Sunday, August 5, 2012

Review: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3)In all his years of supernatural sleuthing, Harry Dresden has never faced anything like this: the spirit world's gone postal. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone-or something-is purposely stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc. But why? If Harry doesn't figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself.

This was the last book in the Dresden Files omnibus I got from the library and it left me feeling very enthusiastic about the future of the series for a variety of reasons.
First of all, as I mentioned in my review of Fool Moon I was concerned whether the vague tendency of the plot to become formulaic was going to resurface in this book. Fortunately I shouldn't have worried: Mr. Butcher took the story in a completely different direction and every twist felt fresh and exciting. There were no two potions, brand new characters and dynamics were introduced, and the essence of the story steered away from basic crime and into more substantial realms of right and wrong. The only thing that stayed was poor Harry getting beaten up brutally and on a regular basis, apparently when you're a wizard for hire that's a common occurrence. Oh and the self-deprecation. Can't do without that.
If you remember from last week's post I was getting excited about the universe Butcher was beginning to flesh out in Fool Moon with multiple breeds of werewolves, if you will. He pursued that direction in this novel in the most encouraging fashion in his treatment of the vampire underworld. The idea of different courts is not particularly new, but I really enjoyed seeing just how different they are in the Dresden Files universe. For one thing it's just fun, secondly it is another indicator of the range the series is acquiring, and that is always a good thing for a series as long as this one.
I mentioned earlier that in this book the story is leaning towards deeper areas of right and wrong, and what I was talking about is Harry dealing with not just a villain who needs to be stopped or corruption, but with things like faith, love, commitment and what is worth fighting a war over. His partner in the fight against evil in this novel is Michael, the uncompromising Knight of the Cross, who repeatedly prompts Harry to think about all those and on occasion serves as a moral compass for the wizard who often has somewhat different priorities. The best part for me was that there was no drawn-out conversations (there simply wasn't time for them), but rather the good old method of raising subjects and teaching by example. Harry's a smart guy, he can figure it out.
Gradually Butcher has been setting the scene for the big mystery of Harry's past and his parents' deaths, as well as the bargains he's struck with his fairy godmother, and in this novel things are starting to build to a point where the fairy godmother wants what she believes is rightfully hers and Harry is beginning to question things he's believed his entire life, so I think that in the next novel or two we'll see more serious developments in these plot lines, and the family mystery is probably going to take more than a few books to uncover. There's nothing quite like a common thread tying the separate cases together to keep a reader coming back! I know I'll be reserving the next book at the library in short order.

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