of plot resolution, overuse of the same solutions to obstacles, core writing fundamentals were lacking.There are a lot of strong Urban Fantasy series out there. Based on Child of Fire, Harry Connolly's The Twenty Palaces Novels don’t appear destined to join that group. Mediocre at best and painful at worst, Child of Fire combines dozens of unsympathetic characters in a erratic plot that leaves as more plot points open than it manages to close. Child of Fire introduces us to one Ray Lilly, a gray character with a checkered past. When the plot hits the ground running on page 1, Ray is serving as the driver for Annalise, a senior member of the titular Twenty Palace Society. The Twenty Palace Society is a group of magicians who have taken it upon themselves to police the magical world preventing predators (evil spirits) and rogue magicians (as defined by the TPS) through executions and other zero tolerance measures. Ray and Annalise are investigating some curious activities in the town of Hammer Bay that include disappearing children, unusually successful toy companies, forgotten memories, and scorch marks. Unfortunately for the pair (and fortunately for the plot), Hammer Bay is hiding a lot more secrets than the average small town.From the moment Connolly’s main characters enter Hammer Bay they are introduced to set after set of characters. Town bigshots who don’t want the balance of power disturbed. Police skeptical of outsiders. Local thugs looking to muscle their way to a few extra dollars. Connolly’s got them all, and multiple sets of them. The cast of characters in Child of Fire is huge and while that’s not a problem in its own right, Connolly fails to distinguish any of them beyond their stereotypical roles. If you’ve got only a half dozen archetypes you shouldn’t have two dozen characters. By the time they are all introduced, the plot gets extremely repetitive. Lilly gets kidnapped and escapes what must be a half dozen times while encountering the same sorts of people. While interactions with the local underground is a common occurrence in any type of noir fiction, changing the names and repeating the same sequence until Lilly has enough clues tires quickly. Especially when he uses the same method to escape throughout the entire book; his ghost knife. The ghost knife is a magically infused piece of laminated paper that has the ability to cut through anything dead,inorganic, or magical. Guns/locks/magic tattoos: you name it, it cuts it. If you cut through a living person, it drains their life energy and they become passive and docile. Basically, it’s a magic lightsaber that turns opponents into coma victims instantly. Ignoring the fact that Lilly somehow keeps this object in his pocket without it falling out or stabbing himself, Lilly’s ghost knife becomes as much of a crutch as I’ve ever seen in a published novel. He uses it from the beginning of the book to the very conclusion without fail. It’s his only trick. The first time he uses it, it’s mildly intriguing (as a reference the other items in Connolly’s magic system are ribbons, tattoos and a piece of wood), by the end of the book, it’s laughable. This in and of itself is a forgivable offense, the mischaracterizations and hanging plot points are not. One of the fundamental relationships in Child of Fire is Ray’s interactions with Annalise. The back cover blurbs that she “is looking for an excuse to kill him” but the story reads quite differently. She seems to harbor some resentment for Ray but with each passing chapter her attitude seems to change. Annalise’s feelings toward Ray rotate through several different states; hatred, indifference, acceptance, begrudging friendship, incompetence, and almost any emotion you can imagine. The reasons for the dramatic and repeated shifts in their relationship (if there are any) aren’t explained in any capacity. It reads like Connolly couldn’t exactly figure out how to make his characters interact and rather than picking one dynamic over another, he just used them all. This haphazard style doesn’t just affect the characters, it also impacts the plot. Connolly’s interest in specific subplots seems to grow and wane throughout the book. This gets so bad that there is absolutely no resolution or closure for the third (arguably second) largest character in the book. She just exits one scene and is never seen or heard from again. Even the core plot of the book, the disappearing children which causes Ray Lilly to be physically sick with grief is left unresolved. As Ray drives away from Hammer Bay in the final pages, the true culprit responsible for the disappearances is still at large and the children and their memories are still gone. These aren’t minor dropped plotlines, these are critical elements that run through the core of the novel.I hesitate at this point because I realize that my review is extremely long and extremely negative. To