The Twenty Palaces Spoiler Thread


This is a place, on my blog and LiveJournal only (pls don’t post spoiler comments or questions on Facebook or any other social media, because comments threads aren’t always hidden) for a full on spoileriffic discussion of the Twenty Palaces books.

Please note, some things are meant to be mysterious/ revealed later, as I won’t give away that stuff, but that shouldn’t stop others from talking about it. Also, if you point out something I screwed up, I will mea culpa.

After this posts, I’m going to address the question in this comment in a comment on the LiveJournal side of things.

58 thoughts on “The Twenty Palaces Spoiler Thread

  1. Sam

    One thing I’m really interested is seeing what governments know about the magical underworld- I could easily see something like the CIA infiltrated by rogue sorcerers or the society. (I’m also interested in the information theory aspect of the Books, but the question on LJ covered that nicely)

    Personally, I assume that every spellbook is a predatorlet itself, which is able to duplicate itself, but is weakened when copied- otherwise it feels like you’d see at least one spell on the internet by now.

    It also seems to me that If most of the society is European, that sort of implies that the Books originally came from Europe.

  2. Don

    Or maybe that most of the books were over in Europe for a long period of time? The peers age slowly but they do age. It would make sense that when the books were controlled rather than lost they’d have been doled out to people who weren’t Other. So for however long the eurotypes controlled them they’d continue to self-select for other eurotypes.

    I wonder if the books can ever be used safely. The creature wants to change Ray because of his pain but would his being better at peace with himself and his past ever be enough or will the creature always want to carve out his morality?

  3. Mike

    I’ve wondered in the spellbook was a predator, as well. It gives ultimate power, but takes away the guilty feelings that come with using that power. Doesn’t Annalise describe some of the peers as psychopaths? I wonder if they were “fixed” by the spellbooks, as well?

  4. Michael B Sullivan

    I used to think that spellbooks were probably Predators, but am a lot less sure now. The fact is, the Book of Oceans creatures live in something that’s just NOT the Empty Spaces. It seems possible that they’re a whole different category of creatures, neither Predators nor humans.

    Something that would be useful for me in terms of discussing the books would be a nice listing of the proper names for world elements. I have a terrible memory for that kind of thing. Here’s my stab at beginning such a list:


    Ghost Knife
    Closed Path (the physical protection spells that Ray has)
    Iron Gate (the mental protection spell that Ray has)
    Twisted Path (the identity-obscuring spell that Ray has)
    Golem Flesh (healing + damage resistance)

    Then there are some spells we don’t know the proper names of:

    Green Fire (Annalise’s attack spell)
    Supernatural Strength (Annalise is really strong. Could just be an evolution of Golem Flesh)
    Magic Detection (Annalise’s spell that writhes around on a piece of wood)
    Look Away (used extensively by Zahn in Game of Cages — could be Twisted Path in another application, I suppose?)
    Emotion Creation (used by Tattoo in Game of Cages — usually used to make the caster look sexy, but in Tattoo’s case, it makes him look fearsome)
    plus a variety of other attack spells.


    The predator type from Child of Fire
    Sapphire Dog
    Floating Storm
    Little iron spider explodey tings
    “Drapes” / Wings of shadow or something?
    Claws in Darkness

  5. The aliens who almost turned Ray into a primary wasn’t worried about whether he would use the magic morally or safely, only that he was a physical threat to the other aliens in the room.

    And yes to the European thing. The books predate European supremacy (in fact, they predate humankind) but Europeans amassed a great deal of power in the relatively recent past, so they have the power.

  6. The Twenty Palace Society uses targeted violence against all sorts of enemies, including governments. That said, they’ve become pretty good at hiding their tracks. As Ray (and many frustrated readers) will tell you, it’s pretty tough to dig out their secrets.

    And the idea that spells/spell books are predators is a common one, based on the online conversations I run across. They aren’t, though; predators are alive and hungry, but spell books are not.

  7. The aliens aren’t spell books themselves; the spell books are a tool to contact them.

    And the peers are bastards because that’s who they actively recruit. They’re looking for people who are ruthless, competent and dedicated. Zealots, really.

  8. Michael B Sullivan

    Yeah, and I think that Wally shows off a couple of additional predators during his appearances here, right? Like, the green fluid and the weird tentacles that come out of him and walk him through a wall?

  9. Michael B Sullivan

    Oh, can you tell us whether “Twisted Path” is the actual name of the spell that obscures Ray’s identity, or whether that’s just a term that the 20 Palaces Society uses for people in the occult world, and Ray short-hands it?

  10. RKB

    Were the books made because of the threat of predators, or did the threat of predators come about because of the books?

    Why did these aliens make the books in the first place? Why did they leave them on Earth before humankind?

