March 23rd, 2011


Game of Cages

One of my favorite books I read last year was Harry Connolly's Child of Fire. A dark modern fantasy with a compelling world, frightening magic, and bizarre creatures, I found it a refreshing change from the magical-kingdom high fantasies I'd burned out on years ago. So when the sequel was released, Game of Cages, I couldn't wait to read it.

Cages picks up a few months after the catastrophic events of Hammer Bay with Ray Lilly being sent out on assignment once again by the Twenty Palace Society, the mysterious organization of powerful sorcerers bent on keeping magic out of the wrong hands. Paired this time with an investigator named Catherine, Ray is sent to gather information on who is auctioning off a dangerous predator called the sapphire dog--one of the deadly magical creatures from the Empty Places outside our world. As usual, Ray has bitten off more than he can chew, especially when Catherine disappears and it's up to him to stop a rogue sorcerer and a predator that has mentally enslaved the entire town. Once again, all he's got in his arnsenal are his street smarts and his one single spell, the ghost knife.

Connolly's great at worldbuilding through subtle detail and letting the reader figure things out for him/herself. There's so much pulsing just beneath the surface of the story that it keeps you wondering about the world Ray Lilly and the Twenty Palace Society inhabit. Bits of Ray's history leak out in dribs and drabs. Same with information about the Society itself. It's both frustrating and ingeniously compelling because it keeps you wanting more.

On the other side of the coin, there are times in the novel when Connolly's cast of characters is just too big to keep straight. Aside from the people auctioning off the predator, there are all the bidders to keep track of, and all the townspeople. It's not that they're not interesting characters, it's just that I frequently found myself stopping reading to try to remember who each character was. But that's incidental compared to my biggest issue with the novel, which also happens to be the reason why I mildly prefer the first book: Annalise, Ray's Twenty Palace Society partner from Child of Fire, is barely in Game of Cages. Yet Annalise is just as compelling a character as Ray, maybe even more so, and to keep her sidelined like that annoyed me. (All authors should have this problem, by the way, where I like the characters so much I get crabby when they're not present!)

But despite my grumpiness, Game of Cages is a great follow-up to Child of Fire. I'm enjoying this series immensely, and can't wait for the third installment, Circle of Enemies, to come out this summer. Given the opportunity, I would follow Ray and Annalise on many, many more adventures. Just as long as Annalise gets to be front and center again!