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Circle of Enemies: A Twenty Palaces Novel by Harry Connolly
Cover Artist: Chris McGrath
Review by Drew Bittner
Del Rey Mass Market Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345508911
Date: 30 August 2011 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In his third Twenty Palace Society novel, Harry Connolly returns ex-con Ray Lilly to his old stomping ground of L.A. He's been told that his old crew is in mortal danger...and it's all his fault. So Ray heads back home, hoping he's learned enough that his lethal boss Annalise won't need to get involved.

Because once she is, they won't be in danger; every last one of them will be dead.

In Circle of Enemies, Connolly picks up the story of Ray Lilly a few months after Game of Cages, where he and his boss fought to save a town from a predator summoned from the Empty Spaces. They were successful, sort of, but victory came at an unacceptably high price.

Ray is trying to live a normal life when his old friend Caramella visits to let him know his friends are all in danger, because of him. Before he can learn more, she vanishes. So Ray heads to L.A. and looks up his old friends, only to find some of them are glad to see him and others wish him dead.

Digging deeper, he learns the problem comes from Wally King, a wannabe sorcerer whose dabbling in magic led to Ray having to kill his best friend. Now Wally has a more ambitious plan--one that's pulled in all of Ray's friends--and Ray knows this amiable psychopath needs to be killed.

Ray pursues his dwindling leads with dogged persistence, finding that Wally has given his friends the power to turn invisible. The problem? He's done it through insanely dangerous magic, which is certain to kill his friends and unleash horrors upon the Earth. Even equipped with his ghost knife, which cuts dead and spirit matter only, Ray doesn't stand a chance.

He doesn't want to call in the Twenty Palace Society, which exists to destroy predators and those who summon them, as getting them involved would be like setting off an atomic bomb; they'd probably get the bad guys but a lot of innocents would be hurt or killed along the way. And Ray wants to save his pals if he can.

When he learns that his buddy and former boss Arne's scheming to rip off a tycoon with family ties to the Society, however, the game moves up a notch. Now it's not just about Wally and his plot, but there's a chance that an extremely powerful object of magic may be in play...and Ray finds he's in way over his head.

Harry Connolly delivers another high-powered and fast-paced adventure, with a great protagonist in Ray Lilly. Ray's an ex-con and has the social obstacles that come with that--difficulty finding and keeping a job, dubious skills (he used to steal cars as a teen), and a suspicious mindset that keeps him alive--but he's also got a conscience that he can rarely afford. Connolly provides him with plenty of moral dilemmas, some of which involve killing the innocent (or at least putting them in harm's way) and some of which are less dire.

Annalise Powliss, Ray's boss, has evolved as well. Ray is slowly but steadily earning her trust, and that leads to some stunning revelations and changes in their relationship. By the end of the book, they are at a wholly new place, with interesting implications for future novels. She is still an ancient and pint-sized killing machine but she's far more understandable--and grows more complex and fascinating with each story.

Wally is a cheerful frenemy of sorts, responsible for much misery in Ray's life (and indirectly his involvement with the Society), but he believes he can win Ray to his side. This is a delusion that shows how disconnected he is, but maybe his condition (and I won't spoil that here) is partly to blame. He wants to euthanize the world, a mercy killing, but even Ray is at a loss to how he'll accomplish it. The bigger danger is that he'll unleash something on the world that nobody will be able to control.

With old buddies like Arne, Robbie, Bud, Summer, Caramella and Violet to contend with, Ray isn't going to catch a break any time soon.

And his fans wouldn't have it any other way.

Recommended.

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