Tag Archives: Dresden Files

Review: Dresden Files 15–Skin Game

Sorry this is a day late. I had a bit too much good news yesterday, and the excitement wore me out. So. The final Dresden File book! At least until Peace Talks comes out. 😛 BTW, a friend and I have official reached the level of, “Okay, we’re going to make this crack fanfic verse out of FRUSTRATION!” And because I’m a King Arthur story nut. Anyway.

Skin Game starts off with Harry running around the prison doing…Parkour. Yeah, you read that right. But it doesn’t last long. Mab needs him to step up as Winter Knight to work with Nicodemus. And to insure it, she has leverage over Harry. If he doesn’t, he will die from the parasite living in his head that helped save his life during his attempted suicide. So he has to struggle to keep his white hat on straight. In the meantime, he worries over the effect the mantle is taking on him and how it is going to change him. Will he become a monster, or is he just too much in his head? (Though he’s obviously not that either!)

So, to begin. Butcher gets huge props for this book. Seriously. Okay, the tone starts off a little weird and disjointed from the rest. But it gets better, and I mean lots. It was exciting, constant surprises and conflict. And the ending was perfect. I knew something was going on, this time, but Harry was suitably quiet about it. Did it sometimes irk the tar out of me that Butcher used the same turn of phrase the entire book? Yes. I wanted to whack him if he mentioned keeping something close to the chest one more time. But I didn’t suspect what the twist was, and yet it didn’t feel out of left field. He finally found a balance to the suspense and mystery aspect.

Character wise, the little girls stole the show. Maggie, obviously, and the parasite. (Yeah, I’ll spoil you on that one.) Maggie seemed a little too young at times (she’s supposed to be ten, Butcher, not seven), but her personality was great. She was very much her own character, and I worried she’d be too much like Ivy. A concern I no longer need to have. I like how she was this source of conflict for Harry and the worries he now has as a father. Though speaking of being a father.. The parasite, we didn’t get to see much of her, but the entire concept of it was hysterical. I just hope Butcher gives her an actual name in the next book. (I’ve been calling her Suli, an epithet for Minerva. It seems appropriate.) I have to wonder where he’s going with this creation. Was she just a loose end? Is she a part of something much bigger? I don’t know.

Shout out, because I am also a Greek myth nerd. I loved Hades. Absolutely loved. And this makes how many of us now who subscribe to the theory that Persephone willingly married Hades…?

World building wise, I thought that this actually did some good things. Once again, he brought in one new element, worked on some others, and that works well for him. It seems like as long as he doesn’t devote the whole book to a new aspect, he does better about keeping the information from being completely overwhelming. However, as much as I love Hades… I don’t know how I feel about the Greek myths being brought into the Dresden verse. It was already horribly complicated, and now adding yet another layer to the Nevernever and the power of belief just… It just might be more than even a series this long can handle. We’ll see.

I didn’t have as much bad to say about this book, but now I’m going to talk about the series as a whole. Maybe it’s because I never really got into huge series outside of the Saddle Club, The Babysitters Club, and Nancy Drew, but it seems to me that this is all a really big project that honestly, without a devoted fanbase, would have fallen apart books ago. It’s very hit or miss as far as whether the plot is going to work or the world building elements will be overwhelming or not. I think Butcher is doing the same thing I’m currently doing, where I throw things at the wall and see what sticks. And I think kind of learned what not to do from him, as far as how much new stuff can be handled, how many times can you really almost end the world in three days… I think Butcher really needs a reader who reads a book and knows what they are doing so they can tell him honestly what they think about it. Not an agent or his publisher, but a beta reader. I know without mine, I’d be lost.

Alright, next week I’ll be back with some sort of RPG or writing thing, and then I have a new YA book to read and review. I’ll review Peace Talks as soon as it comes out though, and keep making it a regular occurrence when it happens. See you Thursday!


Review: Dresden Files 14–Cold Days

At last! Family is out of my house, and I’ve had a chance to read Cold Days. Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays, I got a cold, so this post might be short. Now let’s see what trouble Harry has gotten himself into now…

Physical therapy has never been exciting until you’ve had the fae version, or so we start out with. Harry has to recover from his brush with death, which is not easy to do when you are also in training as the new Winter Knight. Mab has no mercy…and for good reason. Her first task for Harry borders on the impossible. To make matters worse, he has to try and find balance with finding his place in the normal world again, despite no longer clearly being on the good side. And what on earth is going on with Demonreach? Oh, only the potential end of the world. And a lot of trouble for Harry even if he does manage to save things again. Nothing major.

A lot of this book was me sitting here, on my couch. Swearing. Loudly. My friend (who has read all of these) laughing at me. Yeah. But…there were a few hiccups, like what I’m coming to realize is always going to be the case with this series. Usually where there was the bad, there was some good though, so it was managed to balance out better than it usually did.