be fair, Jim Butcher’s debut novel wasn’t anything special. It wasn’t until he really developed his style and broke his repetitive plot outline that he really started to excel. Now Butcher is one of my favorite authors. Maybe future Twenty Palace novels will be better. Maybe we will finally get an explanation for all of the hints of Lilly’s back-story that Connolly drops but irritatingly never explains. Maybe he will decide that major characters shouldn't just disappear mid-book. Maybe he will realize that well-written dialogue doesn’t need repeated “he said, she said” dialogue tags to figure out who is speaking. If he does, let me know, because I won’t be reading the follow up to find out.I’m not sure how I should end this review. Ghost Knife. That did it.more
Child of Fire by Harry ConnollyRay Lilly is what the driver and assistant to Annalise Powliss, a high ranking and very strong member of a group of sorcerers who hunt down and destroy rogue magicians. Unfortunately for Ray, he is her assistant under duress. He is there to be a sort of cannon fodder actually. The mission goes horribly wrong and takes Annalise out of commission and Ray has a choice…to ride in on the proverbial white charger and to try and save the day, the town and it‘s inhabitants or to wimp out and try to save his own neck.“Children of Fire” is being marketed to the readers who happen to like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series. I think they might be making a mistake. I think that this book is so fantastic and different, that it should also be marketed towards the fans of Stephen King or Dean Koontz. “Child of Fire” reads more like an early King horror novel than a simple speculative fiction. If you are a fan of speculative romance, this may not be for you, but I really urge you to try it. The characters are so well written, the pacing is so brisk and the mystery is complex enough that you won’t even miss it. There is enough evilness and horror to keep even the most jaded reader looking behind his shoulder at night.The only fly in the ointment is some of the interaction between Ray and Cynthia Hammer. Sometimes it seems a little forced and doesn’t ring true. This is a roller-coaster of a ride. I never felt the need (like I have been needing to do a lot lately with new authors) to skim through boring or slow parts, or excessively long inner-dialogs dealing with the protagonists regrets and past. This book kept me chained to my reading chair until I finished it. Well not literally, but you know what I mean!! There is enough back-story to make you understand why Ray is doing what he’s doing, but not enough so that we don’t still have more questions for Ray and Annalise. I truly couldn’t put it down. A new installment to this series - “Game of Cages”, should be out in May of 2010. I can not wait.more
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Reviews

This book read more like F. Paul Wilson's "Repairman Jack" series, than standard urban fantasy. No romance, no fantasy...just break-neck action and tons of grit.more
I absolutely loved Child of Fire. It's definitely Dresden-esque, especially the early Dresden Files, following as it does the adventures of a down-on-his-luck male protagonist who's on the outs with the magical Powers That Be and hiding a few skeletons in his closet. It's also a well-paced page turner, full of action, written on a grand scale, and very original. There are obvious differences, too - Connolly isn't comic like Jim Butcher, so there's a lot less humor to lighten the mood. And the protagonist of Connolly's book, Ray Lilly, doesn't have the anonymity or obscurity that Harry Dresden did at the start of his series. Lilly is working in a kind of indentured servitude, kept close under the eye of a hostile employer who has every right to kill him should he step out of line.

I ran into some trouble with a few convenient coincidences at the end of the novel, but I loved the way that Ray's relationship developed with his jailor-employer Annalise. I really liked the way that Connolly described magic, its execution and its costs - whenever Annalise was injured, and Ray had to feed her raw meat, I'd shudder with delight. It was just real enough, and just hideous enough, and just strange enough to seem foreign and out of this world. The perfect note for a paranormal.

I can't wait to check out book 2 in the series, which was just released. There aren't enough tough male protagonists in this genre, and I'd be so excited to see another worthy contender step out from the pack.more
After the first couple of scenes I nearly put the book away thinking it would be senseless schlock. That may sound a bit cruel, but really - a child bursting into flames, and worms, and a fight with a couple in a station wagon, with a baby in the back, may foreshadow an action-packed story, but I was in the mood for something more interesting.

