Game of Cages, the second installment in the Twenty Palaces series by Harry Connolly, returns to the story of ex-convict Ray Lilly months after the events detailed in book one, Child of Fire (see our review here). When a group of wealthy individuals gather to bid on a predator capable of destroying all life on earth, the sorcerers of the Twenty Palaces Society mobilize, and, as assistant to one of the sorcerers, Ray is caught in the scramble. Sent to investigate the auction with only one spell to his name, he finds that the predator has escaped and the society’s most powerful enemies are desperate to recapture it.
Home Improvement: Author Edition
My one main quibble with book one of the series was the sometimes stilted prose of Connolly’s writing. However, I came across no instances of the same within Game of Cages. Instead, I found a tone and style which suits the story content very well, and an impeccable sense of tension and suspense. Connolly’s writing has grown and matured, and it is quite exciting to witness.
Wrestling With Morals—An Ambiguity Exclusive!
Much like in the first novel, Ray faces a number of decisions where his morals come into play. But unlike the first novel, he finds he questions himself a lot more. He knows what’s right and what he should do, but he also knows what he needs to do to ensure his further survival—and the two aren’t always one and the same. One of the things I truly love about Ray Lilly is that he makes mistakes. He’s not a paragon of a protagonist, one who miraculously makes the right decisions every time. No, he’s definitely a learn-as-you-go type, though much of that is forced upon him by the Society—which remains ever-mysterious through most of the novel.
Worldbuilding: The Expansion Pack
Within Game of Cages, Connolly deepens Ray’s world. His originality is brought forth time and time again, from the alien predators to the magic, from the various parties encountered to the political structures of the Society, and beyond. Connolly’s world is a fresh and new one in the urban fantasy genre, and keeps me coming back for more. His creativity with the various predators is engaging, and the magic system is such that it seems to the reader to become simpler and more complex simultaneously. It’s a truly engaging style of writing Connolly has found, and he settles into his pacing in Game of Cages.
Why should you read this book?
If you’re like me, you absolutely need to know more about Ray Lilly and the Twenty Palaces Society after finishing Child of Fire. I’m happy to say that Game of Cages delivers, and does it very well. The ambiguity feels so very realistic in terms of morality, further developing Ray’s character to depths we haven’t seen before. The worldbuilding isn’t too extensive, but there is enough original material introduced to capture a reader’s attention—capture, and hold it. So, if you’ve read Child of Fire, go out, buy this book, read it, love it. If you haven’t read the first novel, then go do the same thing with Child of Fire. This is not a series any urban fantasy enthusiast should miss out on.