To begin with, there was some issues balancing out the world building. On one hand, we were dealing a lot more in depth with the fae than we ever have before. (And I might regret saying that, but from where I’m sitting… yes, more than ever before.) So that’s a lot of information. But we’ve got Demonreach’s secret going on, we’ve got more information about what happened when Harry “died,” we’ve got Outsiders and Gatekeeper and just… Too much going on, man. And to make it worse, the first fourth or so of the book sets up for basically fae adventures only…and then we’re back in Chicago and it’s total whiplash. And it’s a weird pace compared to the rest of the book. Overall, kind of a clunky transition. I get why he did it, and I like the details it gives us. But it just creates a clear dividing line in the book between sections.

Plot wise, it takes a bit for him to get going. I blame the last book being such a plot-spinner book. It didn’t give him quite as neat of a jumping off point as he normally has. So he had to actually deal with some mess he left behind, and that just takes time. But then once he gets going… the plot is more than a little amusing. I repeat, I was swearing. Not the, “Oh lord, I want to throw this book at the WALL,” swearing, but the, “This is too cool for proper words!” kind. It starts to get clunky at the end, but I’ve about decided that Butcher just doesn’t know how to handle loose ends. He wants to throw all these things together, but he struggles with weaving everything together until he starts knocking out parts so he can focus on two or three.

Character wise… I have mixed feelings. Some of my favorites get little to no screen time in these recent books. I mean, Thomas at least has his moments, but… I miss Ramirez. I miss Michael. I miss all these characters that helped us remember Harry’s humanity. I think we really need to see more of them, or all that nerfing we just did of Harry’s character is going to be lost. I’m also REALLY getting annoyed over how many female characters keep dying. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have issues with character death period. It’s usually done for shock value rather than anything else. But the proportions of main character deaths between the girls and the boys is feeling off to me.

Overall, Cold Days was a fun read. I enjoyed the excitement of it once it got going, and there were some character moments that shone through. But I think it is possibly the worst book for a first time reader to pick up, making it incapable of existing outside of the series, which I think is a problem. And then on top of that, even for a long time reader, there was some serious clunkiness and issues with the world building.

I would say more, but… Cold. Headache. I have work in the morning. I’m interesting in hearing other opinions though. Any highlights (or lowlights) from this one catch your eye? Comment and let me know!

Review: The Dresden Files–Side Jobs

Since I still haven’t gotten my hands on Cold Days, I thought I would read the short story anthology, since it was published before hand anyway. A collection of various short stories, most were written under the theme of a different anthology that Butcher participated in. Most were through the traditional point of view of Harry, but some strayed into some welcome new POVs, including Thomas and Murphy.

The stories were wildly different from each other. Some were rather humorous, such as Harry struggling with all the petty concerns of his day off which ended up being a normal day. Others were very serious, such as the novella about Murphy handling the loss of Dresden. And some hit my nerves, such as the Night of the Living Brews. But it was quite a collection, and there some good parts to it and some bad to it.

When it comes to plots, some were better and more complete than others. You could tell where Butcher was just throwing things at the wall and seeing what stuck, and when he had something actually planned out. Really, of all of them, I only liked two for their plots. One was the one that hit my nerve, the Night of the Living Brews, surprisingly. While I didn’t like Harry making light of what was going to happen to the kidnapped bride, I did think structurally, it was well thought out and equally well executed. It also did what an anthology short story was supposed to do, which is give us glimpses of the characters and world going on behind the scenes, rather than throwing a ton of information at us. My other favorite was actually the one that Butcher wrote for our shared teacher, Professor Deborah Chester. It was also very well structured and I loved the message that was in it. And oh my gee, bet cop Murphy!

The rest were sort of eh. Some I felt like were beating dead horses, such as the one centered around Michael. Others were just far too busy for my tastes, with just too much going on. I get that he was trying to do that to poor Harry and Anastasia, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And while Aftermath was great… It was too much. I could tell it was a novella, not a short story, and combined with the short blips, it just… It felt too long and too clunky. I thought it had a good point to it, I thought it was fairly well written. I just don’t think it belonged in this anthology. I think it needed either published separately or expanded upon or something. It was just awkward.

I love the depth these short stories helped add to characters. From grown Will and Georgia, to Thomas, to Murphy, to even Uriel. All of them really got a chance to shine in these books. Even Harry got a different take, since we got to see him how Thomas and Murphy saw him rather than just how he sees himself. Considering how important she becomes, I’m surprised we don’t get anything from Molly, or hell, even something from Mouse. (God, Mouse’s point of view, that would be humor.) As I said, I had a few of my old issues with female character portrayals again, but whether because he didn’t have the length or he realized it, it wasn’t so bad that I threw the book.

Some elements in the stories were very obviously from previous books. Things such as the vampire Courts, the Valkyries, even the crime scene in Chicago. He merely expanded upon them, which is awesome to see. I love all the little bits that never make it into books but the author does think about. But all that being said, I think there were issues when he was introducing new things. I don’t remember the Oblivion Wars even being mentioned, and while seeing Thomas do things on his own was cool, I just had issues connecting because I’m going, “What the heck were these and why can’t I remember them? Irony!” It eventually came up again (sort of) with the psychic link via beer goddess, but it was still clunky in my head. But that’s my opinion.

