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Twenty Palaces by Harry Connolly
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This is the prequel to the Twenty Palaces series where we find out how Ray Lilly came to acquire his one magical spell and how he became a "wooden man" (i.e. an expendable foot soldier in the war against people involved in black magic).
Dark and gritty.
A well-written, action-filled story. ( )
  quiBee | Jan 21, 2016 |
I love, love, love this series! I really hope Harry Connolly continues to write more Twenty Palaces novels because I find them fascinating and creative. They really stand out in a genre that seems to be drowning in books that have little to distinguish them one from another. Well written and so easy to get into Ray's head and feel his disbelief and horror at the strangeness he's stumbled into, the world behind the world and what exists in the spaces in between.

Annelise is a wonderful character. I love her fierceness and her determination to do whatever she needs to do and it's great to read how she and Ray meet and how he comes into possession of his Ghost Knife, something that continues to play a vital role in helping him out of dangerous situations in future books. The description of Ray's dogged attempt to create magic from Callin's spellbook as he sits in the corner of the local university library is fascinating. The reader can really feel Ray's determination and then wonder and even fear when the spells begin to work. Magic, in these books, is dangerous and not something to take lightly.

The ebook contains some editing issues that aren't a big deal but that the author might want to consider correcting in the future. Mostly they are errors of consistency or first/third-person confusion. For example, there's a point at which Ray has on Irena's glove, which has the power to grab on to things and not let go, and it's referred to as Annalise's glove at one point, and then a few sentences later, Irena's glove again. Plus, the story is told in first person, from Ray's viewpoint, but sometimes the sentence switches to third person using "he" rather than "I" which can be a touch confusing. It's not a big deal, but a good edit would help. These issues didn't prevent me from enjoying the story though, and I found it a fast and exciting read.

This series of books is so different that I never know where the stories might go or what might happen, and I love that! There's so many predictable books out there and when you read a lot of urban fantasy it can sometimes feel like you are reading the same plots over and over, but these books are always refreshingly different. Highly recommended for those who want a little of the horrific mixed with their urban fantasy and are looking for something different from the usual! I only hope there are publishers out there smart enough to believe in this writer and in this series because it deserves a voice and has a solid following of those who really love it and want to read more! ( )
  LongDogMom | Sep 9, 2013 |
1.5
I shouldn't have read the description of [b:Child of Fire|6295541|Child of Fire (Twenty Palaces, #1)|Harry Connolly|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320479097s/6295541.jpg|6479952] first.
I started without any knowledge of the world, its characters or the story, but then I read the blurb of the first book and it completely ruined this prequel for me. I made myself read it even though I knew what's next.
The main character, Ray, is not likable. He isn't just jinxed. He is jinxed, not very smart (to put it mildly) and everything about him depresses me. Maybe he improves in other books

The book starts with Ray coming out of prison. He gets a job and his aunt gives him an apartment to live in. Things should be better, right? Not really, since he is really not smart and he feels guilty for shooting his best friend when they were kids (he should be, whatever the reason). Now that friend is miraculously cured and doesn't need his wheelchair anymore. The weird thing is he doesn't want to say who cured him. He has a creepy girlfriend, and two other creepy friends with him. Well, the guilt proves to be Ray's undoing. He makes a lot of stupid and dangerous decisions like staying in the house with Jon and his friends even after attempted magic attack. One of the most annoying things: he blames Echo, one of the said creepy friends, for everything. Bottom line is I might have liked the story and its lovecraftiness, but not its characters. ( )
  Morana.Mora | May 17, 2013 |
The latest and last of the twenty palace series for a while is another great addition to one of my favorite new series. I'm disappointed that people seem off put by the authors voice. The lack of steady answers about what is happening in each book is one of the strongest reasons why I enjoy them. I feel engaged when I read these rather than being lead to every conclusion.

If you've read the rest of the series this prequels plot should be fairly well known and you should already know the ending but there are still twists and events that were never foreshadowed. The biggest enjoyment came to me from seeing the initial meeting with and discussion of the society. Anyone that liked this series will find this book fun and just add more fuel to the hope that the series will eventually get a green light again.

IF this is the first book of the series you picked up it might be better since Ray gets introduced before the fantasy elements and magic come into play. However a lot of the character interactions might not seem as significant without having read the rest of the series. It would still be an enjoyable story and one I highly recommend but if you reread it after the other three books so many little items add a richness to the story that only make sense once you've been introduced to the world which is why I think Child of Fire was picked as the debut novel.

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The new peer and Ray interactions are great and I am almost physically distraught knowing that the next book would have expanded this character we won't see again. I am amazed at how Ray seems comfortable with his ignorance in future books when he saw the power he can hold with spell books yet seems to constantly resist the temptation. In fact his willpower makes me enjoy our protagonist and tortured hero more and more.

In fact the only item in the novel I didn't like was the destruction of Ray's apartment since it is rebuilt so quickly in the series.

gallandro ( )
  gallandro_83 | Dec 11, 2011 |
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I stepped off the bus into the November wind and drizzle.
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When Ray Lilly was 13 years old, a handgun accident landed his best friend, Jon Burrows, in a wheelchair and turned Ray into a runaway and petty criminal. Fifteen years later, Ray returns home after a stint in prison; he's determined to go straight, but he knows he can't do that without making peace with his old friend. What Ray doesn't expect is to discover that Jon has just received a mysterious cure -- not only is he out of his wheelchair, he seems stronger and faster than... well, pretty much anyone. Worse, his cure has drawn the attention of all sorts of attention: the media are camped out on his block, the police are investigating him for insurance fraud, and weird shadowy figures have begun to draw closer, figures who clearly do not mean to do Jon any good. Can Ray atone for the biggest mistake of his life by protecting his oldest friend? And what terrible price will the world have to pay if he succeeds?… (more)

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