Game of Cages, by Harry Connolly
Del Rey (252 pages, $7.99 in Mass Market paperback, August 2010)
Game of Cages starts right away and keeps on popping along fast and furious — but it never gets sloppy. The main character, Ray Lilly, has a lot of character strength, but so little power in his world that he really needs to apply his creativity to stay alive. Ray happens to be a car thief and a Wooden Man, which is sort of a henchman for a higher level sorcerer in the secret organization, the Twenty Palace Society. Ray has one spell to his name, but he’s brave, smart, dogged and uses his one spell to good effect against predators, which are creatures called up from outside our world.
It is interesting to note that two of the more powerful white hats in this tale happen to be women: his boss and the investigator, Catherine, sent to pick him up and bring him into the fray. Catherine and Ray have been dispatched to botch the sale of a predator, who is being held in the “cage” of the title. Of course this doesn’t turn out to be as simple as planned, and the plot deepens in complexity and bounds along from there on without leaving any holes to fall though.
Connolly sprinkles wonderful little details about car theft throughout the story, and his magical system is solid and convincing. Neither the good guys nor the bad guys are boringly clear-cut in their alignment, and that they have solid plans beyond just ‘to rule the world’ is clearly apparent.
Overall, Game of Cages was addictive enough that I’m looking into getting my hands on Child of Fire. After devouring that I’ll be excited to see any more of Connolly’s Twenty Palaces novels.