Profile: Modern Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
I have to give this to Jim Butcher: he knows how to drag a series past its expiration date. Changes, book twelve in this somewhat mammoth sequence, took some major risks and really shook up the Dresden formula. And ended with a hell of a cliffhanger. It was/is such a big cliffhanger that I can’t actually talk about the plot of Ghost Story at all without spoiling everything. So where does Butcher take this embarrassment of storytelling riches? Straight back into the ground. Or do I mean grind?
Butcher had such a great opportunity to do something different with Ghost Story. The protagonist had been shoved conveniently off camera, and at just the perfect pivotal moment that his absence would actually have a major impact on the shape of the supernatural world. The status quo had been shattered, with all the nice power vacuum implications therein. And the supporting cast had really come into their own, putting up a sizable fight with the big bad at the end of Changes, even without Harry’s help. The setting, the book title, even the metaplot was begging for a one off novel that could focus on the people who are normally sidelined to Harry’s megalomaniacal hero complex. It could have been soooooo good!
HALFWAY POINT! WOO HOO!
This is the fourth book in the series, so there are minor spoilers for the previous three books.
Harry Dresden is still a Wizard. Like Harry Potter, if Harry Potter was more of a sasshole. The Red Court of the Vampires has declared war on the Wizard’s Council. It’s Harry’s fault. Of course. Harry gets sucked into doing errands for the Winter Court of the Faeries and their political machinations. It’s all really convoluted and if you are interested, you should just read the book. Honestly, I finished it a couple of weeks ago and I don’t remember much of what happened. I like this series, but I don’t love it as much as I probably should.
This series is always a quick read and pretty entertaining. The action never really lets up. Sometimes I just want poor Harry to just take a nap for a chapter.
I continue to be surprised at how much I enjoy this series for as much as I was bored and frustrated by the first three volumes.
All through the first three books, I just didn’t get the hype. I thought Harry came off as Butcher’s attempt to Mary Sue himself into the fictional world, I thought the secondary characters were underdeveloped and underused, and I was mostly bored by all the “exciting” things that Harry constantly had happen to him. And on top of that boredom was a thin layer of disbelief, because seriously, that guy got beaten up so much and acted so stoic and heroic about it all the time that he didn’t even read as a real person to me. And then I listened to book four on audio, and I’m still not sure if it’s my affection for narrator James Marsters that did it or if Butcher’s writing actually got better, but the series grew on me after that. I still think Harry comes off as a bit of a sacrificial lamb, but the secondary characters are nicely developed and Harry’s world finally has some emotional texture to it.
Blood Rites is the sixth book in The Dresden Files series, which features Harry Dresden as Chicago’s only professional wizard. An acquaintance of Harry’s — a White Court vampire (incubi/succubi, basically) named Thomas — hires him to protect the cast and crew of a porno flick, which seems to be haunted by a mysterious curse. It’s Harry’s job not only to protect everyone involved, but to find out who’s behind it and why, and stop them. He gets way more than he bargained for, as usual. Meanwhile, he also has to deal with a nasty nest full of Black Court vampires that’s taken up residence in Chicago, and some personal problems that he really didn’t see coming involving revelations about his past. For a majority of the book he also happens to carry a small gray puppy around in one of the many pockets of his trenchcoat, and it pops up in the narrative every once in a while to inject some much needed cute.
There’s a lot less sex in this book than you would expect from a story involving porn stars, porn filmmakers and incubi and succubi running around all over the place, but I enjoyed the wackiness of the setting, and Butcher treated the porn stars like actual characters rather than giving in to the tempting impulse to portray them as nothing more than their jobs (although I do think he was a bit naive about the whole porn thing, if I’m being honest about it). I really liked what this book did with Harry’s relationships with several key characters, namely Thomas (SPOILER: who turns out to be his half-brother), Lt. Karrin Murphy (who is actually given things to do nowadays and characterization beyond her role as backup to Harry’s insanity), and Harry’s mentor, Ebenezer McCoy (even if I do happen to think that Harry was being a bit of a drama queen about the secrets Ebenezer spills late in the book). I guess we could say that Harry is growing as a person?
I’m still a little frustrated by Butcher’s style, but it’s most a personal frustration based on my own likes and dislikes. I’m still frustrated by little things, like the way he uses “glowered” every five seconds, and the way he has characters become quiet a lot as a way to code anger and badassery. I also think his fight scenes go on WAY too long. The whole Black Court vampire plot was kind of boring, even though Butcher has Murphy disarming a bomb with no pants on. I wanted more White Court shiznat and porn-set antics. Also, way more Thomas. And it continues to become more and more apparent that while Harry isn’t necessarily sexist, he certainly thinks of women in annoyingly chivalric, protective terms*, like a modern day caveman. But to his credit, it’s in sort of an endearing way. The scene where he feels betrayed by his mentor made me angry. I think we were supposed to side with Harry instead of Ebenezer, but instead I just found myself becoming angry with Harry for being stupid. I did like the ending, and I thought Lord Raith was a genuinely scary bad guy, and that he was dealt with by both Butcher and Harry in a clever way.