Overall, I liked these a lot. I loved the little glimpses into the relationships between characters that they offered, and how easy they were to read and track through. Butcher didn’t get tangled up in his own ideas nearly as much, and for me, it made a drastic improvement. Some spots were a little prickly, and I feel like the tone gave whiplash with the way the stories were arranged, but that can easily be placed on when they were published in the writing process and just not thinking about how one story will ready after having followed another. I kinda hope he does some more of these!

Review: The Dresden Files 13–Ghost Story

Sorry for my flakiness. I had some personal stuff going on, and when that happens, sadly the blog must take a backseat. However, I did have a very productive Thanksgiving vacation from work. I’ll talk more about it on Thursday. For now, onwards with the Dresden!

Ghost Story picks up right where Changes let off… Sort of. Harry is now dead, but he isn’t at the gates of St. Peter or about to take Dante’s tour of Hell in a more permanent nature. Instead, he’s being sent back to clean up a few messes lingering after his demise. But there is more at stake than even Harry knows, as more than his ghost returns with him and a few old enemies linger in unexpected places.

So, things that went really well in this book. Characters! It was nice to see Harry knocked down to near-Muggle levels. He needed the wake-up and we as readers needed to see him as at least moderately equal to us rather than so greater than life like he has been the last couple of books. (Didn’t someone call death the great equalizer?) It also broke up the formula of the series in the way he dealt with his problems. For once, at least on his end of things, magic wasn’t the answer.

It was also interesting to see how the other characters dealt with his death. Thomas and Harry handle loss the same way–they wallow. Though I wished we had seen more of him than this little blurp towards the end. The same for Maggie, who was practically unseen. And really, it didn’t take too long for Harry to find out where she was despite him claiming not to want to know. Hello, logic fail. However, it was Murphy and Molly who had the biggest changes. Murphy really tried to fill in the gap Harry left behind in the magical community, but you could see it and her grief were wearing on her. In a rare moment, I felt like Butcher handled Murphy exactly like how I think she should have been as a character.

Molly was her own kind of mess. Without spoiling too much, I did like how Butcher showed her fractured psyche, and some of the doppelganger shenanigans were awesome and weren’t predictable. She really came into her own in this book, I think, even if no one, even herself, was ready for it. She stopped being a child, at least to us non-wizarding types. I have to wonder how this will affect her standing with the White Council. Admittedly, they are on kinda shaky ground with Harry gone the way he is, but I can’t see them leaving her be either. So maybe the mundane world is going to have to meet the wizarding world in a rather interesting clash.

I thought the world-building down as far as the ghost-world and the afterlife was interesting. I loved the angel we met, and how he reacted to some of his underlings (who were also awesome, so happy to see them!). The ghosts were well explored, not only in what lingered but also what they were in the relation to the afterlife…and how this made Harry different. They had some memorable characters, some for bad reasons and some for awesome ones. And seeing inside of Bob’s skull, oh goodness! The villain was also passable, and logical at least. It wasn’t something I had thought about, but with the way Butcher set up his after life, well, it does make the most sense.

When it comes to the plot, I think structurally, it worked. It flowed well, there were clear cause and effects. The villain, again was passable and logical. I thought it was all dramatic and yet adorable. If I was looking at it alone, if it was set up to be a stand alone, I think it could have worked really well. So for once, it could have worked that way instead of being so hardset as a series book…if he had written it that way. Sadly, it was very dependent on being part of this series, bringing up previous events without explaining them clear enough that a newbie reader would understand them. And as a series book?

Well, to coin a weird phrase, this was a wheel-spinner book. And what I mean is, for all the awesome things that happened that I loved… I feel like this entire book could have been skipped. Or it could have been parceled out as subplots, because… Nothing really advanced. Yeah, some stuff happened, but it easily could have happened while Harry was off being the Winter Knight. We’ve established that time flows weird in the Nevernever! Dying nerfed him for a little while, which again, I liked. But he’s going to go right back to normal, ain’t he? Some side characters advanced, but they could have done that in other books. The villain wasn’t even a concern on most readers’ minds! So I’m waiting to be sold on the necessity of this book.

Review: The Dresden Files 12-Changes

Weee! Good times this week. I’m finally getting settled in a schedule, including getting back to writing. It’s exciting!

Changes starts off with a bang. Susan is back in Harry’s life, with news that shacks the foundations of his world. He has a daughter. Named for his mother, born from the woman he still loves, raised with no knowledge of who her parents are. Only she’s been kidnapped by the Red Court. Specifically by the Duchess Arianna, the wife of the Duke that Harry killed previously in a wizard’s duel. She might have bigger plans in place, though, as Harry discovers that the Red Court has its fingers in all sorts of pies. Secrets from the past are going to come to light and change the future forever. And for Harry? The most important thing of all is saving the daughter he’s never met. Even if that means making a bad decision or two. (Or several. It IS Harry Dresden, after all.)

