Child of Fire (Twenty Palaces Series #1)

Child of Fire (Twenty Palaces Series #1)

by Harry Connolly

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345508898
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/29/2009
Series: Twenty Palaces Series , #1
Edition description: Original
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 685,772
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Harry Connolly spent two years writing this debut novel. He has held a variety of jobs in the past, from customer service to landscaping to stay-at-home dad. He lives in Seattle.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

It felt good to sit behind the wheel again, even the wheel of a battered Dodge Sprinter. Even with this passenger beside me.

 The van rumbled like a garbage truck, handled like a refrigerator box, and needed a full minute to reach highway speeds. I’d driven better, but I’m a guy who has to take what I can get while I’m still alive to get it. 

The passenger beside me was Annalise Powliss. She stood about five foot nothing, was as thin as a mop handle, and was covered with tattoos from the neck down. 

Her hair was the same dark red as the circled F’s I used to get on my book reports, and she wore it cropped close to her scalp. It was an ugly cut, but she never seemed to care how she looked. I suspected she cut it herself. 

She was my boss, and she had been forbidden to kill me, although that’s what she most wanted to do. “Where are we going?” I asked for the fourth time. She didn’t answer. She wasn’t talking to me except to tell me where to drive. To be honest, I didn’t blame her. She had good reason to hate me. 

At the moment, though, she and I had a job to do and all I knew about it was this: Annalise was on her way to kill someone. Maybe several someones. I was supposed to help. 

Because she wouldn’t talk to me, I was not entirely clear who had ordered her not to kill me or why they would bother. I was just the driver, and I didn’t even know where we were going. 

“Quarter tank,” I said as we approached a gas station. I hated to drive on less than a half tank of gas, but so far the boss had refused to let me fill up. Since she had the money, the title, and the physical strength to tear my arm off, she made the decisions. 

She glanced down at the scrap of wood in her hand— unpainted and unfinished except for the twisted nonsense shape made of several colors on one side— and said nothing. I stifled my irritation and drove past the pumps. 

We were westbound somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula. There were no other cars on the road. The streets were slick with misting rain, and the sky was growing dark as eve ning approached. After my years in Southern California, I’d forgotten how long it could take for night to fall in this part of the world. 

The road was one of those rural highways with one lane in each direction and a speed limit of fifty- five. I was staying below the limit because the van, with its balding tires, whining brakes, and load of equipment in the back, wasn’t equipped for the twists and turns of backwoods driving. 

I was enjoying the drive anyway. I had a key to the door and I could see the sky. It felt good to be a free man again. 

Up ahead, I saw a big cedar right up close to the road. Annalise was not wearing her seat belt. I was wearing mine. The speedometer on the Sprinter shuddered at the fifty- miles- per-hour mark. All I had to do was swerve. She and her little scrap of lumber would fly through the windshield and slam against the tree, while I would be safe in the arms of the shoulder harness and air bag. 

I didn’t try it. It wasn’t just the motorcycle Annalise kept on flimsy mounts in the cargo area behind me. In truth, I doubted that slamming face- first into a tree trunk would do more than muss her thrift- shop clothes. And piss her off. She’d survived worse. I’d seen it. 

I was pretty sure Annalise wasn’t a human being. She had been, once, I thought, but I wasn’t sure what she was now. 

A Volvo station wagon with luggage strapped to the roof drove eastbound toward us. As it passed, the painted scrap wood in Annalise’s hand flashed like a camera flashbulb. The design painted on the face of the wood began to twist like a nest full of snakes. 

Annalise lunged toward me. “Turn around!” she yelled. She had a high, funny voice more suited to a cartoon squirrel than a grown woman. “Turn around and follow that station wagon!” 

I was already doing it. I hit the brakes and twisted the wheel, letting the clumsy van fishtail as much as I dared. I heard crashing noises from behind me as Annalise’s things toppled over. We came to a rest, and I threw it in reverse. 

“Let’s go! Goddammit, hurry up!” 

“Keep your shirt on.” 

I backed up onto the shoulder, swung the wheel all the way around, and stomped on the gas. We crept after the station wagon. 

“Goddammit, Ray,” Annalise growled. She was very close to my ear, and I could hear the hate in her voice. “If you let them get away, I’m going to tear you apart.” 

