Child of Fire (2009)
Child of Fire (2009)
John Scalzi featured it (and Harry Connolly) in one of his Big Idea posts, and as I’ve loved other books I’ve picked up that way, I was really looking forward to the story.
I spent the whole book feeling like I was missing something. I kept looking to see if there was an earlier book I’d missed, and then wondering if perhaps there was a short story somewhere that preceded this book. (No to both.) I felt like there were whole chunks of the story I felt like I should know (since the main character kept mentioning them in passing). I also never quite got a grasp on how magic worked. We were given some idea, but the main character kept referring to things he’d done, and it felt like knowledge of those past actions would give me a better understanding of how the world worked.
Essentially, I was a little frustrated about never quite understanding what the characters could and could not do. Some of it made sense–after all the main character had only a basic understanding of how magic worked, but I felt like he was keeping what little knowledge he had, from me.
So what was the story?
Harry Lilly is an ex-con who’d just been let out of jail when the prosecution didn’t have enough evidence to make the case for a long series of brutal murders. He was picked up by Annalise, who is now his boss, and not only does she want to kill him, she refuses to tell him anything about where they are going or what they are doing.
That part I was good with. I liked discovering the mystery of the town along with Ray. And it was a good mystery, with lots of fun twists and turns. I especially liked how going into dangerous situations led to the deaths of those involved (I’ll say no more). I’m always disconcerted by adventures where everyone walks away without a scratch. So that part was good as well,
And Roy and Annilise were interesting and complex characters, and I enjoyed getting to discover their powers.
I just didn’t like the constant nagging feeling that I was missing something important.
I’m going to give this to Michael to read next, and I have a feeling he’ll like it far more than I did.
I immediately snatched it up and tweeted about it, because regardless as to whether it was any good or not, I wanted to give my money to anyone who’d write that.
The book opens with Aloysius Pierce going to one of his aunt Marley Jacobs’ parties, which he hates, but feels bound to attend, since he wants to ask her a favor.
This book is about him, only in the way that any mystery is about the murdered victim. The main characters are Marley Jacobs (and don’t think I didn’t catch that name) and her other nephew, Albert Smalls.
There is a LOT left unsaid about Albert and Aloysius’ mother, who is also Marely’s sister, which was frustrating. Hints were repeatedly dropped about her, but never followed through. I would have preferred no hints and allusions, honestly.
So the book is told in third person omniscient point of view, which I found incredibly frustrating, since it switched from paragraph to paragraph sometimes, and frequently only to keep us from learning vital information.
I do not love that tactic.
Marley’s hand still clutched the door handle behind her. She released it, offering a silent prayer of gratitude to the great powers of the universe. They’d come here. Well, it could certainly have been worse. Much worse.
Here. Just here. Marley knows where she is, and we’re in her mind, but we’re not told where she is.
And the point of view switches just became frustrating after awhile. For example:
“They look like beehives,” Albert said without considering how it would sound.
Evelyn didn’t take offense.
If Evelyn didn’t take offense, why do we care that Albert didn’t think before she spoke?
This is not to say this is a bad story. It isn’t. It’s an interesting story. I just had issues with some of the telling.
But despite that, I encourage you to read it, solely because she’s the only older female main character in urban fantasy, and that’s something that should be encourage.