Circle of Enemies by Harry Connolly
Review by Bowden P. (Trey)
Circle of Enemies opens with something that seems like a bad dream – an old friend appears to Ray in his rinky apartment to tell him “You killed me. You killed Arne, and Lenard, and Ty, and all the others, too. We’re all going to die because we knew you.” Then she hits him. Normally, this is something one could write off as a nightmare. But since Ray is up to his eyes in the Twenty Palaces Society and that bad dream leaves behind physical evidence before disappearing, Ray heads to LA to help (he doesn’t want the Twenty Palace Society aimed at people he cares about) and discovers things he wishes he didn’t.
Circle of Enemies takes Ray back to his familiar LA stomping grounds from when he was a car thief and re-acquaints him with his old friends. The only problem is, its no longer clear on whether they’re his friends any more. A few are trying to go legit, others have doubled down on the criminal life style. And it looks like most of them have a predator involved as well…
Initially, I couldn’t make up my mind about this one. Circle of Enemies gives Ray a lot more depth. It even gives some more to Annalise, though it seems to have her do a volte-face that almost feels out of character – right up until you remember her history as a sorcerer’s toy. It also gives us much more information on magic, spell books (less books and more dreams), the Twenty Palaces society and predators. It also gives us someone that’s literally a mass of symbiotic predators. And while I enjoyed the information, it seemed to remove some of the mystery. There’s an additional twist as well – since Ray has been so successful, the Twenty Palaces want to replicate his capabilities with other Wooden Men. Making them much less disposable – not thugs or terminal cases, more along the lines of elite soldiers. And Ray gets to meet the first test case.
Still, Connolly writes some great action scenes and I swear Ray should have been a fire fighter or policeman from the way he puts his butt on the line to save folks. And those folks – instead of random small town Americans, these are people Ray knows and cares about. And sometimes they’re killers. And sometimes they’re both. The fact the people involved are ones that care about Ray, or used to, gives it a different weight and impact as the events play out.
I liked the story. Its a nice change of pace away from small towns and begins to fill in Ray’s back story with more details. I didn’t like that its beginning to get kind of repetitive in how things play out. Given the stakes, I don’t doubt the Twenty Palaces wouldn’t hesitate to put anything in the field to contain a predator or put magic away. But I’d almost like to see smoother sailing for Ray and Annalise. Still, a well written tragedy does have its place.
How much did I like it? Four stars.
Likes: Filling in Ray’s story; More about the Twenty Palaces; The other characters; Learning more about magic and where it comes from.
Dislikes: Its beginning to get a bit repetitive; Grim fates for folks who aren’t Ray.
Suggested for: Fans of the Dresden files, Stross’ Laundry series (The Atrocity Archives, The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum), Kadrey’s Sandman Slim and horror fans in general.