“Oh yeah? Who are you going to find who can reach the gas pedal?” I said. My voice betrayed too much fear. When Annalise threatened to tear someone apart, she meant it literally. “This is your broken- down van. If we don’t catch them, you can blame yourself for not buying better wheels.” 

She settled back into her seat and glared through the windshield at the empty road ahead. 

I forced myself to smile at her. “Isn’t this nice? Our first job together and we’re getting along so well.” It was stupid and dangerous to taunt her, but I was afraid of her and I hated to show my fear. 

She ignored me, for which I was secretly grateful. We picked up speed, rounding curves and topping hills the van could barely handle. Night was coming and the forest around us was filling with shadows. I switched on the headlights, but Annalise snarled at me to turn them off. 

A red light flashed from between the trees on the right. I slowed. Annalise started to protest, but I shushed her. She didn’t look pleased about that. 

We came to a break in the forest— a gravel parking lot with a row of abandoned wooden stalls at the back. It looked like it had once been a roadside farmer’s stand. The station wagon was parked at the far end, red brake lights glowing. 

I parked a couple of car lengths away from the vehicle and jumped from the van as quickly as I could. Annalise was a little faster. She walked toward them, holding the fist- sized scrap of wood in her hand like a Geiger counter. The design on it writhed wildly; something about the car or the people in it was setting it off. 

All the wagon’s side doors stood open. A man and woman had their head and shoulders in the back doors, and they were working frantically at something. I checked their stuff. Among the things strapped to their roof was a vacuum cleaner in a clear plastic trash bag beaded with rain. These people weren’t on a camping trip. They were skipping town. 

All I could see of the man was a pair of extra- wide Dockers and the pale skin that peeked above his sagging waistband. Office worker, I thought. He must have heard us approach, but he didn’t turn to look at us. Was he completely engrossed, or did he have a weak survival instinct? Out of unshakable habit, my next thought was: Victim

No, no. I pushed the thought away. That was not part of my life anymore. 

From what I could see through the car windows, the woman was also wider than strictly necessary and also dressed for casual day at the office. They continued to struggle with something in the backseat. 

I felt a pressure against my chest, just below my right collarbone. Strange. I tried to ignore it and said, “Do you folks need any help?” 

The woman glanced up, noticing us for the first time. She had a terrified look on her face, but I knew it had nothing to do with Annalise or me. Her husband glanced back as he came out of the backseat. His glasses were smeary from the drizzle. “No,” he said too quickly. 

“We’re fine.” 

The pressure against my chest increased. 

Then their little boy climbed out of the car. 

He was a good- looking kid, maybe eight or nine years old, although I’m no judge. His hair stuck up in the back, and he had scrapes on both elbows. “I feel funny, Dad,” he said. He laid his hands on his chest and pressed. “I feel squishy.” 

Flames erupted around his head. 

I felt light- headed suddenly, and the pressure against my chest vanished. Before I could think about it, I ran toward them, stripping off my jacket. 
 The woman screamed. The flames around the boy’s head spread downward past his crotch. In an instant, his whole body was ablaze. 

The father fumbled for a jacket draped over the driver’s seat. I heard Annalise’s footsteps behind me. 

“Wow!” the boy said. “It doesn’t hurt, Daddy. It doesn’t hurt at all.” 

The father lunged at his boy with the jacket, knocking him to the gravel, then beating at the flames. I got there a half second later and slapped my jacket over the boy’s face and head. 

Rain steamed off the burning body. Beside me, the father made a noise like a strangled dog. I tried not to think about that. I tried not to notice the black scorch marks where the flames touched the ground. I tried not to think about what was happening. I just worked at the flames. I slapped at them, smothered them, wrapped them in my jacket. 

It was no good. The fire flared up and my jacket erupted in flames. I threw it aside and started to drag my shirt over my head. 

The kid laughed as though we were tickling him. Then his skin turned silver- gray and his whole head came apart. 

The flames roared. A wave of heat forced me back. The father rolled back onto his padded behind, almost bowling over his wife as she rushed around the car toward us. I let my backward momentum roll me onto my feet. 

