Circle of Enemies: A Twenty Palaces Novel
Summer is an excellent time for an action-filled fantasy novel. It’s the reader’s equivalent of a big-budget summer movie, and the best books can be just as evocative as anything on the big screen. Harry Connolly’s Circle of Enemies is just such a novel, delivering as many thrills as a blockbuster film and possibly more creative than anything put out by Hollywood.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Former car thief Ray Lilly is now the expendable grunt of a sorcerer responsible for destroying extradimensional predators summoned to our world by power-hungry magicians. Luckily, Ray has some magic of his own, and so far it’s kept him alive. But when a friend from his former gang calls him back to his old stomping grounds in Los Angeles, Ray may have to face a threat even he can’t handle. A mysterious spell is killing Ray’s former associates, and they blame him. Worse yet, the spell was cast by Wally King, the sorcerer who first dragged Ray into the brutal world of the Twenty Palace Society. Now Ray will have to choose between the ties of the past and the responsibilities of the present, as he and the Society face not only Wally King but a bizarre new predator.”
I’m pleased to say that this book lives up to Connolly’s potential as a writer. While his first two books were good but a bit unfocused plot-wise, Circle of Enemies gives readers the action and forward momentum that the other two novels didn’t quite have. At the same time, readers get more of a glimpse into Ray’s past, as the people whom he knew before his time in prison return to settle some accounts with him. The author is able to use the explorations of Ray’s former life and associates as a means of advancing the plot, and it works very well.
Along with a tighter and more focused plot, readers will get something long-awaited: more information on the Twenty Palaces Society. The relationship between Ray and Annalise has altered to become less of a master and servant dynamic and moves more towards one of more equality. While Ray’s status as a “wooden man”, or expendable bodyguard, put him in a unique position in the first two novels, it was also used to paint him as nothing more than a dumb foot-soldier. In this book, he still throws himself into the path of danger, but he does so with much more knowledge of what is at stake. I find this preferable, as it allows Ray to be more heroic—it’s harder to walk into danger knowing that it’s there, but he chooses to do anyway.
The changing relationship also lets readers identify more with Annalise. Her character in the original novel was intriguing but cold. By allowing Ray to function more as her partner, she comes across as more accessible. Ray himself gains strength from the alteration as well, and it suits his character.
Circle of Enemies is the strongest entry in an already strong series. The unique system of magic, the complex characters, and the fresh and vibrant plotline all combine to form one of the summer’s best fantasy novels. If you’re not already reading this series, pick it up now and see what all the fuss is about!
Also by this author: Child of Fire, Game of Cages
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on August 10, 2011.