Book Review: SMALL FAVOR (The Dresden Files)

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Book Review: SMALL FAVOR (The Dresden Files)Jim Butcher
ROC
2008

Wizard Harry Dresden’s life finally seems to be calming down. The White Counsel’s war with the vampiric Red Court is easing up, no one’s tried to kill him lately, and his eager apprentice is starting to learn real magic. For once, the future looks fairly bright. But the past casts one hell of a long shadow. Mab, monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe, calls in an old favor from Harry. Just one small favor he can’t refuse—one that will Harry Dresden between a nightmarish foe and an equally deadly ally and strain his skills and loyalties to their very limits. And everything was going so well for once…

It’s the tenth book in the ongoing Dresden Files series of novels, which means we’re two-thirds of the way through with what’s out there at the time of this writing. Just a little aside: On the Good Reads entry, there’s one reviewer that’s been keeping a tally of how many times the proclamation of “Hell’s bells” is made by Dresden. Here in Small Favor, it looks like it was said 21 times. Anyway, how goes this installment in the series?

Another year has passed, and here we start as Harry Dresden receives a visit by Queen Mab of the Winter Fae, calling in one of the favors Harry owes her. And this one entails being her emissary and protect John Marcone, the “gentleman” crime boss of Chicago that has played some considerable part in Harry’s life since the first book. This is no easy task, as he’s constantly attacked by the goatlike soldiers of the Summer Fae called the Gruffs. Then the Denarians show up again, as does Ivy the Archive, and then the party really gets started. The Archive is kidnapped, and everyone shows up on an island of really dark mojo for yet another explosive and wacky showdown. And not everyone gets out unscathed.

Aw, yeah, the Billy Goats Gruff. While the first couple make for some rather tense action scenes, the showdown (in a manner of speaking) with the third Gruff uses more of Dresden’s gift of wit in a way that’s just downright hilarious. That aside, though, the book hits all the standards that the series has, which at this point would normally mean things getting a bit stale and predictable. But, as reading Small Favors proves, things are stirred up in the narrative to keep things fresh. And the fate of one of the major side characters is quite shocking, to say the least.

Overall, another fun read, the momentum not slowing a bit. On to the next one…

Book Review: WHITE NIGHT (The Dresden Files)

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Book Review: Dresden Files 9 - White NightJim Butcher
ROC
2007

Someone is targeting Chicago’s magic practitioners—the members of the supernatural underclass who don’t possess enough power to become full-fledged wizards. Some have vanished. Others appear to be victims of suicide. But now the culprit has left a calling card at one of the crime scenes—a message for Harry Dresden. Harry sets out to find the killer, but his investigation turns up evidence pointing to the one suspect he cannot possibly believe guilty: his half brother, Thomas. To clear his brother’s name, Harry rushes into a supernatural power struggle that renders him outnumbered, outclassed, and dangerously susceptible to temptation. And Harry knows that if he screws this one up, people will die—and one of them will be his brother…

Ninth book in the ongoing Dresden Files series, this one involving a murder mystery and the White Court Vampires again. Also, that pesky fallen angel that’s been stuck in Dresden’s head. I can only imagine how annoying that would be. I already have enough trouble with voices without having a fallen angel taking up residence inside my noggin. Anyway, considering the book itself…

Someone, or something, is killing magic practitioners in Chicago and making them look like suicides. While investigating, Harry discovers his former love Elaine is in town banding the other minor practitioners together for safety. He comes cross a mysterious gray cloaked figure with tries to one of the surviving necromancers from Dead Beat, and a branch of vampires who feed off fear are responsible for the suicide-looking murders. Meanwhile, Harry’s half-brother Thomas has been smuggling magically talented women out of the city to protect them, they’re attacked by ghouls, and Harry saves Elaine from an attack. Seems Madrigal Raith–the Lord of the White Court of vampires–is behind all of this, and so Harry rallies the troops to confront him about his shenanigans of late. Things go boom.

Overall, White Night was a pretty good supernatural mystery that continues the overall drama and story of Dresden’s life. There’s some further development and a bit of insight into just what kind of dog Mouse really is, the whole White Court vampire dynamic makes for some amusing soap opera drama and such. Also, there’s a surprise resolution of an arc that I thought was going to be stretched out a bit longer, maybe the next couple of books or so. Long story short, though, another action-y urban fantasy noir mystery with just a hint of cheese goodness.

