Author: Jim Butcher
Format: audio book
Publisher: Penguin Audio Books
Release Date: 4/23/09 (original release date: 4/3/07)
Length: 14 hours 13 minutes (a 452 page paperback also resides amongst my other Dresden Files books)
The back cover blurb:
Someone is targeting the city’s magic practitioners, the members of the supernatural underclass who don’t possess enough power to become full-fledged wizards. Many have vanished. Others appear to be victims of suicide. But the murderer has left a calling card at one of the crime scenes–a message for Harry Dresden, referencing the book of Exodus and the killing of witches.
Harry sets out to find the killer before he can strike again, but his investigation turns up evidence pointing to the one suspect he cannot possibly believe guilty: his half brother, Thomas. Determined to bring the real murderer to justice and clear his brother’s name, Harry attracts the attention of the White Court of vampires, becoming embroiled in a power struggle that renders him outnumbered, outclassed, and dangerously susceptible to temptation.
Harry knows that if he screws this one up, a lot of people will die–and one of them will be his brother.
My spoiler-riddled thoughts, helped along by a few quotes from the book:
The problem with waiting for weeks after finishing a book to write the review is that some tidbits of the story tend to get lost in the haze of memory. It’s especially bad when a procrastinating reviewer picks up the next book in the series because they simply cannot wait to dive into another piece of Harry’s world. I’m a bad reviewer. I’ve said it before and I’m reiterating that glaring personal fault yet again. I’m trying to remedy this gross oversight in my book reviewing repertoire and in doing so, hope that I don’t mangle this review… because this was SUCH a good book and SO much happens, as is pretty much run-of-the-mill for Dresden Files books, especially those written later in the series. But I must get it finished and you know what they say about liking the present and something about not having time. Or something.
Whatever the case, I’m finally battening down the hatches and getting down to the nitty gritty. Partly because this book deserves its moment here on my blog and partly because I still have THREE more Dresden Files books to listen to and then review before book #13 in the series, Ghost Story is released. In a week. I will NOT be waiting to pick it up because I have unfinished reviews on my plate. Or in my blog. Nosiree… Sadly, I won’t be able to download the audio and listen to the masterful reading of James Marsters as I have with every other book in this series, since he was unable to do this book. *insert hysterical fangirl sobbing here* I vow that I will not buy the audio
unless until it’s released being read by Mr. Marsters, who is the voice of Harry Dresden. The hardcover will have to suffice for the nonce and I’ll have to imagine Marsters’ voice in my head, which shouldn’t be too terribly difficult, as I’ve listed to him read this series multiple times. Now, enough of my mewling and blathering… on with the review!
So, we begin this 9th installment of Butcher’s popular Dresden Files series with an unusual case. As if Harry ever has normal cases. It’s off the books as SI has had budget cuts and the recently demoted Sergeant Murphy is stubbornly paying Harry’s fee out of her own pocket. Chicago PD has investigated several apparent suicides but Murphy wants Harry’s take and of course, he finds magical evidence that the latest suicide was indeed, murder.
In fact, it seems as though the murderer specifically wanted Harry’s attention but in taking this case, Harry is dragged into a power struggle within the White Court of vampires. Now I’ve seen a few reviews and comments that criticize Mr. Butcher for the ongoing vampire war and politics storyline. It would seem that some people just want a monster of the week type series with no deep thinking or intrigue. Me? I eat this stuff up. I personally feel that with all of the added drama and plots that run through multiple books, Butcher is able to add so many facets to the story that make the series more enjoyable, in my opinion.
Enough about that, however. Back to it.
Harry’s inquiries lead him to an order of local magic practitioners, none strong enough to be on the White Council, who have dubbed themselves the Ordo Lebes, or the Order of the Cauldron. Cauldron… large cooking pot. Whichever translation you prefer. The women in the Ordo are terrified that whoever is killing their peers will eventually get them all so they’ve hired someone to help protect them. That someone is none other than Elaine Mallory, one-time student of Harry’s former teacher, Justin DuMorne and Harry’s first love. He also finds another old acquaintance with the group. One Helen Beckitt, first (and last) seen in the first book of the series, Storm Front. Knowing what he does about Helen, he automatically suspects her.
