Child of Fire - Harry Connolly
Ray Lilly is an ex-convict who has been conscripted by the Twenty Palace Society, a group of sorcerers who hunt dark magic. As punishment for dabbling in the magical arts himself, Ray is assigned as the driver for society sorceress Annalise Powliss, who is tracking a rogue magician. The investigation leads the two to the small town of Hammer Bay, Washington, where the children are disappearing and being wiped from the town’s memory.

Child of Fire is definitely a fast-paced read; only five pages into the story the protagonist witnesses a boy spontaneously combust. A chapter later, Ray and Annalise find themselves in the midst of a shootout while eating at a diner. However, the story is more like that of a mystery novel than an action film.

The fictional town of Hammer Bay is delightfully creepy, with a modern facade concealing multiple factions and conspiracies both magical and non-magical. The main mystery focuses on the cause of the vanishing children, but Ray soon finds himself entangled in secrets surrounding the local police force as well as the secretive Hammer Family. Throughout the novel, Connolly also drops tantalizing hints about Ray’s past, as well as questions about his employer, Annalise.

Ray, the protagonist, is not a good person. He admits to being a member of a car theft ring, as well as to having killed in the past. However, his strong desire to protect the innocent and reluctance to harm others make Ray a likable and very human character. Ray’s snarky comments and observations also provide comic relief to the story.

While Connolly’s story is generally very dark and moody, the atmosphere is broken at times during a few scenes. At one point, Ray and Annalise are confronted with fire-breathing zombie office workers. In another part of the book, Ray finds himself being chased through a brothel; he escapes by cutting a cliche hole in the floor with a magical knife and falling through. The entire novel is played straight and serious, and these scenes come off as simply ridiculous.

Child of Fire’s main problem, however, is that it fails to provide answers to many of its questions or resolve certain plot points. Very little is revealed to the reader regarding the Twenty Palace Society, Annalise’ identity, or even Ray’s past. As the book is likely the first in a series these mysteries may be answered in subsequent books, but the lack of any real answers is somewhat disappointing. The story surrounding the missing children is mostly resolved, but some threads are left dangling. A possible love interest character disappears near the end, and an evil fire demon remains undefeated.

Overall, Child of Fire is a fun mystery with a supernatural twist, but the story poses more questions than it answers. I am intrigued by the novels universe, however, I may pick up the next book in hopes of learning more about Ray or the Twenty Palace society.

This review was based on a review copy provided through the First Reads program.