Originally posted on Amazon, but I like to share reviews of books I especially enjoyed or think people will be interested in. Also, how can I pass up the opportunity to embarrass burger_eater with flattery!! :D
Ray is just the driver. His boss Annelise hates him -- with good reason, it turns out. Together they ride in a crummy van, chasing after a signal given off by an instance of unauthorized magic. What they find turns out to be more horrific than Ray ever imagined possible, and he's well acquainted with horrific. He just got out of prison.
The pair follows the trail further to Hammer Bay, a small city in the Pacific Northwest, known for its improbably successful toy manufacturing. The city is crawling with multi-generation old secrets, corruption, and lethal magic.
The story is fast-paced, full of violence, drama, and occasional dark humor. I found Ray Lilly to be complex and sympathetic. He does the hard things that need doing, even as he regrets them. Over the course of the story we learn that both Ray and Annelise have complicated histories -- so much so, I almost felt like I was reading book two in a series, rather than the first volume.
Hints about the Twenty Palaces Society were even more tantalizing. They stamp out -- with extreme prejudice, it seems -- unauthorized magic use. Their zeal is appropriate, though. They're the only thing protecting the world from the constant threat of annihilation. Annelise, vastly powerful and nearly indestructible, is merely a junior member.
Except what lurks in Hammer Bay is too strong even for Annelise. Saving the world is left to Ray, who has only a little magical protection, a scrap of a spell, and a whole lot of street smarts.
Normally I don't read a lot of Urban Fantasy, because common tropes of the field (snarky heroines and sex with undead/demons/monsters) are pet peeves of mine, but I enjoyed this very much. I've seen a few other readers say this is too dark, but I honestly didn't find it that way, and I consider myself pretty sensitive. There are numerous novels where I can't get past the first page because they're so gross and brutal, and I had no trouble with CHILD OF FIRE at all. If you're wondering, try the sample chapter at the author's website. [ http://www.harryjconnolly.com/blog/?p=731 ] It's a good example of the tone throughout.
Overall, highly recommended for readers who like fiction that is action-packed, witty, and sophisticated.