Needless to say, thankfully, I kept reading. 4.5 stars. Ray, the main character turns out to be quite introspective, and funny as hell. He is the woodman for Annalise, who a super hero villain type woman who never relents, yet, has a heart in there somewhere. Their adventure unfolds as a tale masterfully told, and the background story enriches the action rather than dragging it down. I laughed, I shuddered at the violence, and was intrigued with the situation. Best of all, I watched the story in the my cranial movie house - all signs of a gifted writer with a thrilling story to tell. Good read for lovers of urban fantasy mixed with some horror.more
Got to the book as I saw that Jim Butcher has recommened, as a Dresden File devotee I had to check it out. Was a really good read, still won't tip Dresden of the pedestal but with time the main characater might mature into something really interesting. For now I will definitely pick up the sequelThe book reads as its own story, no plot spanning over a number of books. These days with lots of series setting of where you need to wait 3-4 years to see the end of the current plot this is actually rather nice.more
Ray Lilly works for Annalise Powliss, a sort of enforcer among sorcerers, and he’s terrified of her. She wants to kill him, but she’s been forbidden to, and so is forced to settle for using him as a chauffeur and hired hand in all things magical and mundane. On their first outing, they work together to help a family whose child has just spontaneously combusted before their eyes, ultimately dissolving into a mass of fat, wriggling, silver-gray worms. But the family doesn’t want their help; they’ve forgotten their son ever existed, even while still within view of the black scorch mark left behind when he caught fire. And all this happens within the first ten pages of Harry Connolly’s Child of Fire, the first in a series of urban fantasies known collectively as the TWENTY PALACES series. There are three novels published to date, plus a prequel available only as an ebook, with no further books planned, unfortunately; according to Connolly’s blog, they just didn’t sell as well as hoped, despite considerable support by the publisher. I liked Child of Fire so much that I immediately got hold of all the other novels in the series — and I’m hoping that the ebook of the prequel sells well enough to make it worth Connolly’s time to keep going. These are urban fantasies of a different flavor, with a male protagonist (as opposed to the usual leather-clad young female) who has been around the block a few times. Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett seem to be Connolly’s influences, rather than Charles de Lint and Laurell Hamilton, which is all to the good. This dark and violent version of a magical world is fascinating, assuming you can tolerate the nearly unbearable premise of children destroyed by fire for a dark purpose. Connolly keeps plenty of things mysterious in this novel: just what is the Twenty Palace Society anyway, and why does Annalise hate Ray so much, and why is he so loyal to her regardless? But the mystery itself, which involves a toy factory producing old-fashioned toys that ought not to appeal to children but inexplicably are as attractive as the latest videogame, is fascinating. Ray and Annalise are in danger almost from the first page, particularly after Annalise suffers an injury that severely affects her ability to continue her investigation — even her survival. (And the treatment she requires for the injury — the consumption of vast quantities of raw beef — is beautifully creepy.) Her magic has a system, Ray’s has a different system, and the devils of the piece have their own source of power that seems to come straight out of latter-day Lovecraft. Child of Fire moves fast and never lets up. Anyone who likes a heavy dose of mystery mixed in with his or her fantasy is likely to find this novel engrossing and enjoyable.more
I was directed to this book from the websites of Jim Butcher and Charles Stross two of my favorite authors. When I finished this book quickly became one of my favorites in the last few years the gritty dark surrealism of the characters really made this a pleasant contrast to the urban fantasy series that are flooding the market recently. This is a book where the main character isn't saved from difficult or impossible choices and has to face the fact that sometimes a hero must "break a few eggs to make an omelet." In fact the darker sides of human nature and necessity appear more often than any series I can think of. Both Ray and Annalise are characters that are difficult to really like, I doubt anyone wants to spend time with them in a social setting but by the end of the book you can't help but root and support all their actions. (the characters remind me of the Dexter character in this way)I found the twists and turns that lead to the ending just made it that much more powerful from its darker theme and setting. I can't wait to see more from this author and can see why it was recommended by some of my favorite authors.gallandroPS. For those that seemed to find this book left a lot of plot holes, the prequel or book 0 was just published that I think might give people another starting point that might allow them to enjoy the series better since it introduces Ray outside of the fantasy elements. though its only available in e-book formatmore
