I’ll honest, I was not seeing the draw of this series. I now stand corrected. While there were some things about it that still bugged me, this third book has changed my mind.
Grave Peril picks up at a break-necking speed with Harry Dresden and a new character, Michael. The supernatural world is all stirred up, and it’s up to Harry and his Knight friend to figure out why. But things get complicated with not one but THREE vampire courts meeting, and Harry’s girlfriend Susan getting herself nose-deep in trouble again. Harry has to gamble with the forces of the Nevernever to return peace to Chicago, but in the end, he has to pay a price.
(Any more info, and I will spoil you, I’m sorry.)
Butcher has finally figured out that focusing on a short handful of magical aspects makes the story so much easier to understand. Ghosts were the newcomers this time, with some old stuff being focused on more heavily (vampires, fairies, and the power of faith). As a result, I was absolutely able to track what was going on where. Even the true-sight aspect was given some nice extra attention. I love the image of Murphy the Avenging Angel. The explanation of the Nevernever was still a little shaky, but since most of the focus was put on the ghosts and the vampires, I was able to chill about that, since it wasn’t the focus. The pacing was smoother, with a few moments of non-action to let the reader’s mind reset. There are some issues with the endings (I’m getting real sick of Harry finding a little more strength, and then a little more, and then a little more), but I’m hoping we’re starting to see the end of that.
For characters, I started to understand Harry a little better in this book. I was able to get under the sarcasm and actually see the character, which is much better. His fairy godmother was also a piece of work, and I liked how she was played. On the other hand, though, I felt like she was a little flat. I think she could use some fleshing out if she’s going to reappear in later books. Susan has always annoyed me, and while she got better in this book, I still don’t think much of her or the way she has been written into this book. She’s built to be rescued, and even now, after all the crap that happened to her in this book, I’m not sure if that is going to change.
Michael was the star of this book. He reminded us of the human side, both to Harry and to the conflicts going on. Harry is so dismissive of Murphy and Susan, it’s hard to keep the humanity of it all in perspective. Michael was a welcome change, and I loved the interactions between him and Harry. Mostly because at times, my own feelings about religion are echoed in the text, and that’s a great personal connection for me. But unlike Harry, who has only a few friendships left, Michael has a family that he has to worry about being in danger. He’s down to Earth, and has no real knowledge of the wizard-side of things, which makes Harry explain more, which I have to appreciate.
Flaws wise, they were minor this time. The pacing, and my disgust with Harry’s seemingly endless sources of energy, have been noted. I am hoping the treatment of women gets better too. Three books in, and all the main female characters we’ve met so far are…not that great. Murphy has potential, but we’ve yet to see it realized. But the rest? They are either sex objects for Harry to romance and rescue (I don’t care that he said he loved her in this book, it doesn’t change what she is), completely helpless, supposedly decent but of course no where NEAR as powerful as Harry and thus they are going to end up dead, or they are a member of the cruel and selfish fairies/insert random evil creature-race here. Just ONE powerful female figure that isn’t sexualized or trivialized by Harry, that’s all I ask…
Unlike the second book, I didn’t feel like this third book relied on the previous two for the reader to understand everything. There were a couple of things that could have used a little more fleshing out for a first time reader (Bob wasn’t as clear as he could have been, as far as his existence and such were concerned). But really, I wish I had picked up this book FIRST. It would have made getting through the other two that much easier. Butcher seems to have figured out what the style for the series is going to be, so I hope the next couple of books smooth out the last couple of major flaws and keep improving the areas of once-weakness.
Just as a head’s up, next week’s post might be slightly late. Not so much because of book availability (I’ve already requested a hold and should have it by Monday), but my right wrist and the wonders of carpel tunnel syndrome have caught up with me. I’m fine most of the time with it, just occasionally it will get sore and hard to use. I’m going to ice it for the next few nights while I’m sleeping and wear my brace during the day, so hopefully it won’t be an issue. I just wanted to give you a warning in case the post happens in the mid-afternoon instead of the morning.
June 27th, 2014 at 1:02 PM
Thank you for the review. I have been a Dresden fan for 10 years now!
June 28th, 2014 at 4:55 AM
Nice review. I share your trepidations about the Dresden Files. I read the first book earlier this year, and hated it. The way women are portrayed was a big part of that. And Harry, who thinks of himself as some kind of dashing hero with his old fashioned treatment of women and his whole life ideals … I didn’t like him either.
The series has a lot of fans, but what do you think? Is it really worth the effort to get into? Has Harry at least stopped talking about how long his legs are? That drove me crazy in Stormfront.
June 28th, 2014 at 11:49 AM
I started reading it again because of all the fans. And as a writer, I can see why it has exploded in popularity. But personally, I side with you and think the portrayal of women needs to improve before I label myself a fan of the series. This third book, Grave Peril, is better about it, but it isn’t quite at the level I would like. Maybe the next couple of books will change my mind.
But yes, he did at least stop talking about his long legs. 😛