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Game of Cages: A Twenty Palaces Novel Mass Market Paperback – August 31, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Connolly fulfills and sustains the promise of his 2009 rural noir debut, Child of Fire, with this thoughtful Lovecraftian sequel. Twenty Palace Society member Catherine Little, a lethal sorcerer committed to keeping supernatural entities and magic out of the possession of anyone but members of the society, contacts ex-convict Ray Lilly at his mundane supermarket job and recruits him to assist her with an emergency situation. Ray's actions are supposed to be limited to assisting his assigned peer, but an interdimensional predator has escaped and the society needs all the help it can get. Connolly doesn't shy away from tackling big philosophical issues--whether good ends justify evil means, how many civilian deaths can be justified in the pursuit of creatures that can destroy the world--amid gory action scenes and plenty of rapid-fire sardonic dialogue.
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Ray Lilly, thanks to the intervention of the Twenty Palaces society, has survived the aftermath of Hammer Bay. He has a normal job, stocking a supermarket. He even has a credit card. When Twenty Palaces comes storming back into his life, he is thrilled—a normal life is also boring. Of course, it turns out that Catherine—the Twenty Palaces representative—is investigating an auction, where a predator is for sale, and would really prefer to have backup with more than one spell. Ray is, as a former wooden man, not quite as well armed as she might have liked. On the other hand, he is stubborn and unorthodox, which makes up for a lot. In any event, they arrive at the auction as it concludes, and everything goes to pieces when the predator escapes and only Ray and Catherine are around to stop it. Ray’s voice continues to be charming despite his rough edges, and the plot more than taut enough to keep the pages turning at a breakneck pace; and there is definitely some fascinating history hidden beneath the surface of the world Connolly is spinning, and it’s thoroughly entertaining. --Regina Schroeder
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Game of Cages picks up awhile after Child of Fire, the first book, ends. We see Ray limping through a mundane life between missions for the Twenty Palaces Society. He's clearly scarred by the events of the first book, which I loved. This is a series where the characters make hard choices and then suffer for them. There are no easy outs or deus ex machina to save the day.
The book begins with another representative of the Twenty Palaces besides Annalise. She's an investigator, not a Peer like Annalise, and she doesn't use magic. She also is aloof to Ray, though for different reasons. Like the first book, information is revealed slowly and naturally. We do get a different view of the Predators and the supernatural world from her than we did from Annalise, which is nice. Further, we meet sorcerers from outside of the Twenty Palaces. Some are fairly clueless neonates in over their heads. Others are ancient and powerful and scary -- and not all that different from the Society Peers in many ways.
The book starts with an auction where a predator (think Lovecraftian alien horror) is being sold to the highest bidder. The predator is in many ways scarier and certainly more intimate in this book. I don't want to give too much away, but it's impact on an entire small town and what Ray has to do to deal with it are painful.
Like Child of Fire, this is a dark book. It spirals towards tragedy and no greater power or lucky break steps in to make things alright. The climax was almost hard to read. Mind you, I absolutely loved it. In fact, I liked this book more than the first and after finishing it I was a die-hard fan forever. However, be warned that it isn't a happy ending. The predator is dealt with and the day is saved, but the collateral damage is sobering.
I highly recommend this book (and the entire series) to anyone who likes horror or dark urban fantasy.
Magic and predators continue to be spooky/scary as hell, and Ray gets to show off more of his skills and determination without the constant presence of Annalise. The internal narration is very human.
Recommended, and it's too bad we won't see the third. I look forward to Connolly's Kickstarted trilogy.
EDIT: Circle of Enemies, the third, is out, per the author below. Excellent!
The book may be too bleak for some and while the ending was sufficient, I wanted it to be slightly longer and a little more spread. But Harry's the writer and it's his prerogative to do with what he will. That's the job of the author/artist and that's what they should do. Otherwise, every ending would be a happy ending and there'd be no books due to committees. It is a very strong book that left me forcing myself to not download the next in the series at 2 in the morning and wait until the next day.