An entertaining but unusual story this. It unravels bit by bit but still keeps some things from you even after you have finished.
Ex-con ends up as a lackey for a Sorceress (possibly, it's never made very clear) who is part of the "Twenty Palace Society" a group that hunt down and eliminate anyone using unauthorised magic. This is Dark Fantasy at it's best, very little is black or white and nearly everything sits in the grey area in-between. Even our lead characters and the Twenty Palace Society, we assume they are sort of the good guys, but are never sure if they are or if they are just a nicer shade of bad!
Our ex-con Ray works with Annalise who is a nasty piece of work and (for reasons that will only partly be explained) hates Ray and is quite happy to sacrifice him if the job requires it. No nice cosy characters here.
So, this irritable and ill matched duo are despatched to track down a small town with a too popular toy factory and a diminishing population. And what they find is not nice, is very dark and has a real menace about it.
A first time and very accomplished novel, obviously the first in a promising series. I picked this up for a quick read and enjoyed it far more then I thought I would, partly because it chooses not to lay everything in front of you and become stock fare for these kind of books. It has a real pace about it, a refreshing approach and cast and let's not forget that vein of menace that creeps through much of the book. Recommended.