*I’m convinced that Jim Butcher is permanently stuck in the 90s just by the way he has Murphy dress and the things he makes Harry think are cool. Also, by looking at his bio picture. That dude seriously needs a haircut.
I’ll probably pick up the next book on audiobook whenever it becomes available at my library, but I’m more excited about this series than I have been since I started reading it a couple of years ago. I’m glad Butcher is finally allowing his characters to interact with one another, and I’m glad he’s finally allowing Harry to have some real relationships. It makes for much better and more interesting reading.
I intentionally picked this book to be the first I reviewed because I am such a fan of Jim Butcher and I have loved every book in both the Codex Alera and Dresden Files series. I never even thought about how difficult it would be, if not impossible, to write a review of this book without spoiling other books in the series, mostly the previous book, Changes. These two books are tied very closely together. So after several fumbled attempts, I decided to do this. I will write a very general description of the series overall for those people interested in the series or those who are reading it, but have not yet finished changes. Then I will review the actual book. I will mark this carefully with a spoiler warning.
The Dresden Files is a series composed currently of 13 books and some short stories. They fit most comfortably into the Urban Fantasy category. Harry Dresden is the only advertising wizard in the Chicago yellow pages. He is also a licensed private investigator. He specializes in weird and unusual cases. The books present cases Dresden has to solve with the help of various friends and enemies. Harry has a very strong sense of right and wrong. As the series progresses we see him undergo a lot of growth as both a wizard and a person as he attempts to battle evil without compromising his principles. At first it seems that there isn’t an overall story arc, other than a minor one about Harry’s mysterious childhood. Then the consequences of Harry’s decisions and actions in previous books start becoming obvious and there is something bigger going on in the background For the most part, the books, especially the early ones can be read out of order, each is an individually story, but there will be some, mostly minor spoilers. For maximum enjoyment and surprises though, start with Storm Front and hang on. Jim Butcher has a nice way of keeping the story moving along and filling it with interesting characters you either love or hate. He also mixes humor and darkness rather well. Harry is an odd mix of wisecracking superhero and hard boiled detective, but he is never immortal or infallible.
The 13th book of the Dresden files starts pretty much right after the 12th stopped. Harry finds himself almost getting run down by a train, only to be rescued by Carmichael, the dead former partner of his former police officer friend, Murphy. He is then taken to meet her father, the most definitely dead father of Karrin Murphy. Harry is told he is in a sort of purgatory, where some spirits try to balance out things. Harry’s death had some irregularities to it and Harry has the option to return to the world as a spirit to find who murdered him and set things right. This places his spirit in some danger, but to fail to do so will result in 3 of his friends dying. Harry, of course, goes back as a ghost to find his killer. He can interact with the physical world only in a limited fashion, and can only communicate with a couple of people. He also has no use of magic. It also becomes quickly apparent that the death or both Chicago’s protector wizard and the entire Red Court of Vampires has created a major power gap in the supernatural which has resulted in a desperate fight for humanity as nasty things rush in to fill the vacuum. Harry’s friends have banded together, along with some borderline characters, to fight the good fight. Part of the fun of this book was seeing how Harry’s absence and death had affected various people I had come to know and care for. Butcher also pulled a neat trick on me. I had pretty easily and early figured who had killed Harry and also part of why his death was irregular as well as how the series could continue. He actually started dropping hints about both early on. Yet he still managed to pull a couple of nice twists that actually made me laugh and now I have that sad feeling that this book is done and I have to wait for the next one. This was a nice addition to the series. It isn’t as strong as Changes, but after Changes things needed to slow just a bit.
Ghost Story picks up shortly after Changes. Harry Dresden is dead, kind of. But he’s once again tasked with saving his friends, his city, and the world…only this time he has to do it without magic, kind of…read the rest of my review here.
Harry Dresden – Wizard Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties or Other Entertainment.
As the only openly practicing wizard in the country, you’d think Harry would be rich and famous. You’d be wrong. Harry’s broke, down on his luck, mobsters, monsters and other miscellanious beings after him.
Set in gritty modern day Chicago, Storm Front is the first in the popular Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. It’s hardboiled crime fiction down to it’s core. From his duster jacket to his habit of pissing everybody off, including his friends, Harry could easily fall into a noir cliche. However, instead of using noir as a crutch, Butcher uses it as a framework to craft a complex and original character. Oh, and then there’s magic. Wizards, faeries, vampires, demons, they’re all there, just under the surface of everyday living. My favorite is Bob the skull. He’s Harry’s lab assistant, and kind of a party animal.
This book was a great introduction into Harry’s world. I look forward to catching up with the series. The mystery itself, ok, it wasn’t too hard to guess the killer. But the ending was climactic and action packed. If you got into the Sookie Stackhouse novels by way of True Blood and want to step up to a more complex and accomplished series, you should give this one a try.
Most highlighted quote by Kindle users: “Paranoid? Probably. But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.”
If you like Charlene Harris, but wished she wrote more like Raymond Chandler and less like Nora Roberts.
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