Annalise stood nearby. She had unbuttoned the fireman’s jacket she always wore, revealing colored ribbons alligator- clipped to her clothes. She pulled a green one free. The small sigil drawn on the bottom glowed with silvery light. 

I turned back to the family. The boy’s head, arms, and chest had come apart and been transformed into a mass of fat, wriggling, silver- gray worms, each about the size of my pinkie. Then his stomach came apart, then his hips. 

It happened so fast I had no chance to think about it. I saw the worms twisting themselves against the packed gravel, trying to burrow into the earth. They swarmed over one another, heading west. Everything they touched turned black with scorched, greasy soot. 

I felt a tightness in my throat that might have been the urge to vomit, but there was nothing to bring up. I was completely hollow inside. 

The father struggled to his feet, and his wife tried to move around him to her son. The expression on her face told me she already knew the truth, already knew her son was gone, but she could no more stay away from his disintegrating body than she could leap up into the clouds. 

I tackled them. My shoulder sank into the father’s broad, soft belly, and I grabbed the mother around the waist. With all my strength, I pushed them away from the car. 

I didn’t look back at Annalise. I didn’t have to. I knew very well what those green ribbons did and how little she cared about collateral damage. 

The father and mother stumbled backward and fell over each other, hitting the gravel hard. I landed on their legs. I heard a whoosh of fire behind me. Annalise’s green ribbon had hit its target. I glanced back and saw flames, green ones this time, roar up around the wriggling mass that had once been a boy’s body. Where the flames touched them, the gray worms burst apart. 

The sphere of green fire expanded. I pulled in my legs, trying to get away, but I was too late. The cold green fire washed over me. 

I sucked in a lungful of air to scream my life away. It was too soon. Too soon. I looked down at my legs, expecting them to burn away to blackened, smoking bones. 

It didn’t happen. There was no pain, no damage to my legs, nothing. My clothes didn’t even burn. I felt nothing more than a slight pressure below my collarbone— a place the flames did not even reach. 

The flames receded. I was undamaged. So were the parents. I had pushed them out of range just in time. The worms had not fared so well. There was nothing left of them but gray slime. 

“Holy God,” the mother said, her voice thin and strained. Her face was slack and her eyes were glassy. If I hadn’t pushed her away, she would have been killed along with her son— another person struck down for no other reason than she was next to someone Annalise wanted to kill. 

Annalise took another ribbon from beneath her jacket. This one was blue. I had no idea what the blue ones did, but I knew it wouldn’t be good. 

Before she could use it, a force passed through me. It wasn’t a physical push. It struck my mind, my consciousness, what ever you want to call it, and it felt as though I was standing in heavy surf. It almost toppled me. 

At the same moment, I felt a twinge high on the right side of my chest again. 

Annalise staggered and winced; her blue ribbon fell from her hand. She felt it, too. The mother and father didn’t stagger. Their expressions went blank. 

Then it was gone. 

The couple stood and began to straighten their clothes. “You didn’t have to knock me over,” the man said. “I was only trying to help.” 


“We pulled over to help— oh, forget it.” He slapped at the dust on his pants. 

His wife clutched at his shirt and looked at me worriedly. “Douglas, let’s just go.” 

They started walking toward the car, glancing back at me as if I was a stray dog that might bite. 

They did not look the least bit upset by what had just happened to their son. 

After they got into their car and slammed the doors, Douglas started the engine. His wife leaned into the backseat and fussed with a baby sleeping in an infant seat. I hadn’t noticed the baby until then. Douglas turned on the music. Bobby McFerrin. Gravel crunched under the tires as they began to drive away, as though they were leaving behind nothing more important than some old fast- food wrappers. 

Annalise charged past me, lowered her shoulder, and slammed into the car’s front panel, just above the wheel. Her legs pumped. The fender crumpled and the car slid sideways like a tackling dummy until it tipped into a ditch. She stood and straightened her jacket, a scowl on her delicate little face. I had seen her strength before, of course. She could have flipped the car onto its roof or torn the door off and pinched off Douglas’s head. I assumed the only reason she hadn’t done either was that she hadn’t finished with them yet.