Being a finicky reader, I think I expected to not like this book. However, to my surprise, it turned out to be a good read. The pace was spot-on, without many slowdowns where my interest could waver. There was a raw edgyness to the characters and a mystery to the whole plot which added a wonderfully dark dimension to the story. Possibly the biggest selling points for me is that the magic element is mysterious, confined, and shrouded. So many authors write what (I think) equates to High-Fantasy in the modern world. Often times, those stories lack the subtle and serious notes which I find appealing.I definitly think this is a good start to what has promise to be a great urban fantasy series.more
This was a good read. A little improbable toward the end, but I enjoyed the characters and the pacing. As an urban fantasy it used some unique tropes/magic and I liked that. This was an UF told from the view of the sidekick rather that the more powerful main character.more
An interesting take on the urban fantasy genre - this time we, have powerful sorcerors who have become almost inhuman protecting the world from the "others", who will destroy the human world, but only if they can gain access.In this book- we find Ray, a very minor sorcerer with only one spell, enlisted as a driver of Annalise. They are tasked with checking out the weirdness in a small town - children are going missing but no one seems to notice, not even the children's parents. When Annalise is injured while investigating, it is up to Ray to figure out what is going on while trying to keep Annalise alive.I liked it. It was enjoyable, much darker than most of the urban fantasy out there. No romantic love, just a gun for hire out to save the world. I'm not sure if this is the first or second book in the series - at times, I felt like I was missing part of the back story, but then, a few chapters later, the back story was explained. Either way, it stands by itself and the story is completely contained. I found the violence to be a bit much. It fits with the story, but it is just not my style. There isn't very much breaks in the action - Ray goes from one life or death adventure to the next. Annalise is also an interesting character. She has an interest in saving humanity, but not an individual. While she started human, her sorcery has turned her into something else. Whats refreshing about this is that Annalise doesn't regret what she allowed herself to become. She isn't human. She doesn't care. A wonderful character.While I liked the story, I don't think I will be continuing the series unless I come across a novel in the library. Its a bit too dark for me, with more death than I want in a book I read for fun.more
Okay, if you don’t like anything fantastical or supernatural, my advice would be to look away now. But you’ll be missing good reads. Your loss.There’s no vampires, werewolves or angels in these books, although there is quite a lot of magic. I read them right after finishing one of Charles Stross’s Laundry books and it seemed to fit right in.Ray Lilly is a recently released, ex-con with interesting tattoos that protect him from a lot of violent things - and some magic. His boss, Annalise, is part of a consortium doing its level best to project the rest of the world from rampant, uncontrolled magic and Ray is just supposed to be the driver. And, if he steps out of line, she’s going to kill him.Magic is dangerous and every time they turn around some moron’s found a spell book and is creating more havoc. The numpties are forever summoning strange creatures from neighbouring universes whose sole purpose is to consume the denizens of our planet - it appears we’re quite tasty…I really enjoyed Child of Fire - it’s a good read for me, as I like fast-paced thrillers a lot and the premise of this one was definitely interesting. It’s got great characters and a spooky town that is like the Stepford Wives multiplied by 100!more
Ray Lilly is a small-time crook forced to work as an assistant to a sorcerous hitman who hates him. Something is very wrong in the town of Hammer Bay, and they have been sent to stop it and send the extradimensional predator(s) responsible back where they came from.High body count and morally gray characters.more
