Child of Fire (Twenty Palaces #1) by Harry Connolly

Magic, supernatural powers and spell books. Rogue magicians and otherworldly predators—not to mention a secret society of sorcerers devoted to hunting them down. And ex-convict Raymond Lilly, right in the middle of it all—as a driver to one of the Twenty Palaces Society members, Annalise, who wants nothing more than to kill Ray herself. But when Annalise is incapacitated, Ray must complete her assignment on his own—armed with nothing but a single spell and his nearly nonexistent knowledge of the world he’s stepped into. Welcome to the world of author Harry Connolly’s debut novel, Child of Fire.

Gritty and dark
One of the things that impressed me the most about this book is the world Connolly brings to the table. It’s a sinister setting, one where everything can be dangerous—even in the face of magic. The plot is dark and twisted, with malevolent forces lurking in every shadow. The violence is so gritty that you can feel it, almost as if you might get something in your eye just by reading it. It’s an engaging ride that you just can’t get enough of.

A fresh face in an expanding genre
Urban fantasy is one of the fastest-growing genres today. However, in the flood of new authors, and even among those who are established in their careers, Harry Connolly stands out. His world is one of the most compelling I’ve read in a long time, and it sticks out for its sheer amount of grittiness. Another thing that really appeals to me about his writing is that Connolly is totally unafraid of putting his protagonist through hell, and he really makes us connect with Ray Lilly.

As good as the premise and delivery of his story is, it is still apparent that this is Connolly’s first novel. The tone and mood of the book are impeccable, but at times, Connolly’s prose felt stilted to me. It didn’t bother me enough to distract me from the story, but it happened enough to make me blink a couple times. However, despite the little bumps in the tracks, the roller coaster of a tale keeps you engaged—and does it well.

An antagonistic protagonist
As good as the worldbuilding and story are, the true value of Child of Fire lies in the protagonist, Ray Lilly. An ex-convict, he has no qualms about violence and illegalities; he just doesn’t want to go back to prison. As a protagonist, he isn’t so much flawed as cracked. He’s not a white knight, and he knows it. On top of all that, Ray is probably the most morally ambiguous protagonist I’ve seen in an urban fantasy novel to date. When given the choice between what’s right and what’s best for himself, Ray’s decisions are sometimes surprising, but never without thought. Connolly gives us a beautifully crafted character with imperfections so genuine that Ray truly feels real to a reader.

Why should you read this book?
This novel is an exhilarating addition to the urban fantasy genre. Between the world and the plot, the little bumps in Connolly’s writing are barely noticed. Add in the beautifully flawed protagonist of Ray Lilly, and you’re given a winning combination for a fantastic read. This novel is one for fans of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files or for any fantasy enthusiast who enjoys a tale of gritty realism, action, and suspense.

About Garrett Jones

Garrett Jones
An avid musician, Garrett is a music director and accompanist for the theatre by day and an all-around geek by night. …Well, he’s both all day, everyday, if we’re being completely honest. He enjoys gaming both on and off the table, karaoke, frisbee, and a good drink with good company. Garrett is also a beta-reader for authors Jim Butcher and Tom Sniegoski. Nightcrawler is his spirit animal, How to Train Your Dragon is his happy place, and he is able to do a mean Hiccup impersonation.

View all articles written by Garrett Jones.

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