Child of Fire by Harry Connolly (2009)

June 28, 2010 at 9:07 pm (urban fantasy)

Well.  Unless and until I hear otherwise, I have to assume that Connolly either (a) played rather a lot of Call of Cthulhu during college, or (b) has spent a lot of time reading H. P. Lovecraft.  Or both, I suppose – or else convergent evolution is at work here.

Regardless, if you understood what I just wrote, then the rest of this review is probably redundant.

If not, then please understand that this novel skirted very close to being too much like a horror novel for me.  I can’t read most horror novels; I’ve never even finished a Stephen King novel, because I just don’t want to know what horrible thing is going to happen next.  Mind you, it’s plenty horrific, but having played a modest amount of Call of Cthulhu myself, I found it almost a homey, familiar sort of horrific.  (Your mileage may vary.)

See, what’s going on is that the real modern world could contain lots of things that Man Was Not Meant To Know.  Usually it doesn’t.  But of course various fools decide they Need To Know anyway, and so unleash nameless horrors into the world.  And the Twenty Palace Society (this the first “Twenty Palaces Novel”) goes around cleaning up these problems, often in a bloody and violent fashion.

Ray Lilly got mixed up in Twenty Palace business awhile back, and as a result he’s stuck as driver, sidekick, and punching bag for Annelise Powliss, Twenty Palace enforcer and serious, dangerous hard case.  They’re visiting the town of Hammer Bay, Washington, to investigate otherwordly activity and eliminate it … and anybody else who even accidentally gets in the way, actually, as far as Annelise is concerned.

It takes some fumbling around, but at a certain point the fire-spitting clerks kind of give away who the main villain really is.  Then they just have to find and eliminate him, and it would’ve been nice if that went easily, wouldn’t it?  Well, actually that would make for a boring novelistic climax, so of course it’s very hard, and being the actual main character, Ray gets to take center stage.

This novel is not recommended for people who can’t tolerate reading about the death of children.   It is recommended for anyone who’s interested in a good novel with a hard-boiled mystery, eldritch horrors, character development, and incidental werewolves.

Also, I’d gladly play in a Cthulhu campaign using this setting.  Anybody up for organizing that?



  1. Paul Weimer said,

    Hi Kris!

    Well, I would have to read the book before running a game in this setting. It sounds to me to be a world that would fit, say, the Gumshoe/Trail of Cthulhu system quite well…especially given that Gumshoe has a couple of small games (Fear itself, Esoterrorists) that have ideas similar to what this novel seems to suggest.

  2. Borders Sale Acquisitions « Diary of a Text Addict said,

    […] Game of Cages by Harry Connolly (sequel to the excellent Child of Fire); […]

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