The Twenty Palaces series is hard-hitting, real, fun, and has an edge to it that is undeniable. It features a great protagonist, Ray Lilly, who is flawed but unrelenting. I can see why Jim Butcher loves the series. It kind of hits the same nerve as the Dresden Files. Here is what Jim had to say about the first book:
“Child of Fire is excellent reading: a truly dark and sinister world, delicious tension and suspense, violence so gritty you’ll get something in your eye just reading it, and a gorgeously flawed protagonist. Take this one to the checkout counter. Seriously.”—Jim Butcher
To me, the series has gotten better with its two sequels. That’s a hard thing to achieve sometimes in the literary world. The third book, Circle of Enemies, is published today and here is a bit more about it:
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.
To celebrate the release of his new book, I decided to interview Harry, and Wyrd Studios put together an excellent book trailer for the series! Both are below. Enjoy!
RELEASE DAY INTERVIEW WITH HARRY CONNOLLY
Shawn Speakman: Hi Harry! Let’s get right to the interview. For those who may not know, tell Unbound Worlds readers about CHILD OF FIRE and GAME OF CAGES and why urban fantasy fans might want to try this kick ass series titled Twenty Palaces?
Harry Connolly: One thing that’s different about the first two books is that they aren’t actually urban. Book three does move to a big city for much of the action, but the first two books are set in small towns.
Also, I’ve tried to center the books on human beings as much as possible. There are no revenant politicians or kappa Nalgene sales reps (to make the point by exaggerating). As much as possible, the characters are human beings with human concerns: family, jobs, community, the whole deal. I try to avoid plots that center on who will be the Secret Arch-duke of the Bugbears, if you know what I mean. I just can’t relate to it.
Finally, the protagonist in these books is not an expert on the supernatural world he’s entered; he’s discovering things along with the reader, and there’s no one willing to explain things to him. I think this builds a nice sense of mystery and menace, and makes him quite different from the protagonist readers usually get.
SS: How did the series come into being? What is it about Ray Lilly that fascinates you and keeps you writing in his world?
HC: I sort of fell into the series by accident. I wrote a novel about Ray and Annalise (the two main characters) where they are deadly enemies, and Annalise killed Ray at the end of that book.
Eventually I decided that I didn’t need to write such downbeat endings all the time, and I revised it so Ray was recruited by the Twenty Palace Society instead. Ever since Ray and Annalise have been working together and learning to hate each other less in each book.
It’s at this point I mention they do not have a romantic or sexual relationship. They have something else going on, and it’s been interesting to delve into that.
Part of what keeps bringing me back to these stories is the lack of an externally-defined capital-E Evil. There are no angels to be on the side of, no holy symbols that burn you if you’re the bad guy and protect you if you’re good, no color coding of magic to tell you what to avoid. What’s more, the otherworldly enemies they encounter aren’t demons from hell or somesuch; they’re hungry predators.
Magic is just power, and some is more dangerous than others. Characters have to negotiate the difficult situations as best they can to do what seems right to them. And sometimes “seems right to them” is the most awful thing in the world.
SS: CIRCLE OF ENEMIES, the third book in the Twenty Palaces series, is being published today. Tell Unbound Worlds readers a bit about it and what trouble Ray is getting himself into?
HC: Ray Lilly, the protagonist, has made a name for himself after his first few successful assignments for the Twenty Palace Society. That’s bad. His successes have drawn the attention of the wrong people, and people he cares about are in danger.
He’s going to try to save them but, this being a Twenty Palaces novel, that turns out to be really problematic.
Plus, he learns more about the society and the true nature of magic than ever before.
One thing I should mention: a couple of early reviews have called it the “final” book in a trilogy. It isn’t (at least, I hope it isn’t). CIRCLE OF ENEMIES makes a set with the first two books, but this is an open series and I have a lot more to do with those characters.
SS: You now have three books published and you’ve spent several years working professionally. How has your writing changed in that time? Your life? Expectations of the fantasy genre?
HC: It’s funny, but for years I thought that becoming a professional would make things easier. I expected new-found confidence and a sure hand with the text.
That hasn’t happened. I have these wonderful readers who really seem to like my books (assuming it’s not some extended elaborate prank!) but I spend a lot of time worrying that whatever I’m writing that day is not good enough, and they’re going to be disappointed.
That’s a common problem for writers to face, but it’s been really hard to get beyond it.
Not that I’m planning to chuck it all and go back to answering phones. I wouldn’t trade writing for any other career. Never. But I keep waiting to feel like I have some expertise instead of flying by the seat of my pants. It ain’t happening.
SS: And finally, what are you currently working on and when can we expect to see it? More stories featuring Ray, I hope!
HC: I do have another Twenty Palaces novel all finished and I’ve started the one after that. I also took a break from gritty thrillers to write a light-hearted urban fantasy that stars a sixty-something pacifist and an ending inspired by a joke that Hugo-nominee James Nicoll made on his blog.
For the future, I’d love to keep writing Twenty Palaces novels for as long as readers want to read them.
Many thanks to Harry Connolly, who can be found at www.harryjconnolly.com! In case you haven’t read Child of Fire, the first book in Harry’s series, Amazon and B&N are offering the eBook for $.99! Definitely give it a try!
And if you have already, Circle of Enemies is in fine bookstores today!
Ray Lilly won’t be the same again…