Ray Lilly is living on borrowed time. He’s the driver for Annalise Powliss, a high-ranking member of the Twenty Palace Society, a group of sorcerers devoted to hunting down and executing rogue magicians. But because Ray betrayed her once, Annalise is looking for an excuse to kill him–or let someone else do the job.Generally, if I see a blurb from Jim Butcher on the cover of a new author/series, I'll buy it. Kinda like the USDA stamp on beef. I know, I know, they don't usually do it for free and there's no guarantee that it really means anything (i.e. Stephen King recommends everything these days) but the man who created Harry Dresden hasn't steered me wrong yet.
Unfortunately for both of them, Annalise’s next mission goes wrong, leaving her critically injured. With the little magic he controls, Ray must complete her assignment alone. Not only does he have to stop a sorcerer who’s sacrificing dozens of innocent lives in exchange for supernatural power, he must find–and destroy–the source of that inhuman magic.
Ray Lilly, our hero, isn't really like Harry Dresden. He's an ex-con who pissed off a seriously badass woman who wants him dead yesterday. To atone for his sins, he agrees to become Annalise's (the badass) "wooden man" and accompanies her on her current mission. He has no idea what a "wooden man" is or where it is that they are going. He has no money of his own, absolutely none, and no idea what she is looking for in a small town in the Pacific Northwest but he gets the feeling that there is definitely something awful happening when he witnesses a child bursting into flame at a rest stop on the way. The parents act like nothing happened and they have no knowledge of their child dying right in front of them. WTF!?! It just gets stranger from there: a toy factory in an idyllic little town, more children spontaneously combusting into worms, fire-spewing Stepford types, and werewolves. Ray's boss gets injured and he's left with the heavy lifting. Armed with only one spell (did I mention there was magic?) and his wits, Ray needs to find out just what the hell is going on.
The resolution of this book gives Ray Lilly a purpose: he wants to keep working for the Twenty Palace Society. Resourceful and smart, Ray rises above his past and hopes to redeem himself. His past kinda comes full circle and I can't explain that without spoiling what happens. Sorry :) I can't wait to see what happens in the next book, Game of Cages, out sometime next year.