Holy wow. Okay, so let’s break this down so I can approach this somewhat sensibly. Let’s go… Plot, characters, and world building/placement in a long series. I think that should work…

So plot. On one hand, it was possible the best and tightest book yet. Harry starts with one set goal, and stays with that one goal. Other bits and pieces might appear, but they all end up interweaving with his goal so you don’t feel scatter-shot like you normally do with a Dresden book. Even the introduction of new characters, or side characters we hadn’t seen much of, felt natural, like actors coming on and off stage at just the right moment. It was almost…elegant. But then he wrecks it completely. The ending got messy as he tried to bring in too many players for the final battle. I definitely get that this was supposed to be some great turning point for Harry, just completely bringing everything from the beginning of the series together. But the end result started to get a little clunky.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get worse… That ending. That wasn’t an ending. That was… That was a cheap marketing ploy to insure the next book would get bought (and I’ll get to that next week). I have never approved of those sorts of endings. I didn’t with Garth Nix and The Seventh Tower series, and that was back before I was even writing myself! It’s just rude to your readers not to give them just a smidge of satisfaction. Which is particular cruel, since Butcher actually was managing the prefect balance of satisfaction for the end of the book and yet wanting to see more. He could have cut off with Harry on the Water Beetle and been FINE. But nooo….

Character-wise, there were good points and there were bad points. Good points, oh my good gosh golly, Harry the overprotective Daddy was amazing. It really made the book for him. I just loved how he was struggling to be calm and collected, to be the detective to figure things out and to keep his powers under control. But at the same time, he was struggling because this was his daughter, his precious blood family, and she was in danger and he wanted to rage against the machine. I also felt like Murphy was particularly well done in this book, especially when she took up the sword of justice. It was a perfect touch.

On the other side…Susan and her little minion, Martin. Ugh. I don’t know if he even started with a real solid idea for Susan or if he’s just changing her with each book as he sees fit, but… No, I know what it is. She was so bland when he started, that it’s impossible to say anything is out of character for her, or at least that’s the idea. It never actually works that way. Instead, I have nothing about her that I like and so many things about her that I hate. And Martin… Martin doesn’t even have that to cling to. Realize, I like the cold characters. I like the serious bad-asses. But he didn’t have anything for me to grab on to until right at the end, and that’s just too late in the game. I also felt like the Red King was completely 180 from what we had picked up from previous books, which makes no sense unless Butcher forgot to make notes or didn’t convey clearly his image in the earlier books so we (or at least me) was led astray in the wrong way.

World building/series placement wise, I could definitely feel all the bits and pieces of his world building being pulled together for this one. And he actually did handle them well, keeping me from feeling completely overwhelmed with the information as it stacked together (until the clunking ending, of course). Plot wise, he was doing the same thing, and in the earlier parts of the book, it worked. All these happenings from earlier books weren’t a necessary part of the plot, but they helped add layers to it. But then he completely lost it in the last third and it started relying on you reading the previous books to know who was who and what did what. I get that in something this long, it’s hard to keep a book stand-alone-strong without linking to your earlier works. Really, just incentive for me to keep breaking up my worlds into smaller series so I can keep my focus. But since he came so close on this one, I wish he had made it to the end with a strong, mid-point book.

Review: The Dresden Files 11 – Turn Coat

Well, thank God I made a buffer. I had the flu the first week, and then last week I was busy making up for the fact I got the flu. *eyeroll* I got the part of Abbess Guinevere, btw. I’m excited. 😀 On a sadder note, we’ve caught up to my once-a-week schedule, and with fair starting and me being crazy busy for at least a couple of months, I’m going to go back down to once a week blog posts until the new year. I’m very, very hopeful that after the holidays if not sooner, I can start guaranteeing twice-a-week posts permanently, but I need time to finish getting stuff around here beaten into shape.

Turn Coat brings back an old friend…sorta. More like enemy, but when someone is begging to be hidden, it’s really hard to quibble over the details. While Morgan has been around, now he’s turning to Harry for help. Ironic, no? But things are never as easy as they appear. Morgan is being accused of killing one of the Senior Council members. To make matters worse, trouble is brewing in the direction of the White Court, and something truly horrendous has been summoned straight out of Native American folklore (errr, I’ll get to this). Add to the fact that Harry can’t seem to leave any of his house guests alone for longer than a few minutes, not counting Mouse who tries to keep things calm, and well, is it all that surprising that everything goes straight to Hell?

So, what went right in this book? To begin with, the naaglosshii was actually scary. It was honestly a villain I dreaded seeing, and not just because Butcher did something sexist and fed into rape culture. It was terrifying before he made it intelligent, that was really just the icing on the cake. I can say the same really about Demon Reach. Maybe that’s just because both sort of tagged on nightmares I had as a kid that have stuck with me as an adult. Either way, job really well done on this book with the horror/monster characterizations and descriptions. Even some of the previously flat characters who we are supposed to just completely hate got some fleshing out that didn’t necessarily make me hate them less, but it made them more real so I could enjoy hating them more. (Such a weird thing to type.)

