Child of Fire, by Harry Connolly, A Review

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Samuel Kleiner

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Jan 11, 2010, 6:53:30 AM1/11/10
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This book is amazing. It's a urban fantasy, but it is something new from
the genre which is *both* new and interesting, a gritty lovecraftean
urban fantasy, like a merger of the Laundryverse and the Dresdenverse,
without the silliness and mugging for the camera of the former, and
without the moral aspects of sorcery that plague the latter, which
constantly feels like a reworking of dungeons and dragons. The writing
iself reminds me of a young Charles Stross, with the same gritty
immediacy of A Colder War.

Many urban fantasists try to make their universe special. Charlaine
Harris tried to introduce shapeshifters which weren't werewolves, for
instance- but few succeed in pulling away from the comfortable
surroundings of the vampire/werewolf/wonder woman trinity.
The Dresdenverse, which is helped by coming from an entirely different
direction, seems to be doing ok- I seem to detect a hint of regret from
the author for introducing the werewolves- they don't really fit into his
current worldbuilding. But with Child of Fire, Harry Connolly has really
succeeded in making something very special.

The plot picks up in media res, with the protagonist already having made
an enemy, now his boss, who is a powerful sorcerer and member of the
sorcerous shadow goverment (the Twenty Palaces), and already clued in to
the existence of the supernatural. He is buffed by a few simple spells,
and he has a supernatural multitool from his own investigations into the
occult, but he knows very little about the deeper plans and history of
the Twenty Palaces and is as such an ideal watson-style protagonist.

Of course, just like in the Dresdenverse, the Twenty Palaces, being the
group who regulates sorcery, probably rules the world by default, and
they, just like in the Laundryverse, have a really good reason for
keeping magical knowledge out of the hands of you and me, namely the ease
and comfort of summoning nasty spirits, once you have a working knowledge
of sorcery.

Thus, the essential conflict- the protagonists roll into an insular small
town filled with secrets and wickedness, and get ready to kick ass and
take names, but one of the protagonists is expendable, and the other one
runs into problems.

This book was so good it promoted the author immediately to my Hardcover-
buy-on-sight list. Highly recommended.

Andrew Plotkin

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Jan 11, 2010, 11:39:50 AM1/11/10
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Here, Samuel Kleiner <s...@ulterior.org> wrote:
> This book is amazing. It's a urban fantasy, but it is something new from
> the genre which is *both* new and interesting, a gritty lovecraftean
> urban fantasy, like a merger of the Laundryverse and the Dresdenverse,
> without the silliness and mugging for the camera of the former, and
> without the moral aspects of sorcery that plague the latter, which
> constantly feels like a reworking of dungeons and dragons.

I think Rob Thurman's UF series has also done this pretty well. But
yes, I was impressed by _Child of Fire_.

> I seem to detect a hint of regret from the author for introducing
> the werewolves- they don't really fit into his current
> worldbuilding.

In an interview on Scalzi's blog, the author said:

"In fact, I wanted to push all folklore off the canvas (with one small
exception-- ...) Oh, and that single exception? A few secondary
characters are werewolves, because werewolves *freak me right out* and
no matter how big your idea, every writer should respect the freak
out."

It didn't feel unfit to me, and they were sufficiently creepy, so
I call it a success.

--Z

--
"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*

David DeLaney

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Jan 11, 2010, 9:47:12 AM1/11/10
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Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>> I seem to detect a hint of regret from the author for introducing
>> the werewolves- they don't really fit into his current
>> worldbuilding.
>
>In an interview on Scalzi's blog, the author said:
>
>"In fact, I wanted to push all folklore off the canvas (with one small
>exception-- ...) Oh, and that single exception? A few secondary
>characters are werewolves, because werewolves *freak me right out* and
>no matter how big your idea, every writer should respect the freak out."
>
>It didn't feel unfit to me, and they were sufficiently creepy, so
>I call it a success.

And, in an inversion of some other tropes, they were red-haired _while
wolfen_, not in their human form (at least as far as I could tell from
reading). These were not your aunt's Large Grey Or Whitish Wolves.

Dave
--
\/David DeLaney posting from d...@vic.com "It's not the pot that grows the flower
It's not the clock that slows the hour The definition's plain for anyone to see
Love is all it takes to make a family" - R&P. VISUALIZE HAPPYNET VRbeable<BLINK>
http://www.vic.com/~dbd/ - net.legends FAQ & Magic / I WUV you in all CAPS! --K.

Wayne Throop

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Jan 11, 2010, 12:15:37 PM1/11/10
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: Samuel Kleiner <s...@ulterior.org>
: Of course, just like in the Dresdenverse, the Twenty Palaces, being the
: group who regulates sorcery, probably rules the world by default, and
: they, just like in the Laundryverse, have a really good reason for
: keeping magical knowledge out of the hands of you and me, namely the ease
: and comfort of summoning nasty spirits, once you have a working knowledge
: of sorcery.

Note that the Dresdenverse has a very similar issue, with two conflicting
subgoals. In the novels, it's mentioned a couple of places that the
White Council attempts to defuse dangerous magical reference works,
by (paradoxically) widely publishing them; this means that so many
people try the spells that whatever powers them is exhausted, and they
become ineffective. But in the story "Backup", we find there is a shadow
organization waging a longer-term campaign of totally removing all memory
of some of the really nasty horrors, which can reach our reality only
if somebody *in* our reality is aware of them. In that case, there is a
several-cornered ages-long conflict that Harry is not even aware of, with
some folks trying to keep contact with the nasties they depend upon (these
being bad guys of several flavors), and those who do the book-burning
(rather than book publishing), and killing off and/or mindwiping or
memory-editing people with dangerous knowledge (these being the good
(or perhaps more often, somewhat less bad) guys of several flavors).


Wayne Throop thr...@sheol.org http://sheol.org/throopw

icarp...@aol.com

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Jan 11, 2010, 2:12:17 PM1/11/10
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Didn't float my boat at all and I'm a mythos junky. The author wanted
it but the whole werewolf bit/police are in on it subplot felt out of
place. The story wasn't really Lovecraftian in feel anyway, except
one small bit at the end. I was not impressed by the clumsy plotting
or the prose; the reliance on the ghost knife got tiresome and none of
the characters were sympathetic. On the other hand I am not a fan of
the Dresden series where the prose is, if possible, weaker. In fact
maybe I should have just skipped it as the whole subgenre of
supernatural investigator isn't working for me (Anita Blake, Sookie
Stackhouse, Mercy Thompson and the recent regretable Hunter's Moon).

The only part I liked at all was the 1 page interaction between the
protagonist and the major alien entity.

Give me Resurrection Falls by Wooding over this any day.

Matt

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