    Are the aliens from this dimension that we live in, or are they in a totally different dimension [e.g., Robert Jordan’s Aelfinn (snakes) and Eelfinn (foxes)?] Are they or used to be space travelers?

    Would the aliens ever want the books back?

    I don’t have my Circle of Enemies handy, but I loved the bits where the lady was spewing out random crap, and then we find out at the end that she was telling the secrets of the universe. I LOL’d and thought that was awesome. However, does that have something to do with the aliens?

    On a totally different note, it seems that Annalise isn’t totally a sociopath, or else she wouldn’t have thought over what to do with the books if she found them. Does that mean she has the capability to love or feel empathy? In some ways she reminds me of the James Bond of the original Ian Fleming books.

    I don’t expect an answer for spoilers of future books if there are any, but thanks for the thread!

  11. I can’t give away the aliens’ plans or motivations, since that’s where the story is going, but they are aliens. The first version of that scene had Ray inhabiting a body with eyes, and clues based on what he can see show that he’s traveled back in time on Earth.

    And Annalise doesn’t have any real friends, and she can’t feel anything through most of her body, and that has put a twist on her head. But she’s a human being still; part of the change in her over these books is that Ray is reminding her of that.

  12. mark

    Ray doesn’t get the data dump from the alien’s but I was wondering if the experience may have still expanded his consciousness in subtle ways.

  13. mark

    Can spell tattoos be overwritten with higher order versions? For example if Annalise became a book of oceans Primary could she update her tattoos and restore physical sensation to her body.

  14. Michael B Sullivan

    I’ve actually often been curious about that. Writing spells seems like it’s an important part of the magic system, but it raises some curious questions.

    Like, if Ray got a cut on his Iron Gate or Twisted Path tattoos, would they stop working? A deep cut? Really take a chunk out of his skin? (Or his Closed Path tattoos, but obviously they’re tough enough that it’s hard or impossible to damage them).

    What about his ghost knife? Obviously, the whole knife is transformed into something which is a ghost knife — it cuts whatever. But presumably he took some paper, wrote the spell, then applied the laminate and mailing tape on top of that — but somehow the laminate and mailing tape seem like they’ve been absorbed into the whole gestalt?

    CAN the tattoos be destroyed and recast? Presumably Ray and Annalise, with Golem Body, could survive losing huge chunks of their skin, given a prompt raw meat infusion. Would that do it?

  15. Michael B Sullivan

    Oh, on the same note: Annalise writes down her green fire spell on ribbons and throws them. Zahn seemed like he just cast his attack spells on the fly. Is that a difference between a Quaternary and a Senary caster, or is it a difference between the specific spells that Zahn and Annalise are casting, or did Zahn actually have written down spells that he used in a way that was more subtle than throwing ribbons at someone?

  16. Ryan Lung

    In Game of Cages, Yin mentions how much weaker his soul sword/ghost knife are now that they have been passed on, and the basis of sorcerer rankings is based on how many times a spell book has been passed on… yet ray’s ghost knife has been taken many times without any apparent loss of potency… is the passing of a spell/book based on physical possession, intent or is that to be revealed at a later date?

  17. The tattoos can be destroyed and they can be cast on anything you can make a mark on, including objects that previously had spells on it.

    If the object the spells is cast on is destroyed, the spell is destroyed–Ray’s iron gate has been cast inside the closed way areas, so that flesh is protected by them. But the ghost knife is just a piece of laminated paper, so it can be easily destroyed, in a camp fire, for example.

  18. I don’t have Game of Cages right here, but it was supposed to be that Zahn was 1) throwing small predators at Ray (the zombie-making worms) and 2) throwing/blasting spells out of objects he had with him.

  19. The power of a spell weakens as each new person learns to cast it, and spells themselves, once cast, grow weaker as they pass from hand to hand. Yin was rich enough to buy, essentially, a magic sword, but he couldn’t create one.

    If Ray were to lose his ghost knife on the bus and someone else snapped it up, it would not work as well for that second person, and would work even less well for next person to acquire it.

  20. Jason

    Are the names for the predators in your notes that we’ve already something that you don’t want to reveal yet?

    Does death not exist at all within the empty spaces?

    Did I already miss the significance of Wally’s book/trap that he left in the closet, or is it something to keep in mind as I continue reading the series?

    Wonderful book, can’t wait until next August/September.

  21. FlyingSquirrel

    I’ve been wondering what is special about Ray’s ghost knife.

    When Zahn sees that it was cast on a piece of paper he flat out tells him that it is amazing. I thought Ray might be a primary with the book he copied that we never saw but this doesn’t seem to be the case now that we’ve seen an original book. In this story Ray cuts himself and we see that the knife wants to cut magic and destroy it. It has its own desires despite being part of Ray.

