Child of Fire
by Harry Connolly
Edited by Betsy Mitchell
Review by Harriet Klausner
Del Rey Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345508898
Date: 29 September 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The residents of Hammer Bay, Washington, have not just avoided the recession, the economy is thriving and booming due to the demands for products from the toy factory. At the same time the locals, including parents, are clueless that their children can and do use magic, which is beacon for outsiders who know what to look for.
The Twenty Palace Society searches and destroys unlicensed magical users. Their field operative Annalise Powliss is one of their best agents in seeking renegade magic practitioners; her job is find and kill these rogues. She is heading to Washington State where there has been an over abundance of magic in the air. Her driver is felon Ray Lilly who once betrayed her; Annalise is not a forgiving individual. He expects that when his employer feels it is right she will kill him; no one gets a chance at redemption from the heartless Annalise.
The Society has sent them to Hammer Bay where Annalise is to search and destroy anyone regardless of age, gender, religion, or sexual orientation if they employ magic; the factory also must go. Additionally collateral damage is not just accepted; it is the expected norm in an Annalise operation. This time the plan's execution fails leaving Annalise severely injured and unable to complete her mission. With no time for reinforcements, Ray must finish the job although his adversary is a much more powerful sorcerer who makes Annalise's attitude regarding civilians seem kind as this rogue mage purposely sacrifices humans especially children to obtain extraordinary levels of power.
This is a super small town fantasy due to both sides of the magic battle easily accepting the deaths of civilians as a normal bi-product of the fog and chaos of war. Annalise in many ways is the same as the renegade mage as both condone the use of force on the innocent; only their motive and their body count for the innocent death toll differs. Ray who is the conscience of the novel has a problem with the means employed to obtain the end because he sees little to differentiate his side from that of the evil rogue. Thus the malevolent sorcerer sacrificing dozens of innocent people to gain unholy magic is not that far in terms of the innocent human discards that the Society condones.
The enormous numbers of civilians killed as collateral damage also plays a critical purpose of making Harry Connolly's magic system seem real. People die and neither side in the fight is particularly careful of those not playing with fire caught in their crossfire as collateral damage is not only acceptable it is preferable if needed to complete a mission victoriously. That is where Ray steps in as the one person who feels remorse and brings a human flawed face to the practitioner. His dysfunctional relationship with Annalise adds to a terrific taut paranormal thriller as he and readers anticipate that if he survives the duel to the death with the evil one in which Annalise will not help him hoping he will die in the fight; she will attack the winner.