Book Review: PROVEN GUILTY (The Dresden Files)

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Book Review: PROVEN GUILTY (The Dresden Files)Jim Butcher
ROC
2007

There’s no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizardin the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined. But, war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City. As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film. Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago, but it’s all in a day’s work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob…

Book number 8 in the Dresden Files series. It was released the year after the previous novel (as most of these were), but since I was loaned all fifteen (at the time), and had the chance to binge-read them (to my young readers: “Binge Reading” is like “Binge Watching”, only with these things called “books” instead of “television shows”), I have to keep in mind that the events here take place almost a year after Dead Beat. And last time, things were topped off with a freakin’ zombie T-Rex. What surprises does this one hold?

Things kick off with Harry Dresden–who is now a fully appointed Warden of the White Counsel of Wizards (irony)–attending the trial and execution of a sixteen-year-old boy for going over to the dark side of wizardry. He’s then tasked with fiding otu why the Summer and Winter courts of the Fae haven’t attacked the Red Court vampires, and also to check out a spike in black magic usage in Chicago. Harry then finds himself investigating strange attacks at a local horror movie convention, which turns out to be perpetrated by supernatural predators called phobophages, and when he manages to get them to turn on the person who summoned them, discovers that it was the oldest daughter of Michael Carpenter–Molly Carpenter, who is kidnapped into the Nevernever. Meanwhile, turns out the Winter Queen is acting rather od, which is making everyone on both sides of the Fae nervous, and so Harry has no choice but to storm the Winter stronghold to rescue Molly and try not to bring the entirety of the Winter Fae upon him. He succeeds in one part. Try and guess which one.

Well, now, this one was interesting. First of all, the whole “fears coming to life” thing happening at a horror convention…sure, why not? So far, this is the only book where them phobophages appear; the concept of the creatures is rather intriguing, and it seems was an original concept by Butcher for the purpose of this story. But man, this is something I’d like to explore a bit, maybe flesh out in a short story or something. Anyway, interesting development with Molly, and quite a bit of deeper development with Charity Carpenter beyond Strong Willed Mother Who Doesn’t Like Harry. And not only does it seem that the whole Warden gig is permanent, but there’s a grander conspiracy going on than meets the eye. Such is the nature of conspiracies, one would presume.

So, overall, the series continues to be an intriguing one, willing to take some risks with the ongoing development of the overarching mythos and characters, while trying something new with old concepts. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that this is not a series that you can just jump on in the middle, but at least there’s an effort to explain a bit some of the back story stuff. Still, highly recommended, this is.

Book Review: PROVEN GUILTY (The Dresden Files)

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2-10 - Book Review: Dresden Files 8 - Proven GuiltyJim Butcher
ROC
2007

There’s no love lost between Harry Dresden, the only wizard in the Chicago phone book, and the White Council of Wizards, who find him brash and undisciplined. But, war with the vampires has thinned their ranks, so the Council has drafted Harry as a Warden and assigned him to look into rumors of black magic in the Windy City. As Harry adjusts to his new role, another problem arrives in the form of the tattooed and pierced daughter of an old friend, all grown-up and already in trouble. Her boyfriend is the only suspect in what looks like a supernatural assault straight out of a horror film. Malevolent entities that feed on fear are loose in Chicago, but it’s all in a day’s work for a wizard, his faithful dog, and a talking skull named Bob…

Book number 8 in the Dresden Files series. It was released the year after the previous novel (as most of these were), but since I was loaned all fifteen (at the time), and had the chance to binge-read them (to my young readers: “Binge Reading” is like “Binge Watching”, only with these things called “books” instead of “television shows”), I have to keep in mind that the events here take place almost a year after Dead Beat. And last time, things were topped off with a freakin’ zombie T-Rex. What surprises does this one hold?

Things kick off with Harry Dresden–who is now a fully appointed Warden of the White Counsel of Wizards (irony)–attending the trial and execution of a sixteen-year-old boy for going over to the dark side of wizardry. He’s then tasked with finding out why the Summer and Winter courts of the Fae haven’t attacked the Red Court vampires, and also to check out a spike in black magic usage in Chicago. Harry then finds himself investigating strange attacks at a local horror movie convention, which turns out to be perpetrated by supernatural predators called phobophages, and when he manages to get them to turn on the person who summoned them, discovers that it was the oldest daughter of Michael Carpenter–Molly Carpenter, who is kidnapped into the Nevernever. Meanwhile, turns out the Winter Queen is acting rather odd, which is making everyone on both sides of the Fae nervous, and so Harry has no choice but to storm the Winter stronghold to rescue Molly and try not to bring the entirety of the Winter Fae upon him. He succeeds in one part. Try and guess which one.

Well, now, this one was interesting. First of all, the whole “fears coming to life” thing happening at a horror convention…sure, why not? So far, this is the only book where them phobophages appear; the concept of the creatures is rather intriguing, and it seems was an original concept by Butcher for the purpose of this story. But man, this is something I’d like to explore a bit, maybe flesh out in a short story or something. Anyway, interesting development with Molly, and quite a bit of deeper development with Charity Carpenter beyond Strong Willed Mother Who Doesn’t Like Harry. And not only does it seem that the whole Warden gig is permanent, but there’s a grander conspiracy going on than meets the eye. Such is the nature of conspiracies, one would presume.

