Tuesday, September 23, 2008

“Hands of Flame” by C.E. Murphy

War has erupted among the five Old Races, and Margrit is responsible for the death that caused it. Now New York City's most unusual lawyer finds herself facing her toughest negotiation yet. And with her gargoyle lover, Alban, taken prisoner, Margrit's only allies—a dragon bitter about his fall, a vampire determined to hold his standing at any cost and a mortal detective with no idea what he's up against—have demands of their own.

Determined to rescue Alban and torn between conflicting loyalties as the battle seeps into the human world, Margrit soon realizes the only way out is through the fire.…
Hands of Flame is the smashing conclusion to the Negotiator trilogy which began with Heart of Stone [2007] and House of Cards [2008]. Visiting Murphy’s urban fantasy world of contemporary New York with its hidden Old Races is an exhilarating experience. Where else would you find the two main characters to be a lawyer and a gargoyle?

Margrit Knight is taking her new responsibilities as Negotiator to heart as she stands between the Djinn and the Selkies to forestall a war that could devastate their ranks and spill over into the human world. She also goes toe-to-toe with both Janx, the dragon, and his rival, Daisani, the vampire.

Hands of Flame moves along at a pell-mell pace answering most of the big questions and loose ends from the earlier books including the true nature of the vampires, the consequences of Alban’s killing of Ausra and Janx’s djinn second in command, and who Grace O’Malley really is. If I had to pick a theme for this novel I would say it is change – changing ways for the Old Races in the modern world, changing relationships and changing balances of power.

Our heroine Margrit Knight continues to be a delight. One of the qualities that Margrit exhibits that is so rarely seen in urban fantasies is her enduring sense of wonder at how lucky she is to have been invited into the supernatural community. This excitement sparkles on the page. Her reservations about giving up her mundane life to serve this new world quickly diminishes and her confidence and sense of place in the world matures.

There is plenty of action and drama. Two favourite action scenes are Alban’s trial for murder and a battle at the docks between the Djinn and Selkies. The trial of Alban by a jury of his gargoyle peers is held in Grace’s underground lair and attended by key members of the Old Races. It involves an old-fashioned 3 stage challenge between the accuser and the defendant and their seconds and has all the wonderful hallmarks of high theatre. A confrontation at the docks being mediated by Margrit turns into a full blown bloody battle that can only be described as pulse-pounding with a truly breath-taking conclusion.

There is a lot to like in Hands of Flame which fulfills the promise of the earlier books as the strongest of the trio. C.E. Murphy tells us in her afterward that she is returning to write a new installment in her Walker Papers series which is also good news. Hands of Flame nevertheless leaves new story opportunities wide open for the future and Murphy doesn’t dismiss the idea. The Negotiator series should be read in order for maximum pleasure.

Read an excerpt.


  1. I love the Walker books but haven't started on her others yet. When my active TBR pile is down a bit I will start them.
    Oh and you are being tagged. Dark Wolf posted photos of part of his library, since then so have I and I reckon it's your turn. Show us yer books. ;)

  2. I will have to check out his site to see. Need to dig out my digital camera but I have an entire room with my SF&F, probably 9-10,000 items...

  3. wow! ok well we may not insist you post all your books. Just a couple of cool shots. Damn, i'm jealous!


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