I also have to give him some props. I didn’t peg the traitor as the traitor, I didn’t see Morgan’s confession at the end coming, and while I think the explanation of Anastasia makes complete sense and I saw bits and pieces of that stacking up in hindsight, it was also a welcome little shock-not-shock as well. (Translation: Becca wasn’t extremely surprised by the Stacia part, but didn’t at least completely see it coming.) Butcher is finally getting a handle on the mystery part of the series, so while we get bits and pieces of the whole thing, we aren’t so completely behind Dresden that we are annoyed and we aren’t so far ahead of him that we get impatient.

And believe it or not dear readers, I am not going to give him crap about what happened with Anastasia. Because this time, it was written in a way that I actually felt like was closer to trying to push a friendship into a relationship at the advice of somebody else…and then realizing that that somebody else was an idiot and trying to return back to the friendship. That advice was probably really, really strong, but there was a certain level of choice to it that I felt was missing in the earlier book between Murphy and Lord Raith (and really, more than a couple members of the White Court). I doubt she got pushed to sleep with Harry, for instance. And in some ways, she was still very much herself in some of it. So congrats, Jim. I am not going to rip into you over this.

But speaking of the White Court… THOMAS! My baby! I can’t talk about it, it’s too spoilery. But… THOMAS!

When it comes to the world building and monsters part of it though… I gotta admit, I’ve got some issues with the way that Butcher is portraying the Natives and their legends. I’ve taken some Native studies-themed courses, and while I am far from an expert, I’ve gotten to where I can tell when someone is relying too heavily on stereotypes in movies. And Butcher is walking that line far too much. I would honestly be surprised if one of my old professors reads the Dresden Files because of Injun Joe and the way he and his culture have been showcased in the book. Maybe I am wrong and Butcher consulted with some Native writers before he added that element, and if so and he actually listened to them, I withdraw my complaints. But as it stands now…I repeat, I doubt it. I really, really doubt it.

There were some really weird character inconsistencies with Molly in this book. I don’t understand why she went mind probing, not after all the trouble we went through in the last book establishing that she finally learned the boundaries. I mean, I understand that some serious time has passed since then. But it still seemed really out of left field for her to go down that road. Was it setup for later in the series? If so, it’s contradictory to the previous way she’s been shown, so why bother trying to redeem her in the earlier books? Was it to help soften up Morgan there at the end? No, because now we’ve given this idea to her that it’s okay to break the rules as long as you aren’t caught. Which again, is so radically contradictory to everything we’ve spent a couple of books establishing now, that I got a little frustrated.

The ending did not help matters. Not at all. I mean, don’t get me wrong. He wraps up all his necessary threads, has the series ones still going, a few small steps taken in resolving them… But there is no high note. And while in a mid-series book, you can have mostly downward spirals on your characters’ lives, in my opinion, any ending is just completely unsatisfying if there isn’t a high note of happiness somewhere. But all I saw at every turn in this one was more sadness, more future trouble being hinted at, more relationships coming to an end, more threats looming over the horizon. As a result, the book didn’t really feel finished to me.

Rather than press on to Changes, however, I’m going to take a slight break and review an anime I mentioned in an earlier review. I think I need to refresh my brain a little, since I need to be looking at the books as both a series and as a whole, and I’ve been forewarned that that starts to get tricky from here on out. So see you next Thursday!

Review: The Dresden Files 10 – Small Favor

Ever have one of those weeks? >_< Yeah, I’m having one… Hopefully this review makes sense…

Small Favors sees Mab calling in one of her remaining two favors from Harry. He has to find a kidnapped mob boss and rescue him. Odd favor for the Queen of the Winter Court to be asking, isn’t it? But that’s only the overview of a much large issue at hand. Not only is the Summer Court gunning after Harry with some of its top thugs, but Nicodemus is back in town. And he brought his family. It only continues to grow hairy when the Archive is brought into the picture, but ends up having more than her fair share of the problems. And let’s not forget that the Knights are short a member after the last time Nicodemus rolled into town… What will it cost this time?

Butcher kept with a similar track as the last couple of books, work with the expanded cast he already has rather than introducing too many new characters. There were a couple (the Gruffs, more coin demons), and they got tangled up on me multiple times, but because they weren’t too horribly important, it didn’t affect me in the long run. Usually if one of the coin demons was doing something, so were the others, and the one who was semi important, he managed to break away from the others well enough that it worked. I cheered at the return of Anastasia…even if I find the relationship between her and Harry weird (I side with Murphy, this is only going to end in heartbreak). I just thought that after four (or is it five? Butcher’s timeskips make it hard to tell) years of clinging to Susan, it was so strange for it to just NOW break so he could be with someone else. Or pseudo break. Or whatever it did. I don’t know, it was weird.

Speaking of characters, I don’t know, some stuff just didn’t gel with me. Mab’s personality change, I got. That obviously was what Maeve and Lily were talking about in the last book. Fix was even understandable in his reaction to Harry. But Thomas did something so colossally stupid, it broke my brain. It’s such a minor thing, but… He KNOWS what Harry’s magic does to technology. But he buys this uber expensive, high tech car? And he doesn’t even get the kind of upgrades that again, would make sense considering what he’s been doing alongside Harry for the last couple of years. It seems really off to me, as did the scene with Helen towards the end. I also wasn’t sure what the hell was up with Michael, and while it eventually (sort of) made sense, it also felt like he was reacting really out of hand with the Michael we know.

