Harry Connolly actually took me up on the long-dormant “I will review your shit if you send me a copy” clause on this website and sent me a copy of Child of Fire, his first novel. So, knowing that I got it for free, is it worth what I paid for it?
The long and short of it is that this is a pretty good book. There are a couple of missteps early on: I kind of get the feeling that Harry was enjoying writing something that clearly had a bit of a pulp-horror feel to it, and I like that general tone, but there are one or two similes that just kind of made me groan a little at the purpleness of the prose. That having been said, these are few and far between and none come at the book’s crucial sequences.
And dare I say the crucial sequences are excellent. Connolly is a very strong action writer right out of the gate: his fight scenes are clear and concise without losing any of the excellent small bits that make up a good fight scene. Given that his fight scenes in this book involve a fairly complex magical doohickey, more than one type of monster and magic spells, he could have really gotten snagged here. But he didn’t, and that is definitely to his credit.
Characterwise, the book feels very “first of a series-ish.” This is not a complaint per se; Connolly doesn’t pull a Harry Potter and spend god knows how long setting up the actual book, but instead drops his characters right into a mystical war-gasm pretty much right off the bat. But there’s tension between the lead character and the sidekick (whom he is actually sidekick to, but in story exposure terms, she’s the sidekick for now), and we get hints of why that is and that the lead character has a Dark Past ™, but we never get the full explanation. Again, there is nothing wrong with this: it’s a perfectly valid storytelling choice to draw it out over books. It’s just not my preference.
But these are quibbles. Child of Fire is a strong first novel and Harry Connolly is a strong writer with a good modern-pulp feel to his work, and I like that. So if you’re inclined towards books where the good guy has magic death-paper, I’d recommend giving it a chance.