In this book, Ray Lilly is picked up at his working class job by Catherine because the twenty palaces society has work for him to do. She is not impressed to drive an hour out of her way to pick a wooden man. A big auction is happening for a predator in the tiny town of Washaway and Ray and Catherine are tasked with finding out the details of what is going on.
As to be expected, the situation quickly escalates and Ray becomes a one man rescuer once again. Someone has to save the town from the sapphire dog who has made pets of most of the town's residents causing them to kill each other so that it can feed on them. The sapphire dog creates feelings of love and adoration in its victim when you look at it and marks you as belonging to it when it licks you. Because of the power the sapphire dog wields a primary - a powerful sorcerer, who has actually been on the hit list of the twenty palace society for quite some time will stop at nothing to possess the sapphire dog and has used magic to make it impossible for anyone to leave town or call for help.
We do briefly see a return of Annalise towards the end of the book. Ray is relieved to see her because he knows that he is in over his head and yet once again, Annalise is not around for the final showdown. Though all he has is his ghost knife and known of her power, Ray is able to defeat the primary that Annalise lost to. Uh huh. I don't understand the point of repeatedly suggesting that Annalise is this all powerful being, only to have Ray save her again. If you don't actually follow through with a display of power, telling us about her power is pointless. It feels at this point more like Annalise is Ray's wooden man than the other way around. This theme is somewhat relieved by Catherine who when kidnapped does manage to rescue herself before Ray can do his prince charming to the rescue routine; however, once again when the action happens, Catherine is nowhere to be seen. Ray sends her away because she is a mother of two small children.
One of my problems with the first book in the series Child of Fire was the absolute lack of inclusion. In this case, with the exception of Catherine, nearly all of the supposed bad guys are people of colour. The Asian contingent are routinely othered and Ray is even dismissive of the idea that they speak Cantonese rather than a generic Chinese. The are largely held responsible for what happened in the town as well. There are no GLBT characters in this story whatsoever but when Ray gets stopped after he is handcuffed to a man he quips that they are consenting adults can do whatever they like.
If you like action, this may well be the book for you, but it is not what I go looking for when I pick up an urban fantasy novel. At times, it felt like the plot was sacrificed to the action scenes. In this novel, we finally learned how Ray got involved with the society but we still know very little about the society itself. Ray ends up doing a lot of killing in this book, and vacillates between enjoying the action and being horrified that he has to kill who he views to be innocent. I like that he particularly has a problem with wounding women, children or the elderly. I suppose this makes him a man with some morals. The fact that all of this death occurred over Christmas added a particularly dark almost macabre element to the story.
I really wish that I could like this series because Connolly is a good writer but it just isn't the type of story that I enjoy. It felt too short on plot, there was no real mystery to be solved and there was no doubt from the beginning of the book that Ray would indeed save the day. If you like big explosive action movies, this book will thrill you, if however you are interested in plot and world building, I fear that you will find Game of Changes lacking. Perhaps it would have been more appealing had Connolly delved a little more into the magical side of his story and further fleshed out both the division of the world and the Twenty Palaces society.