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.
Damn, this is a depressing book. Ray is living with his own death hanging over his head, waiting for his boss to turn around and kill him instead of look at him. In the meantime, there are children bursting into flaming silver worms and when nothing but their ashes are left not even their parents remember they ever existed.
The mysterious Twenty Palace Society is intriguing but not explained. At all. Even their name remains an enigma – not to mention their membership, powers, goals, etc. Personally, despite their (somewhat) good intentions, they kind of sound like assholes. Ray would have done a much better job if someone had explained some stuff to him.
I respect the techniques that Connolly has used in this book. You can read the author’s explanation for some of his choices here. I feel, however, that some of them – especially not explaining more about the Twenty Palaces – serves more to isolate the reader than to engage them. Instead of wanting to know more about these people, I ended up deciding that they were a bunch of jerks that I really didn’t want to know at all. Honestly, despite Ray being a (mostly) sympathetic character, it was the lure of needing to know who, what, and why someone was preying on the children that kept me reading.
I get that having the new guy take a grand tour of the supposed-secret society is really stupid. Yet the reader has to have SOME sort of sense of who these people are and what they stand for (besides, apparently, “they’re the good guys even though they’re assholes”) or it’s hard to care which side wins.
Anyway, my biggest problem was a lack of engagement with the supposed “good guys”. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the book. The language was great, with good imagery, and the pace was rocket-fast. I’d be picking up the next two in the series right now, except… Except if you read the rest of that link to the author’s post, you’ll know that the series has been canceled by the publisher, uncompleted.
Boo. Just when I’d picked up the series after hearing so much about it (and I was literally in the middle of the first book when that announcement was posted), it was coming to a sad, unfulfilled end. Just because there were some problems in execution, that doesn’t mean the book has no value. In fact, my bottom-line opinion is that this is an excellent author who made a couple of bad choices, has learned from them, and will do better next time. Read his post and decide for yourself.
Here’s what I will say right now:
- I don’t have the time to invest in a series that doesn’t have an ending, but
- The very second Harry Connolly releases another book, I’m going to be all over it, and —
- I’m going to promote the shit out of it.