So, overall, the series continues to be an intriguing one, willing to take some risks with the ongoing development of the overarching mythos and characters, while trying something new with old concepts.

Book Review: DEAD BEAT (The Dresden Files)

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2-9 - Book Review: Dresden Files 7 - Dead BeatJim Butcher
ROC
2006

Paranormal investigations are Harry Dresden’s business, and Chicago is his beat as he tries to bring law and order to a world of wizards and monsters that exist alongside everyday life. And though most inhabitants of the Windy City don’t believe in magic, the Special Investigations department of the Chicago PD knows better. Karrin Murphy is the head of SI and Harry’s good friend. So when a killer vampire threatens to destroy Murphy’s reputation unless Harry does her bidding, he has no choice. The vampire wants the Word of Kemmler (whatever that is) and all the power that comes with it. Now Harry is in a race against time—and six merciless necromancers—to find the Word before Chicago experiences a Halloween night to wake the dead…

The seventh book in the Dresden Files series, and…gads, let me just go ahead and get the descript out of the way, here…

Here we are, a year or so after the events of the previous novel, a couple days before Halloween night, and the Black Court vampire Marva that made things toasty for Harry Dresden only one book ago has decided to blackmail him into finding a book called The Word of Kemmier within 3 days, or his cop buddy Murphy with be set up for the murder of one of Mavra’s minions. Since you just can’t find a copy of The Word of Kemmier on Amazon, and knowing that his supernatural equivalent of Wikipedia–Bob the Skull–used to belong to the necromancer who wrote it, he starts there. It doesn’t go well. Actually, scratch that–it goes as well as you could expect for Harry Dresden. Bob has a split personality, medical examiner and polka enthusiast Waldo Butters gets attacked by another necromancer, learns of another book everyone’s after, and it ends up there are actually three sets of necromancers looking to use both books to turn one of them into a minor god. And to stop this, Harry not only needs to help of the other wizard Wardens, Butters, his vampire half-brother Thomas, but also a reanimated Tyrannosaurus Rex. I’ll just leave it at that.

Okay, sure, the last book had flaming poo-flinging demon gorillas. Dead Beat raises the absurd-cool factor by way of a freakin’ zombie T-Rex. I believe the meme goes thusly: Your Argument Is Invalid. Outside of that, holy crap what a story–a bunch of necromancers wanting to become gods, Evil Bob, the summoning of the Elfking (the master of the Wild Hunt and not someone you’d want to cross, let along try and summon); all this and Harry might be losing it a bit in the head. And, he’s also made a Warden. Not exactly a good day, there. Though, I would suspect riding a freakin’ zombie T-Rex makes up for everything.

Why are you not reading this series? Read it now.

Book Review: BLOOD RITES (The Dresden Files)

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2-8 - Book Review: Dresden Files 6 - Blood RitesJim Butcher
ROC
2004

For Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, there have been worse assignments than going undercover on the set of an adult film. Like fleeing a burning building full of enraged demon-monkeys, for instance. Or going toe-to-leaf with a walking plant monster. Still, there’s something more troubling than usual about his newest case. The film’s producer believes he’s the target of a sinister curse, but it’s the women around him who are dying, in increasingly spectacular ways. Harry’s doubly frustrated because he got involved with this bizarre mystery only as a favor to Thomas, his flirtatious, self-absorbed vampire acquaintance of dubious integrity. Thomas has a personal stake in the case Harry can’t quite figure out, until his investigation leads him straight to Thomas’s oversexed vampire family. Harry’s about to discover that Thomas’s family tree has been hiding a shocking secret: a revelation that will change Harry’s life forever.

Sixth book in the Dresden Files series, and this one probably has the greatest opening committed to the written page. And also a plot setup that could have turned into a Marx Brothers routine, but then…well, here’s my lil’ synopsis of the story…

After rescuing a bunch of puppies that were kidnapped by a bunch of flaming poo-flinging demon gorillas (which is, actually, not the weirdest thing I’ve had to write out loud), Harry discovers one of the puppies decided to stick around. And Harry Dresden doesn’t have time to return the stray bundle of furry cuteness, as his White Court vampire buddy Thomas Raith has hired Harry to investigate a series of bizarre deaths on the set of a porno shoot. It looks to be magic-based, which is bad enough; things get a bit more complicated, though, when another vampire from the White Court shows up as a replacement actress, and decides to kill both Harry and Thomas for being involved. But, then that’s put to the back-burner when an attack by Black Court vampires happens. Lord Raith tries to assassinate Harry with Death By Snu-Snu, but is saved by Thomas, who reveals a bit of Harry’s family line. Harry is framed for the murder of another actress at the shoot, but that doesn’t last too long as the perpetrator is not very bright. Then Harry, Murphy, the professional hitman acquaintance of theirs, and Harry’s wizard mentor take out a nest of Black Court vampires, while only getting a little bit french fried.