A very good debut novel from Harry Connolly. Like a lot of good story's it starts in the middle of something and keeps referring to events that took place previously. It made me want to read about the events leading up to the book. Ray Lilly is a non-convict having been cleared in all wrong doing of the murder of a few people that were his friends. He is now the driver for Annalise, who is a high ranking member of the Twenty Palace Society. They are a group of magic users who try and protect the world no matter who gets in their way. If they have to kill innocents in order to protect the larger world then so be it. Ray is Annalise's wooden man. (We kind of learn what that means but not fully.)Annalise is investigating a small town in Hammer Bay, Washington. There are children who are burning up in green flame and a bunch of worms appearing out of it. And after that nobody remembers that the child existed. The owner of the toy company Charles Hammer III is the main suspect.This book has a great, engaging plot. The use of magic feels new and different from a lot of whats out there. Good character development with Ray and Annalise. Also with just a few hints of what the Twenty Palace Society is leaves you wanting to know more. Good first book of a series.THE BIG DRAWBACK: there was no resolution after the plot was over. Not that books need to explain everything, but there has to be some sort of resolution and wrap up to the story. It was almost non-existent. There is a sneak peak at Connolly's next novel. I read that and it felt like it gave a better wrap up then what was in this book.more
When I first read about Child of Fire by Harry Connolly, I just knew I had read this book and immediately put it on my wish list. So when I won a copy of it on Twitter, I was pretty psyched about reading it. Plus, the majority of reviews I had read were raving about Child of Fire. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case for me.Child of Fire reads like a gritty, supernatural crime novel. Ray Lilly is not a super being, just an ex-con artist trying to make amends for past mistakes. Mistakes that you find out about very slowly. One of the best attributes of this novel, is knowing Ray was against powerful magic without much help besides his own wit and a tiny bit of magic. For the most part, he just rolls with punches as they came at him because he seems to have a nose for trouble and it always seemed to be right around every corner waiting for him. Annalise, though she is one of the good guys, has a bad guy's cold-bloodeddemeanor about her. It's also her attitude in how she views everything and everyone around her. It gave her an air of mystery and made me wantto know about what made her this way. But for the most part she remained amystery as much as the Twenty Palace Society that she belonged to and you don't really getknow much about either. Maybe more will be revealed in the next novel.While I liked the premises of the world created by Harry Connolly and characters themselves, for the most part Child of Fire didn't keep me intrigued and kept falling flat. I felt like I was one step ahead of the story's mystery throughout most of the book so it didn't hold many surprises for me. In the end, I felt like I really didn't get know the main characters as well as I would've liked. Will I read the next novel? I'm really not sure because I feel the characters of this series deserve another shot.more
I got this as an advanced reading copy (ARC) through the Amazon Vine program. This book is being targeted at people who love the Dresden Files and Simon Green's "Secret Histories" series. Given that and the description provided; I was excited to read it. This is the first novel in the Twenty Palaces series; so far three books in this series have been sold. The second one is titled "Game of Cages" and is scheduled for a May 2010 release. It was a very good book.Ray Lilly has been in prison for a while, he is released to serve as a driver for one of the members of the Twenty Palaces society, Annalise. The Twenty Palaces Society is a group of sorcerers that police rogue sorcerers and destroy any Predators they bring into the normal world. Ray and Annalise are sent to a small town to find out why all of their children are disappearing.Overall this was a great book. The plot is well-put together, the action scenes are amazing, and the action is non-stop. While Ray and Annalise are not the most likable characters, they are characters that you grow to like as a reader and they have a lot of depth to them. Ray will remind in many ways of Harry Dresden, he takes a lot of beatings and still tries to do what he thinks is right. The world that this novel takes place in is also fascinating and in this book you don't learn a ton about the Twenty Palaces Society, just enough to make you want to learn more.There is a lot going on in this book, no one is who they seem to be, and the action scenes fall one into the next. I guess that is my only complaint about this book. The action scenes were basically one on top of the other and they came at you so fast you never had time to catch your breath. I also think that the action scenes were so plentiful that, at times, they prevented us from getting to spend time actually learning more about the characters. I guess I have one other small complaint and that was that this story was very isolated to this one small town. You get glimpses of another world out there, but you never get to really take part in it...hopefully we will get to see more of this interesting world in future books.I liked this book and am eager to read the next one. I think this has potential to be a really excellent series. A great read. I agree that if you like the Dresden Files, you will probably like this series also.more