    He copied it from Wally’s spell book but Wally doesn’t seem to have the spell. In fact Wally seems to be a very weak sorcerer since he only summons predators and those are the spells that we are told last the longest in a spell book. Wally talks about how Zahn was much more powerful than him and Analise seems to tear him apart with ease.

    Does Wally use Golem Flesh?
    He “eats” people to heal himself but it seems like he is just feeding a predator to gain its abilities especially because one needs to have a powerful spellbook to cast it.

    One final question that I know the author won’t be able to answer.
    Wally has a book turned to a page about a wasp laying its eggs inside another creature. What does this reference?
    Is there something on earth that will “hatch” into the predator we see destroying the world in his other pictures? In this scenario Wally doesn’t seem as bad (although still a douchebag). Harry kills those guys with the drapes on them to ease their pain. Those pictures show people (everyone) being eaten and taken to the Empty Spaces where they will apparently never die and be eaten forever. If Wally sees the “drape” as already over the earth he was planning to do what Ray did on giant scale.

  22. First: thanks, Jason.

    To be honest, I only name the predators when they’re named in the books. So the predator inside Wally’s body with the tentacles? I don’t know what that’s called yet. The name never came up.

    And nothing can die in the empty spaces. It can be hungry, but it can’t die. That’s why Ray has to be careful to kill Potato and his guys, otherwise he’d condemn them to an eternity of pain.

    As for the art in Wally’s closet, that’s definitely coming in a future story.

  23. So, Ray didn’t actually cast his ghost knife out of Wally’s spell book. I realize it gets a little confusing there but he actually stole the spell from a peer in the society. And yeah, Wally is not as powerful in raw terms as Zahn.

    Also, Wally doesn’t have golem flesh on him. His predators heal him when he eats.

    And yeah, you’ve pretty much pegged the meaning of Wally’s drawings in his closet. That’s his vision of the end of the world, the one he’s trying to save everyone from via euthanasia.

  24. FlyingSquirrel

    I guess I was a little confused there. Thanks for clearing it up. So we still haven’t met the peer whose spells Ray stole. I imagine he’s not going to like Ray at all because of that.

    I really like how a lot has been kept secret and we are slowly discovering more over time. From the ending of Circle it looks like in the next book we are going to finally see the actual society as well as one of the twenty palaces.
    Really looking forward to it.

  25. Tom


    I have loved your series and i do have a question that doesn’t seem to have come up yet. I thought that Annalise was given the spell book that Ray took from the peer. Why didn’t she keep that for herself it seems to cover spells that her own ??seneary?? spell book lacks? Did the other peers not allow her this, and even though its not a primary would they have noticed?

    Also based on the vision Ray had with the book of Oceans it seems he is well suited to magic, yet he said the spell he cast for the ghost knife was almost too much for him and Annalise constantly makes reference to not having the strength for performing spells. Is this a mental toll or something else that a magic user needs? And will Ray having experienced something beyond his human perceptions expand his ability to control/feel magic? My guess is that the vision each generation of spell book lets you experience shows you not only spells but how to focus your will to create such effects and Ray having gotten a brief glimpse now has the power of a primary without the spell knowledge or experience.

    We ended the book with Ray being taken to the First Palace but it seemed like Annalise had used up most of her spells. Is she really willing to go meet up with the rest of the peers without any offensive capabilities?

    Can’t wait for the next book or the prequel (book #1 I guess), enjoy your time unplugged.


  26. Annalise didn’t keep the spell book Ray stole because she would have been killed for it. Peers who steal spells from each other become pariahs and Annalise needs the society in a very real way.

    Casting spells is extremely dangerous and difficult work. Creating his ghost knife nearly killed Ray in the written-but-not-yet-published prequel. However, his trip into the past isn’t going to make things easier for Ray, magic-wise. He had the strange experience, yeah, but it hasn’t affected him in that way.

    Finally, Annalise is taking Ray to the First Palace, but I don’t imagine that she’s in any great hurry. :)

    Thank you!

  27. megazver

    A few questions!

    I’m curious about afterlife. Ray killed off a bunch of people, so that they wouldn’t get sucked into Empty Spaces – but does anyone in the books have any ideas about what happens when you just die? Have you as an author made a decision about it? I find it mildly annoying when authors just go “Oh yeah, the Judeo-Christian stuff is real. And so’s Cthulhu.” (Personally, I have a feeling that in this crummy world of yours there’s no afterlife.)

    About the prequel. When it’s out, what do you think the reading order for the new readers will be? 0.5, 1, 2… or 1, 2, 3, 0,5?