However, Harry hears evidence pointing to the killer possibly being a Warden of the White Council so he’s doubly motivated to find who’s to responsible for the deaths and stop them. Wait, make that triply motivated as Harry discovers that one of the victims most likely died at the hands of a White Court vampire and then sees a security camera image of the latest missing woman in the company of a White vamp he knows very well: Thomas Raith.
He tries to find Thomas and discovers a room in his brother’s swanky new apartment which contains something that could be very damning: information on all of the victims, including pictures that were obviously taken before the police had arrived. Harry is determined to solve the case and find the killer, thus clearing the Wardens AND his brother, but… there are a few things standing in his way. Namely, his pal and Thomas’ cousin, Madrigal Raith from Proven Guilty. Yes, he’s back, he’s brought friends and he’s got a bone to pick with Harry. What bad guy doesn’t?
In his pursuit of the truth of this case, Harry utilizes Little Chicago (in a typically bad-ass Harry Dresden kind of way) to follow a suspect and learns that he’s got a couple of suspects. He then tracks Thomas using his pentacle amulet, which is the twin of Thomas’, and finds his brother hiding several women and children on a boat called the Water Beetle. As it turns out, Thomas is not the killer but Harry’s frustrated that Thomas had knowledge of the murders and didn’t share the information with him. Told you there would be spoilers, hope you’ve read the book!
So Thomas is innocent and much relief ensues but as they discuss getting the women and children to a safe house, they’re attacked by Madrigal Raith and a gaggle of ghouls. No, Professor Lockhart wasn’t present, don’t get your ‘wizards named Harry’ mixed up this late in the game. While fleeing the boat and certain death in a grotesque and gory way, Harry is shot in the back. He’s wearing his warded leather duster and so isn’t killed but he does fall stunned into the depths of Lake Michigan. He essentially blacks out and has a flashback to a ghoul attack on a boot camp for trainee Wardens the previous summer in New Mexico.
Harry survives, of course and gets back to the business of solving this latest in a series of bizarre cases. He takes stock of what he knows and sums things up:
The facts, man. Just the facts. Fact 1: Male operatives of House Scavis and House Malvora had been engaging in murders that attempted to frame the Wardens as the perpetrators. Fact 2: House Raith, their nominal superior led by the White King, sort of, had pursued a policy of armistice with the White Council. Fact 3: That dippy twit Madrigal jumped into the deal on Malvora’s side, pitching in a murder or two of his own, evidently to attract my attention. Fact 4: Thomas, though aware of the lethal intentions of his fellow White Court vampires, had shared nothing of it with me. Fact 5: The victims had been women of magical talent, universally.
Harry has several more facts to think on but these five are enough to clue him in to what’s really going on -that the whole thing has just been a play for power within the White Court, to undermine the peace talks between the White Court and the White Council as well as to cull the herd, so to speak, of magical practitioners. So Harry plans… a counter attack, if you will. I love this bit of conversation between Harry and Murph regarding what Harry’s going to do about the division in the White Court and the possible implications of an alliance between the Whites and the Reds: “You have a plan,” she stated. “I have a plan.” “What’s the plan, Harry?” I told her. She looked at me for a second and then said, “You’re crazy.” “Be positive, Murph! You call it crazy, I call it unpredictable.”
Before marching forth into battle and almost certain death, Harry has a chat with the shade of Lasciel about change. Harry mentions to Lash that he’s been angrier since she showed up and wonders if she might know why that is. “I told you once before, my host,” the shadow said, “you are easier to talk to when you are asleep.” Which was just chilling, taken in that context. Everyone has that part of them that needs to be reined in. It’s that little urge you sometimes feel to hop over the edge of a great height when you’re looking out from a high building. It’s the immediate spark of anger you feel when someone cuts you off and makes you want to run your car into that moron. It’s the flash of fear in you when something surprises you at night, leaving you quivering with your body primed to fight or flee. Call it the hind brain, the subconscious, whatever, I’m not a shrink. But it’s there. And it’s real. Mine wore a lot of black even before Lasciel showed up. Like I said, chilling.