I did like the scenes with Charity and Harry though during the snowball fight. And I thought that the elaboration on Ivy was well needed and it really helped humanize her. I even thought Anastasia’s reaction to it was fitting. I mean, she’s right about what Ivy needs to be. But I think Harry has a point too, and Ivy has to remember that she’s a little girl too or else she’s going to end up like her mother. The sword subplot is also slowly but surely being advanced on, which makes me a little less cranky on the subplots on top of subplots. At least something is working its way towards a resolution, even if we don’t know what it is yet. Murphy denying the sword almost made me groan though. Seriously, she should have just taken it. It would have made her less of a weakness in this whole mess.

I still think Harry’s power growth is getting ridiculous. I mean, I really wish Butcher could have shown us him struggling without the use of Hellfire at his disposal for a bit, and the lack of Lash’s knowledge right on hand being a crimp. Instead, it’s like it never happened, and while he might not have the same level of power, he doesn’t need it because he can do the more complex spellwork he couldn’t do before. And now we’ve got this soulfire stuff going on, and his Sight of some sort of precognition is kicking in which apparently happens with all wizards his age and he just wasn’t told about it, and just… This is killing me, it is. I understand character growth, I really do, but so much of this is happening either a) off stage or b) really fast.

And okay, this is getting ridiculous. So we’ve had this Winter Knight plot being given spins frequently, even in this book. But he STILL hasn’t taken it? There’s dragging out a plot point to the point it dies, Butcher! And to make it worse, I had actually forgotten completely that Harry owed Mab two more favors. Kinda an important thing for a reader to remember, right? And I’m reading these in a pretty short span of time. Oh, and to make it even worse, he doesn’t mention how Harry ends up in deep with owing her two favors. Really, it’s one of those things that really irk me. I understand that as a fae, Mab is on a different time line than the rest of the world. But he really needed to either bunch the favors closer together so the reader’s remembered when she mentioned them, or actually remind us about Harry got into that tangle in the first place. We can recap all sorts of other useless information, but heaven forbid we actually touch on something important.

This post had more negative than I had planned, but I think most of that is because the last book was so good, that this one was a little bit of a letdown.

Review: The Dresden Files 9 – White Night

Well, fair auditions are over with, and I’ll know what part I have sometime this week. I aimed for a Lady of the Lake, so let’s see where it actually ends up going.

Speaking of lakes, White Night has Harry taking a swim…but we’ll get to that. It starts with a now demoted Murphy calling Harry to what appears to be a suicide. Only it is actually a murder of a practioner, someone within the magical community. She is the latest in a long string of victims. As if to make things worse, the minor members of the community suspect that it might be Harry himself doing the killings. Harry is also dealing with an apprentice quite sure she is ready to fly beside him…despite his warnings to the contrary. His own anger issues aren’t helping things, as he continues his struggles with the Fallen Angel taking up a portion of his brain, his guilt over the past few years, and the fact that his vampire half-brother has gone all mysterious on him. Oh, and the police now think he’s gay. Things just keep getting better and better.

I totally thought after the events of the last book, this would be the book where Harry ends up becoming the Winter Knight. Because White Night is totally a pun-thing and it seems plausible, right? Ha, I was wrong. And while there were parts of this that were great, I did have a couple of technical bones to pick with Butcher by the time all was said and done.

I’ll start with some of the parts that as a reader, I responded strongly to. To begin with, I wanted to whack both Harry and Thomas. Especially Thomas. Because dear Lord, can we not just actually have a conversation between them? I mean, it’s simple. Stuff starts to go down, you tell each other about it. Or find sneaky ways around it. Thomas tried that, I have to give him a little credit for that, but he has not figured out that subtle does not always work with Harry and Harry… Harry is so dense sometimes that you really, really worry about him and his career as Warden/private investigator.

Thankfully, Elaine returned to help him out. I liked that we got to see where she was after all the events of Summer Knight, and she was a lot of fun to have for parts of the book, especially towards the end. She actually got set up to have a spin-off series there towards the end (or at least, I thought it was a solid enough lead off into one), but considering the way Butcher has been writing women, I sincerely doubt it will ever happen, even though Elaine would be an awesome main character. Is it wrong of me to already be shipping her and Ramirez…? I think it could hysterical. I also like Ramirez, and this poor boy… I’m not going to say what happens, but yeah. Poor, poor boy…

This book did so many things right, it’s hard to nail down where to start. I know, weird for me, right? I guess I’ll start with the fact that there weren’t nearly as many new characters to try and keep track of. Oh, there were a few, don’t get me wrong. But they were pretty much side characters and were rarely too big of a deal to keep track of. Butcher also took the opportunity to reintroduce some characters we haven’t seen in a while, which are really what this review is going to focus on a bit since they were really what I took away from the book.