    When we see Ray get his primary on? *fist cough* The power-hungry munchkin in me wants to see that, character and story be damned!

    Is the Twenty Palace Society the only sorcerer organization in town and it’s just them and the loners, or is there anyone else? (If this was World of Darkness, there would be a Mysterious Ancient Asian Society and they wouldn’t need spellbooks and they’d have a lot of tea parties. Heh.) Is the Society more of an association of disparate sub-societies or a monumental hierarchical whole?

  28. There’s no tangible afterlife in the Twenty Palaces setting. The peers and rogue sorcerers don’t know what happens to us when we die any more than I do, and they’ve never been visited by holy spirit. It’s not an atheist’s universe, but it is an agnostic one.

    As for reading order, I hope the series can be tackled in any order.

    As for munchkinism, that goes against my sensibilities. I like underpowered heroes. :)

    Finally, revelations about the society will have to wait for future books.

  29. OZ

    Most of my questions probably can’t be answered since they would spoil later books but just in case I’m wrong. Does each of the spellbooks involve a different alien race with completely different spells or does each of them merely direct you to a different “sponsor” within the same race? Is it possible that someone that did not have Ray’s background with its mental anguish could get the knowledge to become a primary from the Book of Oceans without having to give up his or her humanity? Is it possible for new spellbooks to be written or only for already existing ones to be discovered? Is it possible for spells to be found by any means other than the spell books such as by someone studying a predator?

  30. OZ

    btw I love the universe you’ve created. I am trying to turn my friends on to the books (and have succeeded with a few ). Best of luck to you and thank you for the stories you’ve given us.

  31. To answer the ones I can: Yes, people who do not freak out and threaten the aliens can become primaries. That’s how it’s happened in the past.

    There are only three true spellbooks. The written out books with magical instructions in them can be created by any primary.

    Studying a predator won’t allow humans to create magic that imitates them. They have their own relationships with the force that allows violations of physical laws.

  32. ted

    Hey Mr Connolly,

    You’re writing is amazing, such a gripping story I reread each of your books many times. How many copies do i have to buy so you can keep writing?

    Thanks for putting this story out there.

  33. mark

    Do the three primary spell books grant vastly different knowledge?

    If so could one person handle “reading” more than one of them?

  34. Ulf

    Hi and thanks for the books, I find the series incredible good!

    Now the question; it seems that Rays Ghost Knife has been evolving over the series, is that so? For instance in the latest book, after Ray cuts the police in Canada he could basically reprogram him ala “Impericus Curse” in another series.

    But in the first book the knife could only lower aggression and aid rapport from the cut victim. Retconning or ghost knife improves with use what gives?

  35. To me, I’d call that Ray getting better at controlling the people he uses the ghost knife on. People have been apologizing for trying to kill him since the beginning, but he’s getting better at manipulating them.

  36. OZ

    I am sorry. I think my question was poorly worded. I was not wondering whether other people could become primaries. What I was wondering is whether it is always necessary to remove their human emotions first or whether this was unique to Ray because of his psychological scars.

  37. Ulf

    Mark’s question about the spell books made me wonder. Does the spell books confer knowledge beyond “mere” spells? Does a primary get knowledge, insights or ability’s different from spells?

  38. neerdowell

    Finished it!

    It was good…

    I’m so used to people pulling the Scoobi-Do ending that I almost didn’t finish the last 10 pages.

    Thanks for writing fun stuff in the last 10.

    That’s all. (for now)

  39. G Parsons

    First off: I am a pretty big fan of the Twenty Palaces books: the characters are enjoyable, underpowered, and pleasantly ill at ease with their own moral decisions. The world is terrifyingly Lovecraftian, but with pleasingly consistent rules. The writing is smart, entertaining and believable. I consumed all three of them this year in a couple of days a peace, and just bought another complete set of them for my friend for his birthday and he is devouring them with an appetite that comes close to my own.

    Circle of Enemies is the first book that has essentially written out a promise to the readers of what will be coming: Two more spellbooks, and a number of palaces less than or equal to a perfect black jack hand. I sure hope you haven’t made this promise just to break it! (Translation: “MOAR” PLEASE!)

    With the three major spellbooks now named. I have become enamored of the idea that the names were given as primitive understandings of the quantum behaviors of light. Light behaving as a wave (Book of Oceans) Light as a particle (Book of Motes) and the quantum probability curves that describe lights most likely behavior at any given time ala the Duel Slit experiments (book of grooves)


    Be Seeing You,
    -G Parsons

  40. I’m glad you liked them and shared them with your friend.

    I’m afraid I wasn’t thinking of light in that way. Sorry.

    And I’ll be happy to write more if Del Rey wants them. Thank you for spreading the word.

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