Harry Connolly, Child of Fire

Posted May 1, 2012 by Kathy Davie in

Child of Fire (Twenty Palaces, #1)Child of Fire by Harry Connolly
Series: Twenty Palaces, 1
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First in the Twenty Palaces urban fantasy series about an agency that goes after people wielding magic.

My Take
Wow. Whew. Connolly has some imagination. I read this one right after Simon R. Green’s Bride Wore Black Leather; both incorporate other dimensions with predator species. Yet, Green has a sense of the camp while Connolly is strictly scary. Not horrific, just creepy.

I don’t understand why Connolly never had his protagonists follow the worms. He certainly emphasized that their direction seemed important. He just never went anywhere with it just as he never went anywhere with Ray going to bed with Cynthia. It seemed more of a fulfillment of a checklist in writing a novel. Check – got the romantic angle.

Ooh, Ray got a glimpse of Annalise’s past.

Connolly did a nice job of developing Ray and Annalise’s relationships. It goes from extremely antagonistic to more accepting. I’m curious if Annalise is more open to Ray in Game of Cages after the events which proved Ray. If Twenty Palaces doesn’t allow anyone to possess or use magic, why is Annalise allowing Ray to carry around his ghost knife?

This is a nasty town. Three major factions are doing their best to shore it up any way they can, treating the side effects and ignoring the symptoms.

Why is it that crooks are always so surprised and angry when someone they’ve hurt gets angry?

The Story
Children are going up in flames left and right. And their parents completely forget they even had a child. Its sick-making to see them simply turn off, turn away. Deny the child even with their toys, books, and clothes scattered around.

As Annalise and Ray investigate, the lack of children and the number of scorch marks emphasize over and over that something is wrong. Then there’s the deeply antagonistic police force more interested in beating people down and extorting from local businesses. Followed by the toy factory that defies all business logic.

And Annalise’s magic detector keeps smokin’ and twirlin’ in this town that is desperate for work of any kind. An elusive dog pack is taking down citizens who complain. The local crime boss sends her crew to harass, beat, and kidnap anyone who threatens the town’s existence. Where the crusading reporter takes that first step in exposing his town’s corruption.

Where every citizen seems too protective of the toy man bringing their hopes up. Even as their children die.

The Characters
It’s a cheeky boy is our Raymond Lily. He’s also been a crook all his life. And it looks to be a very short life indeed after the Twenty Palaces’ representatives get him out of jail and partner him up with Annalise as her “wooden man”. His only weapon is his ghost knife. The only spell he’s ever worked.

Annalise Powliss is a terrifying individual who works as an investigator for Twenty Palaces; she has no sense of tact, no compassion, no humanity. She can’t be killed. Her strength is Herculean and those pretty ribbons pinned inside her jacket are not to be toyed with. In fact, Ray spends a lot of time in this story pleading with people to not go after her if they value their lives.

The police chief is Emmett Dubois with his brothers Luke and Wiley as deputies. They, too, have an inheritance of magic making them very, very dangerous.

Charles Hammer is the third Hammer since the town’s founder. Each member of the family has been “protected” from that which enhances the family’s fortunes. Cabot Hammer is Charlie’s uncle and his part of the business empire is collapsing fast. Cynthia Hammer is Charlie Three’s sister; not a part of the toy company. Able Katz is Hammer’s VP of Operations. He joined Hammer Bay Toys to work for someone who believed in ideas, toys that made no business sense.

Phyllis Henstrick runs Henstrick Construction and handles all the building in and around town; she also runs the local whorehouse and casino. Her construction crew work as bouncers when building is slack. I have my own questions about Tiffany—she scares me.

Harlan Semple is one of the few who remembers he had daughters and he demands the truth. In his case, the truth may well kill him. Frank Farleton is the town mayor; Miriam is his wife. Peter Lemly is our naive, intrepid reporter. Rev. Wilson and Arlene step up to help.

The Cover
The cover is urban gritty with its base of angry flames surrounding Ray as he stares through a chainlink fence out over the city.

The title sums it all up for it’s a story of a Child of Fire—both the human ones and their predator aborning.

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