Molly was fun…for all of the wrong reasons in this book. Her struggles are so clear to us as a reader and to Harry who understands them, but to everyone else? It just looks very, very cruel. But it was also a great catalyst to help Harry realize how Lash is influencing his inner self…and turning that back against her in a big way. In a way that actually made me a little teary towards the end. (And then there was Thomas, and those turned to tears of laughter, so…) His anger and violence had definitely been growing in each book, and I think no matter if you were reading the books as they came out (which I will be joining that bus just in time for Peace Talks it appears), or back to back like I am currently, it was a wake-up call for the reader too.

Now for the nit-pick parts. Part of what helped keep Harry as a balanced character in terms of power in relation to his world was his lack of finesse. He knew how to wield the sledge hammer, but the itty bitty sculptor’s pick was beyond him…hell, the normal hammer was almost beyond him. But apparently becoming a teacher is now fixing that and making it easier for him to wield the more complicated spells that he couldn’t before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for character growth across a series. I’m figuring out how to do it myself with Caley so it doesn’t drag on and on for forever and a day. But the problem is, all this new growth happened in the time skip between Proven Guilty and White Night. We didn’t get to see him gradually get it over a couple books, it’s just there. And that’s really hard on a reader and starts making the character too perfect. Lash’s big reveal at the end didn’t help matters, but I guess most people don’t catch it? My friend who read the series as they came out didn’t until I said something, anyway.

Speaking of that ending… It got really cluttered really fast. We were okay for the duel. I had no real technical complaints there. But when it turned into two armies clashing, I had problems. That much action, it’s hard to keep everything. The literal ticking clock gave some grounding, but overall there were too many names and too much going on for it to be possible to even understand on the first read through. On one hand, you want the re-readability factor. Reading it again will probably help clarify part of it, and a third time will probably sync it for me. But I didn’t understand it at all on the first read through, and you want a reader to be able to do that. Overall, it didn’t harm the book any, but it was a slight wrinkle in what has been an otherwise much steadier improvement.

The formula of the series (and there is a formula) isn’t wearing on me because Butcher has figured out that a formula is for readers who pick up a book at random, to guarantee that the book is good and satisfying for them and encourages them to read the rest of the series. But the readers who follow it anyway stop reading for each case, and instead want the answers to series questions. Butcher’s got to start answering some of these soon. They also come for stupid detail fluff (like Coma Girl, I squeed when we found out more about her…and sniffled when I realized that what he tried earlier didn’t work, and no, I’m not elaborating on who that “he” is. Read the book). So if he can start answering those series questions to ease the load a little (not all of them, one would be enough), and keeps up the fluff, he’s got a good formula.

Review: The Dresden Files 8 – Proven Guilty

Here we go, duckies. I’ve got a buffer now, since I decided to spend the weekend reading and doing reviews ahead of time so this way if chaos strikes (especially with fair season starting up this week), you all aren’t going to get lost in it.

Proven Guilty sets off with a bit of excitement. Harry is serving in his new role as Warden…doing the one thing that he has always hated about the White Council. Killing children who were left untaught in the ways of magic until they were too far gone. He isn’t allowed to dwell on it though. McCoy has a mission for him – find out why the two Faerie Courts aren’t gnashing at the gums for a piece of the vampires themselves. And to add to that, the Gatekeeper drops a case in his lap. Ten cases of black magic have been happening in Chicago, Harry’s territory as a Warden. Compared to all of this, telling Charity that he bailed her daughter’s boyfriend out of jail should be a piece of case, right?

This book did so many things right, it’s hard to nail down where to start. I know, weird for me, right? I guess I’ll start with the fact that there weren’t nearly as many new characters to try and keep track of. Oh, there were a few, don’t get me wrong. But they were pretty much side characters and were rarely too big of a deal to keep track of. Butcher also took the opportunity to reintroduce some characters we haven’t seen in a while, which are really what this review is going to focus on a bit since they were really what I took away from the book.

The first is the Faerie Courts themselves. We saw Lily the Summer Lady and her Knight, Fix, again and dear lord have they grown up. Lily is almost impossible to compare to her previous self, something that Harry forgets way too easily in the course of dealing with her, which makes sense. We as human beings tend to stick to first impressions. Harry is especially stupid with it, and it made several snicker worthy moments. Maeve also made another reappearance and hinted that things might not be well within Winter, which does some marvelous setting up for later on in the series if it proves true. We didn’t see Mab, for sure, so there’s no way of knowing. Harry’s godmother and the Winter Knight made brief appearances, and with Lloyd, we actually got a little resolution, since it answered the question of what exactly Mab was doing with him. This was immediately replaced with some deepening of the plot as far as the godmother goes, but her appearance was so short, I have no idea where it is going to go yet.

We also got reintroduced to the Carpenter family, particularly Molly and Charity. (God had business for Michael that was kinda important.) I’m going to admit, Charity always sat weird with me. I could see why this character was created. There are actually women like her, I would know, I was raised being exposed to many of them considering the part of the country where I live. But this book actually showed us what all was going on behind all of that, and I found that I liked and respected her a lot more after the big reveal at the end regarding her. Molly was a lot less of a surprise, in some ways. After the opening, I pretty much knew what was going on with her and her friends. Sometimes she got a little too stereotypical rebellious teenager, and I really, really hated the scene at the end where she offers herself to Harry. I’m all for May/December romances…but only with legal, consenting adults. And I know Dresden turned her down and all that, but… I don’t know. It just bugged me. I don’t think we needed to go that way, especially not in the first book that reintroduces Molly as a regular character.

