Tuesday, August 2, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Ghost Story -- Jim Butcher

Last year, Jim Butcher left Harry Dresden fans with the mother of all cliffhangers. Our favorite wizard, Harry Dresden, was critically wounded by a gunshot, bleeding copiously, and falling into the icy cold waters of Lake Michigan. This ending was worse than the infamous Dallas cliffhanger because readers cared deeply about Harry Dresden.

Ghost Story, the thirteenth Dresden Files book, opens with ghostly Harry in an alternate version of Chicago. He's given a choice: to move on or to return as a ghost and solve his murder. Of course, there's a catch. If he doesn't solve his murder, at least three people he cares about will be badly hurt.

Knowing Harry as we all do, this really isn't much of a choice. When people he loves are at risk, he'll do whatever it takes to make sure they're safe. In the last novel, Changes, he risked many of his friends' lives, sacrificed the woman he once loved, and killed an entire race of evil vampires just to keep his daughter, Maggie, from being sacrificed. Now it's time to see the consequences.

When Harry returns to this world, he realizes those choices have changed Chicago in ways he'd never have imagined. It's May and the city's locked in a monstrous blizzard. But there's more, Karrin Murphy, who still does not believe Harry is dead is forced into a mutual-aid agreement with crime-boss Marcone to prevent a new evil, the Fomor, from taking over, the Grey Ghost is wandering the streets, and the Corpsetaker is back.

Many of Harry's old allies are almost unrecognizable. Molly Carpenter, his Padawan-wizard, is now a vigilante who people on both sides fear. Dr. Butters, the ME who figured out vampires were real, is back and he's got a new sidekick. Karrin's hard-edged with grief over losing him just as the two of them were about to discover each other.

New characters are coming into the fore. "Fitz" an Oliver-Twist type young man with magical powers and his gang to be rescued from an evil sorcerer. An interesting name choice, since "Fitz" means illegitimate child.

Ghost Story isn't entirely classic Harry Dresden. Harry's engaged in a lot more introspection than the usual fast and furious action. Butcher manages to make those thought processes real to the reader so we get to see some dimensions to the character that have heretofore been masked in movement.

What sets Jim Butcher apart from many of his contemporaries in urban fantasy is that his characters do develop and change over time. Butcher's worked diligently through the years to build a coherent and believable world. Actions have their consequences and there's no better example than what we are reading in this portion of the series.Ghost Story provides an excellent bridge between his earlier work and what will follow.

I can't honestly say it is possible to pick up this thirteenth book without at least having read Changes. I'd suggest you start from the beginning and read all the Dresden Files books. They're well worth the effort:

1. Storm Front
2. Fool Moon
3. Grave Peril
4. Summer Knight
5. Death Masks
6. Blood Rites
7. Dead Beat
8. Proven Guilty
9. White Knight
10. Small Favor
11. Turncoat
12. Changes

Rebecca Kyle, August 2011

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