Harry goes on to tell Lash that she can chat up his subconscious all she wants, that it’s not going to do her any good, that he’ll never take up the coin. In the meantime, those conversations with his other self may have elicited changes in her, also. He points out to her that she is but a copy of Lasciel, the fallen angel and that who she’s become while existing outside of her whole self will die once taken back into herself. Harry tries to explain to her that she could exist as her own ‘person’ as she is, that she has a choice. He tells her, “Lash, just because you start out as one thing, it doesn’t mean you can’t grow into something else,” which drives her away, prompting him to get back to the problem at hand. ‘Get your head in the game, Harry. Defeat the whole damn White Court now, worry about taking on Hell later.’
So Harry is set to take on the murderers he’s been tracking who also happen to be card carrying members of the White Court. He calls in fellow Warden, Carlos Ramirez to give him a hand and Carlos sums the situation up rather nicely: “We’re going to stomp into the middle of a big meeting of the White Court, call a couple of them murderers, challenge them to a duel, and kill them right in front of all of their friends and relatives, right?”
And that’s just what they do. It… doesn’t go well. Harry and Ramirez kick ass but then all hell breaks loose, as hell tends to do. The extraction Harry had pre-arranged with his old frenemy (yeah, I hate that word, too… but it’s rather spot on in this case!) Gentlemen Johnny Marcone turns into a bigger operation than was intended, and so pretty much everyone but Harry and Lara Raith are rescued. Harry’s subjected to a psychic attack by a White vamp and is only saved by the intervention of Lash, who essentially sacrifices herself to save Harry. Lasciel the fallen angel is still around, imprisoned in the coin, but Lash, the bit of her that had been riding around in Harry’s head, is now gone. Harry manages to save Lara Raith’s life and blows the shit out of most of what’s left of the White Court. I didn’t do this scene justice but this review is already over long so I thought I’d paraphrase a bit.
The end of the book finds Harry retrieving the buried coin of Lasciel from its grave in his basement and surrendering it to Father Forthill. Finally, dust settled and all, he follows Thomas to learn how he’s earning his living and feeding, which gives a rather lighthearted ending to what was quite an involved and heavy storyline.
Up to this point, I think that each book I’ve just finished is my favorite of the series but then I read the next one and I’m not so sure. I think that Butcher just improves this story so much with each installment and adds so many plot twists and interesting characters to the line-up that as a reader and a huge fan, I just can’t help but love the series more with each book and I’m so excited for Ghost Story!
My own personal summary of the book:
The one in which Harry: takes a case in which women who commit suicide are actually being murdered; finds an old acquaintance from book 1 with a group of witches; begins to suspect his brother of being a serial killer; uses his new and improved shield bracelet, which is pretty bad-ass; uses Little Chicago for some seriously cool surveillance; runs into Elaine… again; gets shot in the back; has a flashback to a ghoul attack at Luccio’s Warden Boot Camp in New Mexico; soul gazes Helen Beckitt and sees her daughter’s death; scares the shit out of his apprentice, Molly Carpenter, who keeps veiling herself and following him; mounts a pretty ballsy assault on the White Court; saves Lara Raith’s life; loses the shade of Lasciel, which (whom?) he had dubbed Lash; surrenders Lasciel’s coin to Father Forthill; follows Thomas and learns the secret of his feeding and source of income… aaand pokes a bit of fun.
“Do all wizards whine this much?” ~Murphy
‘We fled. I’m not too manly to admit it. We scampered, retreated, vamoosed, amscrayed.’
‘I hate it when the real world ignores a perfectly logical, rational assumption.’
‘I carefully did not lose my temper and barbecue her stupid face right then and there.’
‘I screamed in order to summon up my primal reserves and to intimidate Madrigal into missing me and definitely not because I was terrified.’
“Who’s a grumpy wizard in the morning?” ~Carlos to Harry
“I. Am not. Yoda!” ~Harry to Molly
“My mouth is partially paralyzed. It makes it hard for me to read. He’s here to help me with the big words. Tell me if I’m supposed to push or pull on doors, that kind of thing.” ~Harry talking to security guard about Mouse
“I’d been planning the little ball-of-face-melty-sunshine thing for awhile now.” ~Harry to Murphy
‘Murph sat beside me, not saying anything, not accusing me of anything, she just sat with me. Friends do that.’
‘Dammit, Harry, ignore your penis before it gets you killed.’ ~Harry to self
“Tonight you will be visited by three spirits. The ghosts of indictments of past, present, and future. They will teach you the true meaning of ‘you are still a scumbag criminal’.” ~Harry to Marcone
Check out my other Dresden Files reviews: