Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, takes on a case as a favor to his friend Thomas - a vampire of dubious integrity - only to become the prime suspect in a series of ghastly murders.
The Dresden Files have become the books I pick up when I want a break from serious reading or hectic life, and this time was no exception. Work and things in general got pretty hectic, I've been reading literature and non-fiction, so I knew it was time for some good old-fashioned magic and adventure with a fair dose of humor. And it has been a while since my last foray into the world Jim Butcher created, so I knew the tendency of longer series to be formulaic was not going to bother me (this is book six of the Dresden Files, and it's easy to notice patterns if you read a series through relatively quickly).
For all the familiarity of Chicago's only wizard with an ad in the Yellow Pages there were plenty of things about this book that were new and exciting. It was about time too: the vague hints about Harry's mom's past without anything to sink my teeth into were becoming exasperating. Fortunately in Blood Rites we finally learned quite a bit about her. The author's also given us characters whose motivations were not entirely clear until this book, and learning their back story was extremely satisfying for me. It gave me extra faith in Butcher's abilities, because now I know for a fact that there's depth in his world-building that goes beyond an elaborate and inventive grimoire, and the fact that there's always some homicidal maniac trying to unleash various evils on the world. There's another thing that surprised the heck out of me (spoiler alert, by the way): if you look at my reviews of the other Dresden Files books you'll see that I've mentioned that Harry gets beat up and injured in the most grievous way in every volume right when it's time for the ultimate battle. He's always come out of it with no permanent damage, but not this time. This time the bad guys take a nice chunk out of the semi-rogue wizard and I can't wait to see how that plays out.
I'm not going to say much about the fact that this book is action- and humor-packed, just as the rest of the series, but I will say that a few very emotionally-significant events took away some of the levity. Moreover, in the beginning of the series Harry was more of a damaged orphan wizard version of a cross between Hawkeye and Hunnicutt from M*A*S*H, but now he is a much more sinister, conflicted and in a way vulnerable character. Much has happened since Storm Front, so it's not surprising that Harry should develop into a more multi-faceted protagonist. And he's finally beginning to see romantic possibilities where he should've been looking for them from the very beginning, although he doesn't know it yet. What can you do, he's a guy!
The Dresden Files will probably never be a 5 out of 5 for me, but Blood Rites sure is a high 4. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the story progresses in Dead Beat.