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Child of Fire (Twenty Palaces Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 84 reviews.
Utahsquish More than 1 year ago
Saw a review by Jim Butcher on his web site about books to read while waiting for Ghost Story (new dresden files book) was not expecting much but was very happy to find a good read. Would recommend to any up and coming urban fantasy readers. Looking forward to finishing the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This series is an excellent read. It is incredibly action packed. The protagonist is delightfully not stupid. I sat down and read all 4 books in one week.
HARRYPOTTER86 More than 1 year ago
After "Turn Coat", my reading days have faltered. I've only read a few thrillers and reread the original Bourne trilogy. I've also read the new young adult novel, "Crocodile Tears" a million times. Still, I wanted to read a new fantasy thriller that would be great. Fortunately, I picked "COF". The cover is illustrated by the one who illustrates the cover of the DF series:Chris McGrath. It's really great. The blurb intrigued me. The review of Jim Butcher on the cover was the one that really urged me to pick it up. Trust me, you will devour it. I definitely did. The action is gritty but not extremely violent. The characters are flawed but likable. Ray Lilly is a really badass protagonist, but lacks the charm of Dresden. It's okay though. It's hard to believe it's a debut author's novel. Buy it. You'll love it. 9/10(setting and environment are dull, doesn't have many one-liners. Still, the action is great, the story is original, and the protagonists are hard to forget. One of my favorite thrillers.)
Ela_Delahay More than 1 year ago
Had me under its spell from the first few pages. I never wanted to put it down, and had it finished within a day of starting (a new record for me). I can't wait to read the next from Harry; I know it will be well worth the wait!
Steven_Bottacari More than 1 year ago
This is a terrific debut and series. There is a ton of action and Ray Lilly and Annalise have an interesting relationship to say the least. Harry Connolly's Twenty Palaces world introduces some original and fun concepts. A must read for any Urban Fantasy readers. I read this book a couple years ago when it first came out but felt I had to write a review when I saw how few people have reviewed it. It's refreshing to see a male protagonist (14 of the 16 series I am currently reading currently have female protagonists).
sillydaffodilly More than 1 year ago
An addictive and original series. Each book is better than the one before.
ejmam More than 1 year ago
I can't thank the library enough for putting this on their "New and interesting" shelf, because finding Harry Connolly really made my year. He breaks a lot of molds in setting up his books -- the main character isn't the boss, doesn't have a lot of power, and has a past he is trying to outgrow. He uses his mind to figure stuff out while serving as the front man for a woman whose motives he's not sure he understands. I really enjoyed the book as an urban fantasy. It's about a man who has to save the world and who doesn't really have the tools he needs, but who can't let that stop him. Along the way he wants to keep looking himself in the mirror, but he also realizes that given a choice between saving one person and saving the world, you have to choose the second.
DuncanWatson More than 1 year ago
I read a review and bought this book. It is excellent, Ray is a great character and the book flows well. It is quite dark but though Ray is a convict, I found him very likable. I have enjoyed the entire series to date and recommend these books highly.
Dealen More than 1 year ago
Shorter then i would have liked. But it a good glimps into a new magical world. It has me intrested in the next book
rabidreaderWS More than 1 year ago
I bought Child of Fire because I read a few very good reviews of Child of Fire. 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. 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). The sequel, Game of Cages will be released soon -possibly August 2010.
VicUrt7 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book it catches you from the first page,I couldn't put it down
TheDivineOomba on LibraryThing 11 months ago
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.
deanfetzer on LibraryThing 11 months ago
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!
gallandro_83 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
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 format
pmwolohan on LibraryThing 11 months ago
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 R
TerryWeyna on LibraryThing 11 months ago
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.
bearmountainbooks on LibraryThing 11 months ago
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.
FantasyDreamer on LibraryThing 11 months ago
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.
Cats57 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
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.
krau0098 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
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.
Mardel on LibraryThing 11 months ago
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).
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
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.
edstan76 on LibraryThing 11 months ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The first volume in Connolly's urban fantasy series is fast and tense, with a shockingly high body count. Ray Lilly is a terrific protagonist: snarky and street smart, with a healthy sense of self-preservation. His boss, Annalise, is scary, but also deeply sympathetic; we are left to wonder what happened to make her what she is. Recommended to fans of Kelley Armstrong, Devon Monk, Annie Bellet, and Shannon Mayer. -- lyradora