I bought Child of Fire because I read a few very good reviews of it. BTW, Good reviews of a book usually plays a small part in my decision to read a book because sometimes professional reviewers will rave about a book that I think is so very, very boring - or I end up having completely different tastes than the reviewers.This book interested me from the first page. I liked the main character, who seems to be "living on borrowed time" (from the book blurb). Any minute he could die and his boss wouldn't mind, in fact would kill him herself if she wasn't under orders not to. Ray Lilly is working under Annalise, driving her around and doing whatever she says with no respect from her, or explanations. In fact she doesn't even care if he's hungry. Ray is an ex-con who used to steal cars. Throughout the story thoughts flit through his head about how easy it would be steal this car, or take that money. He's trying to stay away from crime, but things keep getting in his way, and sh- keeps happening. People end up dead around him. A lot of them deserve it, but still...he's always worrying about going back to prison.We don't learn a whole lot about Annalise, other than that she's extremely strong, and Ray isn't even sure if she's human. Annalise hunts magic users to keep the world safe from predators from other dimensions. Ironically, she is a magic user and belongs to the Twenty Palaces - all magic users.In Child of Fire the two of them are investigating a town where people are dying as sacrifices for magic use. Things go horribly wrong for them, and Ray keeps getting attacked and accosted by the sheriff, deputies and thugs that work for the local madam. The whole town is strange. One of the things that I look for in a book is intelligent dialogue, or at least non-lame dialogue. The dialogue in this book was pretty good, there was some sarcasm (something I can appreciate) and some joking around (always a plus) along with dialogue that actually adds to the plot (rather than just to fill up space, or over-explain).more
21 Words or Less: An unwelcome addition to the already bloated ranks of Urban Fantasy, Child of Fire breaks no new ground with inconsistent characterization and bland writing.Rating: 1.5/5 starsThe Good: Starts out firing with a rapid pace that doesn’t subside, author has no problem killing characters. The Bad: No innovation within the Urban Fantasy genre, lack of consistent characterization, lack of plot resolution, overuse of the same solutions to obstacles, core writing fundamentals were lacking.There are a lot of strong Urban Fantasy series out there. Based on Child of Fire, Harry Connolly's The Twenty Palaces Novels don’t appear destined to join that group. Mediocre at best and painful at worst, Child of Fire combines dozens of unsympathetic characters in a erratic plot that leaves as more plot points open than it manages to close. Child of Fire introduces us to one Ray Lilly, a gray character with a checkered past. When the plot hits the ground running on page 1, Ray is serving as the driver for Annalise, a senior member of the titular Twenty Palace Society. The Twenty Palace Society is a group of magicians who have taken it upon themselves to police the magical world preventing predators (evil spirits) and rogue magicians (as defined by the TPS) through executions and other zero tolerance measures. Ray and Annalise are investigating some curious activities in the town of Hammer Bay that include disappearing children, unusually successful toy companies, forgotten memories, and scorch marks. Unfortunately for the pair (and fortunately for the plot), Hammer Bay is hiding a lot more secrets than the average small town.From the moment Connolly’s main characters enter Hammer Bay they are introduced to set after set of characters. Town bigshots who don’t want the balance of power disturbed. Police skeptical of outsiders. Local thugs looking to muscle their way to a few extra dollars. Connolly’s got them all, and multiple sets of them. The cast of characters in Child of Fire is huge and while that’s not a problem in its own right, Connolly fails to distinguish any of them beyond their stereotypical roles. If you’ve got only a half dozen archetypes you shouldn’t have two dozen characters. By the time they are all introduced, the plot gets extremely repetitive. Lilly gets kidnapped and escapes what must be a half dozen times while encountering the same sorts of people. While interactions with the local underground is a common occurrence in any type of noir fiction, changing the names and repeating the same sequence until Lilly has enough clues tires quickly. Especially when he uses the same method to escape throughout the entire book; his ghost knife. The ghost knife is a magically infused piece of laminated paper that has the ability to cut through anything dead,inorganic, or magical. Guns/locks/magic tattoos: you name it, it cuts it. If you cut through a living person, it drains their life energy and they become passive and docile. Basically, it’s a magic lightsaber that turns opponents into coma victims