First of all, if I didn’t have you by “flaming poo-flinging demon gorillas”, then you’re reading the entirely wrong blog. Also, you probably wouldn’t be the kind of person I’d be personally associating with anyway, so chances are you’re not reading this blog to begin with. Second of all, this story was another one that happened to make me read through a bit faster than normal. Yeah, this is something that could have turned into shark-jumping slapstick-y wackiness (especially with one bit of plot twist that was spoiled in the previous paragraph); but instead, it furthered the overarching story involving the vampire courts, fleshed out quite a bit on the mythos that Butcher is building, and still maintained quite a bit of action with the customary twists and turns that marks a jolly good multi-layered mystery. Also, DRESDEN GETS A PUPPY! Mister’s not gonna be happy. In any case, another good romp thus far.

Book Review: DEATH MASKS (The Dresden Files)

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2-5 - Book Review: Dresden Files 5 - Death MasksJim Butcher
Roc Publications
2003

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing professional wizard, should be happy that business is pretty good for a change. But now he’s getting more than he bargained for. A duel with the Red Court of Vampires’ champion, who must kill Harry to end the war between vampires and wizards… Professional hit men using Harry for target practice… The missing Shroud of Turin… A handless and headless corpse the Chicago police need identified… Not to mention the return of Harry’s ex-girlfriend Susan, who’s still struggling with her simivampiric nature. And who seems to have a new man in her life. Some days, it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. No matter how much you’re charging.

Fifth book in the Dresden Files series, and things just won’t slow down for our hapless wizard detective. First he’s on a local talk show panel with a Red Court vampire that’s disguised as a São Paulo University professor, and a Vatican priest. The priest hires Dresden to recover a stolen Shroud of MacGuffin…er, Turin, while the vamp challenges Dresden to a duel to end the war between the White Council and the Red Court. All during the show, mind you. Then, while leaving the studio, he’s attacked by a fallen angel known as a member of the Denarians, but then rescued by Michael Carpenter and the other two Knights of the Cross, named Shiro and Sanya, an Asian Baptist and a Russian agnostic, respectively. They tell Dresden to drop the investigation into the missing Shroud, but he refuses to do so. He then manages to find the Shroud, but is captured by the two thieves, who are then attacked by another one of the Denarians that are also trying to find the Shroud themselves. Dresden escapes, goes to an art sales event to see if the Shroud is going to be sold there, gets attacked by another set of Denarians (man, they’re all over the place, like misquetoes or something), who manage to steal the Shroud. The leader of the Denarians then tries to make Dresden an offer he can’t refuse, only to have Dresden refuse it, and Shiro shows up to trade himself for Dresden. Harry and the two other Knights capture one of the other Denarians and manage to get the Denarians’ nefarious plans, which involves a virus infecting the world. But before Dresden can even begin to think about how to thwart that, he has that little duel with the Red Court vampire to take care of.

Whoa, boy this was a big’un. As if the previous baddies weren’t’ enough, we now get introduced to the Denarians, which are described as a coven of fallen angels who reside in the 30 pieces of silver that were given to Judas Iscariot for betraying Jesus back in the day. So, there are thirty of those buggars overall, with just a handful encountered here. They possess human hosts who have taken hold of the coins, and can transform into rather nightmarish beings. Their leader, Nicodemus, is nigh-invulnerable and wears the noose Judas used to hang himself as a fashion accessory. Another one of the Red Court vamps arrives to continue the sub-plot of the war between them and the White Court of Wizards, and also the Fellowship of St. Giles, which feature humans who were infected by the Red Court vamps but had yet to give in to drinking lifeblood to complete their transformation, which is what Dresden’s ex is part of. The other two Knights of the Cross show up, and they have some interesting back stories to tell. Then there’s The Archive. All I’m going to say about her is, welcome Unnervingly Creepy Child to the world of Dresden’s Chicago. And also, BUTTERS! Yay, Butters!

This book in the Dresden Files series left my head swimming. But, in a good way. You definitely can’t accuse Jim Butcher of merely rehashing the same plot over and over; here, we get some rather intense action, a story with some intriguing twists and turns, and some further development for current characters as well as introducing further ones. It’s nice to see the momentum is gathering rather than stalling out with this series.

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