Michael, btw, is also one of my favorite parts of the book. He and Harry finally hash things out (spoiler, but come on, it’s something that’s pretty obvious is going to happen if the family is being brought in), and I thought his way of phrasing and handling things was awesome. As was his reaction to Harry fulfilling the favor Michael asked before he left.

Which leads me towards one of my favorite parts of the book. The trial. On my lord, the trial. I loved watching Harry manage to outmaneuver everybody…and then he went and blew it by going, “Oh crap, I just one upped the big guy and he’s going to have to reclaim his power base, CRAP!” because all I could think was, “Wait, outmaneuvering him wasn’t the PLAN to BEGIN WITH? HARRY!” But again, I think this set a stage if Butcher wants to use it. Harry has a lot of power, and has the base of at least the incoming generation of wizards who think he’s right in challenging the old ways of thinking. I’m curious to see if Harry ends up on the Senior Council in the future…and also dreading it. Because Harry is going to be the world’s worst politician.

Review: The Dresden Files 7 – Dead Beat

Okay, next weeks posts are confirmed! Ugh, finally, things are starting to straight out. (Including my office, maybe I can actually be unpacked before Halloween… *eyeroll*)

Dead Beat picks up a year after Blood Rites (such an awkward time skip…), with Thomas and Harry having a little bit of a struggle with their current living situation. They don’t have much time to worry about it, though. Someone is blackmailing Harry in order to get their hands on a very particular book. One that’s drawing every necromancer worth their salt to Chicago for one special Halloween. Harry isn’t strong enough to face them on his own, but with the White Council busy with the vampire war, who will he be able to turn to for help?

After the last book’s collosal fail, this one sat a little easier for me. Most of the cast of characters were new or some people we hadn’t heard from in a while (why hello Morgan, aren’t you still a buttmunch?), but they were focused enough that it wasn’t too tricky keeping them and their goals separated. The ones I really had trouble with were Cowl and Corspetaker, mostly because both were C names, both had a minion, and that just made telling them apart difficult in a conversation unless the minion was also mentioned or they were present and one of their physical tags were used. Not that they HAD many physical tags, especially once Dresden started using male pronouns for Corpsetaker despite “his” habit of taking female bodies… But I loved Anastasia, and I’ve been discussing theories on alter-Harry with my best friend since I got to that part of the book.

Butcher relied a lot on multiple villains in this book, like he has in previous ones, but this time he gave all of them a centralized goal with each of them just being out for themselves. It made pacing a lot easier to be honest, and the plot didn’t feel clunky in the slightest, except, well. I thought the mentions of the Erlking were off, and I still don’t know if he jived well in the book’s overall plot. Meh. As if to make up for that, we had some progression with the demon coin. Lord, did we have some progression with the demon coin. And I have mixed feelings about Lash right now. On one hand, I think she is a handy tool. on the other, I think he needs to be careful not to rely on her. I guess I agree with Alter-Harry, which is weird since as a reader, I don’t like him. As a writer, I don’t like him either but that’s because he doesn’t serve a real PURPOSE yet. Butcher hasn’t done enough with him to explain how Harry can meet this alter. (And being a wizard doesn’t explain it, not when Harry doesn’t know what’s going on either.)

I found myself siding with Thomas a lot in this book, which was weird at first until I figured out what was going on. Thomas got more than his fair share of the common sense (which Harry is lacking in a bit), and then I also figured out that he is being himself and thus smarter than he has appeared in the earlier books. I feel like this brother dynamic thing is going to be slowly building up…or at least I hope it does. If Harry can remember Thomas’s rather elegant way of showing what a vampire’s Hunger feels like. Another character I liked the build up for was Shelia. I know, that sounds weird. She should bother me. She is portrayed very sexy. But that’s the thing. It isn’t the only part of her character that Butcher focuses on. Is it a component? Yes. But it didn’t beat me over the head with it (too badly). If anything, her sheer pushiness set off just the right alarm bells that she should have been ringing. Her reveal was the closest I came to being surprised by a Dresden book (and that takes some doing now that I’ve read this many on top of my training).

I had my moment of iffiness, but I think was more a matter of personal taste this time. I’ve never gotten into the big zombie craze, not even a little. (But I like vampires, I make NO sense sometimes, sorry.) So the final battle was all sorts of iffy for me except for the parts with Anastasia (because she’s my new favorite) and Sue. Sue was also what about threw me out of the book because seriously, holy crap on a cracker. But it was so silly and ridiculous, I giggled and kept right on going. Because what else can you do with that? I might need to reread the ending with Bob, just because I think I didn’t absorb the content well enough on the first read through to really piece together what all happened.

Overall, a much better book. I didn’t even miss Murphy too much. Now, what am I getting into with Proven Guilty?