instantly. Ignoring the fact that Lilly somehow keeps this object in his pocket without it falling out or stabbing himself, Lilly’s ghost knife becomes as much of a crutch as I’ve ever seen in a published novel. He uses it from the beginning of the book to the very conclusion without fail. It’s his only trick. The first time he uses it, it’s mildly intriguing (as a reference the other items in Connolly’s magic system are ribbons, tattoos and a piece of wood), by the end of the book, it’s laughable. This in and of itself is a forgivable offense, the mischaracterizations and hanging plot points are not. One of the fundamental relationships in Child of Fire is Ray’s interactions with Annalise. The back cover blurbs that she “is looking for an excuse to kill him” but the story reads quite differently. She seems to harbor some resentment for Ray but with each passing chapter her attitude seems to change. Annalise’s feelings toward Ray rotate through several different states; hatred, indifference, acceptance, begrudging friendship, incompetence, and almost any emotion you can imagine. The reasons for the dramatic and repeated shifts in their relationship (if there are any) aren’t explained in any capacity. It reads like Connolly couldn’t exactly figure out how to make his characters interact and rather than picking one dynamic over another, he just used them all. This haphazard style doesn’t just affect the characters, it also impacts the plot. Connolly’s interest in specific subplots seems to grow and wane throughout the book. This gets so bad that there is absolutely no resolution or closure for the third (arguably second) largest character in the book. She just exits one scene and is never seen or heard from again. Even the core plot of the book, the disappearing children which causes Ray Lilly to be physically sick with grief is left unresolved. As Ray drives away from Hammer Bay in the final pages, the true culprit responsible for the disappearances is still at large and the children and their memories are still gone. These aren’t minor dropped plotlines, these are critical elements that run through the core of the novel.I hesitate at this point because I realize that my review is extremely long and extremely negative. To be fair, Jim Butcher’s debut novel wasn’t anything special. It wasn’t until he really developed his style and broke his repetitive plot outline that he really started to excel. Now Butcher is one of my favorite authors. Maybe future Twenty Palace novels will be better. Maybe we will finally get an explanation for all of the hints of Lilly’s back-story that Connolly drops but irritatingly never explains. Maybe he will decide that major characters shouldn't just disappear mid-book. Maybe he will realize that well-written dialogue doesn’t need repeated “he said, she said” dialogue tags to figure out who is speaking. If he does, let me know, because I won’t be reading the follow up to find out.I’m not sure how I should end this review. Ghost Knife. That did it.more
Child of Fire by Harry ConnollyRay Lilly is what the driver and assistant to Annalise Powliss, a high ranking and very strong member of a group of sorcerers who hunt down and destroy rogue magicians. Unfortunately for Ray, he is her assistant under duress. He is there to be a sort of cannon fodder actually. The mission goes horribly wrong and takes Annalise out of commission and Ray has a choice…to ride in on the proverbial white charger and to try and save the day, the town and it‘s inhabitants or to wimp out and try to save his own neck.“Children of Fire” is being marketed to the readers who happen to like Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series. I think they might be making a mistake. I think that this book is so fantastic and different, that it should also be marketed towards the fans of Stephen King or Dean Koontz. “Child of Fire” reads more like an early King horror novel than a simple speculative fiction. If you are a fan of speculative romance, this may not be for you, but I really urge you to try it. The characters are so well written, the pacing is so brisk and the mystery is complex enough that you won’t even miss it. There is enough evilness and horror to keep even the most jaded reader looking behind his shoulder at night.The only fly in the ointment is some of the interaction between Ray and Cynthia Hammer. Sometimes it seems a little forced and doesn’t ring true. This is a roller-coaster of a ride. I never felt the need (like I have been needing to do a lot lately with new authors) to skim through boring or slow parts, or excessively long inner-dialogs dealing with the protagonists regrets and past. This book kept me chained to my reading chair until I finished it. Well not literally, but you know what I mean!! There is enough back-story to make you understand why Ray is doing what he’s doing, but not enough so that we don’t still have more questions for Ray and Annalise. I truly couldn’t put it down. A new installment to this series - “Game of Cages”, should be out in May of 2010. I can not wait.more
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