Malin’s #CBR5 Review #145: Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is now one of the wardens of the White Council of wizards, and he’s about as thrilled about it as many of the wizards on the council are about him being recruited. Harry’s asked to look into rumours of black magic in the Chicago area, and his mentor, Ebenezer McCoy, also requests that he enquire with his faerie contacts about why the Fey Courts are refusing to involve themselves in the conflict with the Red Court of vampires, even after the vampires broke into faerie territories in the Nevernever.

Harry still owes Mab, the Winter Queen, two favours, and his dealings with the Fey never really turn out in his favour. Lily, the new Summer Lady (youngest of the three Summer Queens) owes him a favour, but neither she nor Fix, the Summer Knight, can directly answer Harry’s questions, or aid him, due to a compulsion laid on them by Titania, the Summer Queen, who’s not exactly one of Dresden’s biggest fans. Getting the answers McCoy wants isn’t going to be easy.

The possible black magic use he’s been asked to investigate seems connected with mysterious attacks at a horror movie convention. Molly Carpenter, the teenage daughter of Harry’s friend Michael, comes to him for help. Her boyfriend is the chief suspect after a man was viciously attacked in a bathroom, but claims he’s innocent. Shortly after Harry arrives at the convention to investigate, a number of people are attacked by a seven foot tall assailant who looks just like the killer in the slasher flick recently screened.

Full review.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #99: Cold Days by Jim Butcher

I don’t know what it is about this book, exactly, but I think it might be my favorite in the series so far. I’m giving it five stars because I really like the direction Butcher is taking this series in, and because it had all of my favorite Dresden stuff in it in a more fun way than the last two books, which were five star reads in a more intense way.

The book opens with Harry being in rehab for, well, for being dead for six months. You can imagine the recovery time for that. Mab has got Harry in Winter and is nursing him back to health by trying to kill once or twice a day. Classic Mab. When he’s recovered enough to take up his duties as the Winter Knight, that’s when the fun really starts. On top of most of the sidhe being out to get him, and his friends and family being pissed he didn’t tell them he was alive sooner, Harry has 24 hours to figure out who and what are going to blow up Demonreach, the island that Harry became the magical warden of several books back. If he doesn’t stop it, the explosion is going to take most of Illinois with it and release hundreds of thousands of demonic beings into the mortal world. And he has to do it all while trying to figure out who’s good, who’s bad, and which people in either group want him dead (the answer being lots on both sides).

There were so many things I liked about this book, it’s hard to list them out. I loved the whole tone of the thing, Harry having to face the challenge of coming back from the grave (so to speak — he wasn’t really technically “dead” after all), dealing with Molly and his brother (Thomas and Harry <3) and Murphy. I loved how different in structure and intent this one felt to all the others, especially the first eleven books (the last two broke the mold in their own special ways). I loved the lurk of Mab, and the uncertainty of her intentions. I loved the new fairy, who better end up being Toot’s girlfriend. I loved how the plot actually managed to surprise me, not once, but several times (a rare thing, simply because I read so much). I loved how each of Harry’s interactions with recurring characters show how far he and this series have come. I loved Demonreach, and Harry being inexplicably naked for the entire last part of the book. And I super loved the glimpse of The Big Stakes that we and Harry get, because it sets the whole series in a new context, and hints at the future to come.

The direction of the series from here on out is a complete mystery. Other than the vague hints we get (Harry and Molly working for Winter, for instance, and that giant wall of fighting fairies), Butcher’s previous rulebook just doesn’t seem to apply. There’s a lot of stuff in play right now, and it’s very exciting. Can’t wait for Skin Game to come out on 2014, and it’s been a blast catching up on this series this year.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #144: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

It’s nearly Halloween (Harry’s birthday) and Harry Dresden is less than thrilled to discover that his friend Police Lieutenant Karrin Murphy is going off to Hawaii with another man. He’s even less thrilled when Mavra, an extremely powerful vampire of the Black Court, who he hoped they’d managed to kill in Blood Rites, turns out not to be dead and is blackmailing him with Murphy’s involvement in the case unless he helps her. If Harry doesn’t find something called the Word of Kemmler in three days, Mavra will make sure Murphy’s career is ruined, and that she may very well face criminal charges because of aid she gave Harry on a mission against the Black Court vampires. Harry obviously can’t let that happen, and so he has no choice but to agree to the vampire’s demands.

Turns out the Word of Kemmler is a book, the last writings of a very powerful and very dangerous, now dead, necromancer and whoever possesses the book will gain access to terrible powers. Harry’s not the only one looking for the Word. Three of Kemmler’s former apprentices are in Chicago, wanting the to be the first to find the book and become the most powerful necromancer of them all.

