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.