Full review.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #132: Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only consulting wizard, is asked by his White Court vampire friend, and sometime ally, Thomas Raith to help a movie producer who seems to be the target of a death curse. As Thomas has aided Harry in the past, and even saved his life, Harry can’t really refuse, but he demands payment both from the client and Thomas, in the form of information about why the vampire has been helping him, sometimes even at the risk of Thomas’ own life. But how will Harry react to the truths that Thomas is so reluctant to share?

It turns out that the movie Harry is supposed to act as supernatural security on, and pretend to be an production assistant on, is a porn flick, which everyone of his acquaintances seems to find hilarious. The job quickly turns a lot more dangerous than Harry had expected, with the vicious death curse striking twice a day, affecting anyone close to Genosa, the director. It quickly becomes apparent that Thomas and the rest of the Raith family are more closely connected to the imperilled movie production that Thomas let on, and because Harry’s life never seems to be complete unless multiple parties are trying to kill him, the powerful and vengeful Black Court vampire Mavra is determined to end him, one way or another. Full review on my blog.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #83: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Ghost_Story_ButcherI am really, really glad I didn’t give up on this series. It took longer than it probably should have for the books to get this good, but now that he’s reached the middle of his series, Butcher isn’t afraid to get all experimental and I’m totally loving every second of it.

Changes ended with Harry Dresden being gunned down by a mysterious assailant and sinking to his death in the cold waters of Lake Michigan. (I mean, what other way could he have ended a book that featured so many life-altering changes to Harry’s life, most of them bad? It seems obvious in retrospect.) Only, because this is fantasy, dying doesn’t really prevent us from following Harry to his next destination.

I’ve read books where characters momentarily die and visit the afterlife, but I’ve never read one where the narrator stays dead for any significant period of time, and I’ve certainly never heard of an established character in a long-running series doing something like this*. Of course, the novelty is a large part of the fun, but I also think Butcher does a really good job exploring the ramifications of Harry’s death not only for Harry, but for all his friends, family, and the city of Chicago as well. Harry has to navigate his new, er, lifestyle and the reactions of those he loves, all while mayhem — in typical Dresden Files fashion — threatens to break loose.

*That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before, just that I’m not aware of it if it has.

The book also ends with a couple of hopeful yet chilling twists that I won’t spoil, just in case you haven’t read it yet. But it’s good, trust me. I really don’t understand why people didn’t like this book — from what I understand on the internets, it was pretty controversial for some reason? I’m not seeing it. So what the hell. Five stars! (It’s probably more like 4.5, but I’m feeling generous, and the ending more than made up for any dragginess in the middle.)

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #119: Death Masks by Jim Butcher

3.5 stars

This is the fifth book in The Dresden Files, the books about professional wizard Harry Dresden. This review may therefore contain some spoilers for books that came earlier in the series and also for this one, and you may want to skip it until you’ve read the books up to this point.

Harry has a number of difficulties facing him – his ex-girlfriend Susan (who Harry’s been moping over since she left him a few books ago) is back in town, getting ready to pack up her stuff to move to South America, and Harry is worried she may have found a new guy. A powerful Red Court vampire is also in town, challenging Harry to a duel, to settle once and for all the bad blood (pun intended) and warfare between the wizards and the Red Court once and for all. If Harry refuses to duel, the vampire will hunt down and kill anyone Harry cares for or has worked with, so he’s not really got much choice in the matter. Thirdly, a priest wants to hire Harry to look for the stolen Shroud of Turin, and it seems like there are demonic entities who’d like nothing better than to find the artifact first, so they can unleash a devastating plague on humanity. The rest on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR5 Review #97: Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Rating: 3. 5 stars

Harry Dresden is a wreck. He spends all of his energy trying to save his ex-girlfriend Susan from the vampiric curse that’s pretty sure to claim her, and as a result, he may lose his office, his apartment and what few friends he has left. Mab, the Winter Queen of Faerie wants him to figure out who killed the Summer Knight, and most importantly, prove that she isn’t the murderer. Harry tries to refuse her offer, but there are more complications thrown his way.

The White Council of wizards arrive in Chicago, and most of them want to gift wrap Harry and deliver them to the vampires, hoping this will make the vampires stop waging war. The only way Harry can keep them from basically stripping him of his wizard status and giving him up to become a vampire chew toy, is by accepting Mab’s offer. If he doesn’t figure out who killed the Summer Knight and stole his power, the Summer and the Winter Queens go to war against each other at Midsummer Eve, and that will have catastrophic results for the entire world. He should probably clean himself up a bit.

More on my blog.